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Amid separation, husband challenges wife for New York Assembly seat

Dick Yarwood/Newsday, file

Mark and Michelle Schimel at a polling place March 27, 2007, when she was running for the 16th district in the New York State Assembly.

Politics make strange bedfellows, especially in Long Island, N.Y., where an estranged husband and wife are running for the same seat.

Michelle Schimel, D-Great Neck, is serving her third term in the New York State Assembly. Her opponent is Mark Schimel, the man she separated from last year after 32 years of marriage, who is planning to run as a Republican.

"This is a very painful and personal family matter. The Republican Party is . . . using it as an opportunity to drag my personal life into the public," Michelle Schimel, 54, said in a statement, according to Newsday. "I will run this campaign as I have every campaign: on the issues, on my record, and on my values."

Mark Schimel, 57, was nominated last Thursday by Nassau County and still needs to file nominating petitions, according to Newsday. He is a vice president at Infosys International, an IT company.

His decision to run shocked his own mother.

“You’re joking,” Irma Schimel told The New York Daily News when she learned of his political aspirations. “This is a really startling thing. It’s a shock. Why would he do this?”

His estranged wife has been in office since 2007, according to her website. She served as town clerk in North Hempstead, N.Y., before being elected to the Assembly.

A local GOP leader told Newsday Mark Schimel is serious about running.

"We talked about it a couple of times, and he is serious. We've told him that we want a dignified and issue-oriented campaign,"  said Frank Moroney, North Hempstead Town GOP leader.

The couple has two kids and still hasn't legally divorced, reported The New York Daily News. Irma Schimel told the paper she still considers Michelle her daughter in-law, even receiving a Mother's Day card from her this year.

“I love her very much,” Irma Schimel said. “I can’t believe he’d do a thing like this. I’m going to talk to him.”

She predicted her son would lose against Michelle.

Scott Levenson, general consultant for Michelle Schimel,  told Politico.com that Mark's bid was a political stunt, and vowed her campaign would be about "civility and decency," not candidates' personal lives.

“We’re going to keep the personal life of the assembly member private,” Levenson said. “The fact is the Republican party is clearly manipulating this situation, sadly, for their own political game. Assembly member Schimel is committed to keeping civility and decency in both the way she runs her government office and the way she runs her political campaign.”

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