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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Eyes On The Prize: The Open U.S. House Seat

New York’s 4th Congressional District (CD), covering much of central and southern Nassau County, has not had an incumbent not seek re-election since 1992, and history is repeating itself in 2014.

The late Rep. Norman Lent (R-East Rockaway), who retired from the 4th CD seat at year-end 1992, served not one day of his 20-plus years in the U.S. House of Representatives when the Republicans held a majority in the House. All of that changed in 1994, when the GOP won control of the U.S. House for the first time in decades, and they have held it every year since then, with the exception of 2007-2010.

Despite these national trends, the Republicans were unable to return New York’s 4th CD to their column after Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) ousted the incumbent, Rep. Dan Frisa (R-Westbury), in 1996. Rep. McCarthy announced earlier this month she would not seek re-election in November.

This is why almost everyone residing in the 4th CD who ever aspired to be a U.S. House Member is weighing whether to make a Congressional bid in 2014. The eventual victor could hold this office for a very long time.

No matter whom the major parties nominate in the 4th CD this year, significant sums will be raised and spent to sway voters, with the Republicans almost guaranteed to have a September 2014 primary and the same possibility looming for the Democrats.

Frank Scaturro, an attorney who grew up in New Hyde Park and unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination in 2010 and 2012, has already announced he’s again seeking this U.S. House seat. Scaturro will have a difficult time prevailing over the GOP’s official nominee in a Republican primary, and early signs point to that designation going to either county Legislator Francis X. Becker (R-Lynbrook), who lost in 2012 to Rep. McCarthy, or Hempstead town supervisor Kate Murray (R-Levittown). Should either Becker or Murray win election to Congress, it would have a ripple effect, opening up either a county legislative seat or the town supervisor’s post in Hempstead.

The Republican candidate would likely succeed either Becker or Murray, given the make-up of Becker’s district, which includes Lynbrook, Malverne and most of Valley Stream, as well as the GOP’s long-time lock on the town of Hempstead’s top job.

Should Nassau County District Attorney (DA) Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) attempt to succeed Rep. McCarthy, Rice would be favored to win the Democratic nomination, even if her party were to give its official blessing to someone else. In a sign Nassau’s Democratic leaders remain miffed at what they see as DA Rice’s reluctance to investigate the Mangano administration, Malverne Mayor Patricia Norris-McDonald traveled recently to Washington, D.C. It was reported that national Democrats were recruiting Malverne’s mayor as a potential successor to Rep. McCarthy, but the meeting was primarily a heavy-handed attempt to poke DA Rice in the eye.

None of Rice’s potential Democratic rivals, whether it is Mayor Norris-McDonald or county Legislators Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) and Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick), can match DA Rice’s Nassau name recognition or her ability to raise campaign funds.

The downside for the Democrats in having Rice run for an open U.S. House seat, and win the general election, is that it would enable the Republicans to regain the district attorney’s office, the only county governmental branch the Democrats control. Under this scenario, the governor would appoint Rice’s successor as DA, allowing that person to run as an incumbent. Still, the GOP would have little trouble finding a qualified candidate to challenge an appointed, rather than an elected, district attorney.

A clarification: In the column “LIRR Unions Get Big Boost from Obama Panel,” I wrote the panel believes the LIRR should pay 97.75 percent of its unionized employees’ health insurance premiums by 2015. But I also should have noted that the panel called for the LIRR’s unionized employees to pay more retroactively toward their health insurance premiums, dating back to 2010. If the panel’s health insurance premium proposal were to be implemented, the LIRR would be paying about 90 percent, not 97.75 percent, of its unionized employees’ health insurance premiums in 2015.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net