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NY Legislature’s incumbents face rare threat

NEW YORK CITY — Some bruising campaigns have made it clear to incumbents in New York’s much criticized Legislature that this will be a historic test for their high re-election rate.

Although the majority in the state Senate won’t be in doubt in the intraparty primary contests, several Democrats from William Stachowski of Erie County to Neil Breslin of Albany County find their years of experience working against them as voters show in campaign events and in polls that they continue be angry at high taxes and politics as usual.

Perhaps the most closely watched race will be in the Bronx. There, Democratic Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. faces a strong challenge as he’s accused of illegally directing millions of dollars in government grants to his health clinic. He faces Gustavo Rivera in one of New York’s poorest districts.

Polls show for the first time that New Yorkers who have for decades hated the Legislature but liked their own Assembly member or senator now by a narrow majority think their representative needs to go.

Two years ago, Democrats gained control of the state Senate for the first time in more than 40 years, with all the power and perks of Albany’s majority-driven system. But since then, the Republican minority has voted as a bloc against most major issues and mounted a coup in the summer of 2008 with two Democrats, including Espada. Soon after, Espada and Sen. Hiram Monserrate of the Queens, jumped back to the Democrats for lucrative leadership positions.

Monserrate was expelled from the Senate in February after he was convicted in a domestic violence incident. He is now running for an Assembly seat in western Queens against Francisco Moya, who works for Cablevision in the government affairs department. The seat is open following the election of Jose R. Peralta to Monserrate’s Senate seat.