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Gianaris appointed chair of state Dems

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The same day that Republicans gained control of the state Senate, Sen.-elect Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) was pegged to restore the Democratic majority in the upper house in Albany even though he will only be a freshman.

Sen. Majority Conference Leader John L. Sampson (D-Brooklyn) announced Monday he had appointed Gianaris to chair the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. In a statement, Sampson said Gianaris was chosen for his fund-raising and political strategizing abilities to build an increased Democratic majority.

“Mike Gianaris is a dynamic fund-raiser and effective leader who will work with our members to win more Democratic seats,” Sampson said. “With his energy and expertise, Senate Democrats are gearing up for a successful election cycle.”

Gianaris’ appointment came as a state court officially declared a contested Senate seat in Nassau County in favor of the GOP candidate, giving Republicans a one-seat majority in the chamber.

Gianaris was a state assemblyman in Astoria for 10 years and won retiring Sen. George Onorato’s (D-Astoria) seat in November with 81 percent of the vote over Republican candidate Jerome Patrick Tina Jr.

In a statement, Gianaris thanked Sampson and said he was accepting the position “with deep humility and profound purpose.”

“I’m excited,” Gianaris said in an interview. “I believe the Democrats’ state in the minority will be short-lived.”

Gianaris said the 2010 elections were a historic year for the Republicans in New York state, but the results were an aberration. He pointed out that presidential election years tend to be better for Democrats in New York.

“It was a razor-thin result and a razor-thin majority,” Gianaris said.

One of the challenges to winning back the majority is that Republican groups outside New York have been pouring a lot of money into Republican candidates’ campaigns, Gianaris said. But Gianaris said the way to defeat this is to make sure the voters understand the extremist politics of candidates such as former Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino.

“There’s a lot we have to do to combat that and make sure the voters understand what the [Republican] candidates stand for,” Gianaris said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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