As a former federal prosecutor, state Sen. Todd Kaminsky was considered as a possible state attorney general candidate. The Long Island Democrat decided against a run, but he’s been raising money like a statewide candidate, bringing in an impressive haul this year. He’s also represents the seat once held by Dean Skelos, the former state Senate majority leader found guilty on Tuesday in a retrial on corruption charges. City & State talked to Kaminsky just before the verdict came down about what his district thinks of Skelos, what he’s going to do with all his money, and why he likes Letitia James – even though he won’t endorse her for AG yet.
You represent the seat former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos once held. Now he’s facing judgment in his retrial on corruption charges. What are the thoughts in the district?
A lot of people will say to me (former Assembly Speaker Sheldon) Silver was corrupt, but Dean did it for his son. I hear that every day. And I take a lot of issue with that. It’s very disturbing that the answer to someone’s question of, ‘Will you put a bill forward?,’ is ‘Will you get my son a job?’ And I think when you do that in this repeated, egregious pattern – the public wants to know that when you’re sitting in a room dealing with an issue that you have the public’s best interests at heart. Not your son’s interest, not your law firm’s interest, not your bank account’s interest. All of these things have just kind of clouded what elected officials should do and have undermined people’s faith in government. And I think anything other than a guilty verdict here will have dramatically negative consequences.
Your campaign raised more than $400,000 in the past six months and you have nearly $800,000 in cash on hand – quite the haul for somebody not in a leadership position who isn’t facing a tough challenger. What’s your end goal?
It was not all that long ago that I won by 0.5 percent, so you always want to be able to run the most effective campaign you can, and be ready for anything. But I think the messaging in my fundraising is a little cynical, appropriately so. It’s like, ‘Why are people giving you money if you don’t have the power to carry out their bidding?’ But I certainly think that people are excited about the idea of young, energetic, ethical leadership. (The donors) have a little bit of foresight. They say, ‘Well, you may not be all-powerful now, but you may do some good things down the road.’ And I think people are interested to see what I’ve accomplished with such little power.
Do you plan to hold on to the money, or would you consider donating some of it to other candidates to help the Democrats gain power?
We definitely want to see what our opponent is doing, and be ready for our campaign. (Republican challenger Francis Becker, a former Nassau County legislator, has raised about $2,000.) When people need us, I plan on being there – especially on Long Island. We just have to assess overall what’s going on. Either way, it puts us in a good position to have the flexibility to do what we need to do.
If the Democrats won the majority in the state Senate, what’s your dream position? Are you hoping to chair a particular committee?
I think it’s hard, at this point, to say. Because you don’t know who’s going to be in the conference. There could be somebody right now who’s an education expert running in the Hudson Valley. But I will say this. I hope to be a suburban leader. I think it’s really important that the conference remember its marginal members where there’s room to grow. Other than, I guess the (state Sen. Martin) Golden seat, we’ve reached our limits in New York City. So how are we going to continue to be a successful and growing influential majority? It’s going to be in the suburbs. I hope to be a leader speaking for the suburbs to make sure that we’ve got a balanced conference and we have resources and attention to the population from this area.
You were considered a potential state attorney general candidate. Now that that race is moving forward, are you endorsing any of the candidates in the Democratic primary? What’s most important for you to see in the next attorney general?
Definitely an anti-corruption effort. Our federal prosecutors have brought almost all the corruption cases. There need to be more cops on the beat. There need to be better state laws to make it easier to prosecute corruption. For example, you lie to an FBI agent, it’s a crime. You lie to a state investigator, nothing happens. Why is there such a difference?
But no endorsement for a specific candidate?
No one’s asked me for an endorsement. I’ve spent a good amount of time with Tish James in my district. She’s come out to parades to meet people. She’s been very energetic about that. It’s been great spending time with her. I’ve been very impressed with her connection to voters – even though we’re out in Nassau, they know who she is. Other candidates have other good attributes as well, and that’s something that we’ll be talking about down the road.
New Jersey just opened a sports betting parlor at the Meadowlands Racetrack. Is that something you’d want for your district, at Belmont Park?
I haven’t thought about it being in any particular site, but I think sports gambling is going to be something that’s taken up very soon in the next session very seriously. And its revenue our state can’t afford to lose out on. We just have to do it in a responsible way.
NEXT STORY: Dean and Adam Skelos found guilty again