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Skelos worries about democracy with June primaries

ALBANY -- The Legislature’s top Republican said a June primary for state lawmakers would be "very disruptive" to the annual end-of-session frenzy in Albany –- and suggested it could heighten the problem of money in politics.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said Senate Republicans continue to insist that primaries -– at least involving state Senate seats –- be held in August, and not in June as Assembly Democrats are seeking. A federal judge last week ruled that congressional primaries be conducted at the end of June; the ruling left open the possibility that state legislative primaries could still be held as late as August.

Skelos said most primaries for legislative seats are held in New York City between Democrats. "You would have a member of the Legislature busy circulating petitions [in March] and making sure that their done properly when we’re negotiating a budget. Then, as we’re concluding our legislative year, the primary would be held ... and they would be looking for endorsements from unions and others, they would be looking during the process for contributions to get them through the primary process," he said.

"I think this would be very disruptive to the orderly functioning Legislature that we’ve seen since Gov. [Andrew M.] Cuomo has come into office," Skelos added.

The Republican leader defended the plan released last week to add a 63rd Senate seat -– seen by critics as a way for the GOP to help hold onto the chamber; Sen. Mark Grisanti last week said the 63rd seat kept Western New York from losing a Senate seat due to population losses.

"We wouldn’t be promoting a 63rd seat if we felt it was unconstitutional. That wouldn’t be very bright to have it thrown out," Skelos said.

Senate Democrats are suing over the additional seat and other federal and state lawsuits are likely.

"I believe if they do sue, as they’ve wasted so much Senate money in the past, they will be wasting taxpayer dollars once again," Skelos said of the Senate Democrats.

Asked, twice, if the new lines enhance the GOP’s ability to retain the Senate, Skelos said his own Long Island seat would have a slightly more Democratic-leaning enrollment advantage and that most Senate seats have fewer Republican voters than Democrats.

"I don’t believe this has been a partisan redistricting process," he told reporters today.

--Tom Precious

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