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ALBANY — The county had a "problem," then-Rep. Mike McNulty joked to a journalist on election night in 1996, when Neil Breslin was first elected to the state Senate.
With his older brother Michael serving as county executive and his younger sibling Tom occupying a judge's bench, "We're running out of Breslins," McNulty recalled Thursday afternoon on the steps of the state Capitol.And so Neil Breslin, a Delmar attorney who will turn 70 in June, kicked off what may be one of the last Breslin campaigns.
Michael Breslin retired in 2011 as Tom Breslin was voted to another 10-year term. The other three members Albany County's delegation to the Legislature, Assemblymen Ron Canestrari, Jack McEneny and Bob Reilly, have each announced in the last month that they would not run again in November.
There were rumors the senator, too, would retire. Democrats are relegated to the chamber's minority now, after a wrenching two-year stint controlling its operations.
But Breslin said the 2010 loss of the chamber to Republicans only steeled his resolve. He was elevated to deputy leader soon after, and has been a more visible part of the conference.
"I'm more energized than I've been in 10 or 12 years, I'm in better health than I've been. ... I just look forward to it," he said. He promised to "run harder than I've ever run before, to make sure we bring back a Democratic Senate to work with a Democratic governor" and "lead the charge against corruption in this building."
Some 50 Democratic luminaries — including McNulty, the mayors of Albany and Troy, county legislators and union leaders — stood with him. Breslin has no announced opponents and is endorsed by the Albany and Rensselaer county Democratic committees. (His seat, long co-terminus with Albany County's borders, has been redrawn to drop its more rural towns and instead take in Rensselaer and parts of Troy.)
So the race should be a cakewalk, right?
Notably absent was Albany County Executive Dan McCoy, a powerful party figure who formerly chaired the County Legislature and its Democratic Committee. His job gives him influence over a network who would previously have answered to Breslin's brother.
McCoy's absence "is noticeable and it's unfortunate," said Canestrari, D-Cohoes.
The new county executive could be giving cover to Shawn Morse, a Cohoes resident who succeeded McCoy as chair of the County Legislature and is weighing a primary run. Morse hosted a $1,000-a-head fundraiser Wednesday at the Fort Orange Club for the stated purpose of a re-election campaign, but politicos question why he would need to seek so much money for his next run — in 2015.
McCoy and a top aide did not return a request for comment. Morse said, "Right now I'm at nowhere" on a potential run.
Morse recently appeared with Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein of the Independent Democratic Conference at a news event on rising gas prices. Their new relationship was taken as a sign the IDC, whose four members defected from the Democratic conference and have since flirted with majority Republicans, may support Morse.
But any conflict, should it come, will arrive on another day. On Thursday, Breslin basked in a sunny afternoon trading stories with supporters who measured their friendship not in years but in decades. He unbuttoned his blazer to put his arms around McEneny and Canestrari for a picture."I'm overjoyed at the almost universal support I've gotten in both my new counties," Breslin said.