After two election cycles of near misses against Long Island Republican Sen. Kemp Hannon, Nassau County Democrats are turning inwards for their next attempt to defeat the 22-year incumbent.
Ryan Cronin, a young attorney who is the former executive director of the Nassau County Democratic Party, confirmed he will run against Hannon in the Western Nassau district, which currently has a slight Democratic enrollment advantage.
Jay Jacobs, the chairman of the state Democratic Party—who doubles as the Nassau Democratic chairman—said he believes Cronin, a contract resolution attorney at the top Manhattan law firm Blank Rome, will be able to raise significant money for his campaign.
“He’s a formidable individual, a great candidate and I would expect he’ll be an excellent state senator,” Jacobs said.
Leadership of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee is believed to think highly of Cronin, though it is unlikely to formally back him or any other candidate until the redistricting process is complete.
Cronin, who got his start in politics on former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi’s 2005 campaign, said he would focus his campaign on the need for a change in leadership after Hannon’s two decades in the Legislature, and on Nassau’s rising costs, which adversely effects younger residents.
“I’ve increasingly found that for my peers and people my age,Long Island has become a less and less viable option as a place to live,” Cronin said. “Kemp Hannon has been in Albany for years. He’s part of the problem – and he can be beaten.”
Despite all the uncertainties created by the redistricting process, Cronin said he would run regardless of how the lines end up. Because Long Island gained much more population over the past decade than the rest of the state, there is speculation that this district and others in western Nassau could end up jutting into eastern Queens.
Hannon has been generally praised on both sides of the aisle for his work as chairman of the Senate Heath Committee. A Senate Republican source dismissed Cronin as “not a credible candidate.” As with other aging Republican senators, though, there are unverified rumors of Hannon’s possible retirement, which would alter the district’s dynamics. Hannon did not respond to a request for comment.
In 2008, President Barack Obama won Hannon’s Senate district by double digits. Hannon himself narrowly defeated Democrat Kristin McElroy, setting the senator up as a top target in 2010. Senate Democrats thought they had a winner that year in Dave Mejias, a prominent attorney, who could also draw strong support from heavy Hispanic and African-American communities in Hempstead and Freeport. But Mejias was forced to drop out after accusations emerged during the campaign that he had stalked his ex-girlfriend.
Some local Democrats remain optimistic.
“Democrats have been doing well in that district, and it no longer favors Republicans the way it did years ago,” said Nassau Democratic Assemblyman Chuck Lavine. “I would not underestimate Mr. Cronin. He’s a lawyer at a major firm, he understands policy and he understands the politics involved in running for office.”
Both Hannon and Cronin hail from the conservative stronghold of Garden City. One question for Cronin going forward will be whether he can energize local minority communities while also holding crossover appeal, said one Long Island Democratic operative.
“That’s always the Rubik’s Cube you have to put together in picking a candidate out there,” the operative said.
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