Political Endorsements

Steve Bellone (D) and fellow Democrats celebrate keeping the county executive position. Photo by David Luces

As election season draws to a close, finally, we are among the many breathing a sigh of relief. 

We heard that a few people were unhappy with our endorsements. That, of course, should be expected. Some points, though, need to be made clear about our process for endorsing candidates.

Starting in late summer, we start gathering a list of candidates for the upcoming electoral season and arrange candidate debates in TBR News Media offices in Setauket. The process is long and grueling and, despite months of effort, sometimes candidates cannot find a time that works for everyone or, as we saw in several cases this year, some people simply never respond or don’t show up. So, we talk with the candidates that do come to the office and conduct candidate interviews over phone or email with the remainder. The better interview is always done in person as a debate in a roundtable discussion.

The last publication date before election day — which for us is a Thursday — becomes the election edition. In that issue, we exclude letters to the editors that focus on local politics, because there is no way for people to respond publicly before the election. Instead, we include our endorsements on the letters-to-editors pages. 

Our election issue contains multitudes of political advertising, but there’s a common misconception that advertising buys our endorsements. The advertising and editorial departments are two distinct entities, and work on two separate floors of our small office space. Advertising is indeed what keeps TBR afloat, but that department has no input on editorial decisions. Of course, there is communication between departments in the newsroom, but that comes down to the placement of ads, and our papers policy avoids placing political ads for candidates on the same page as the candidate profiles that we write.

The endorsements are a product of the interviews, not the other way around. In fact, we are prouder of the debate articles we conduct, which we try to make as balanced as possible between the candidates. We let all sides speak their piece before carefully writing the articles. The debate interviews are conducted throughout October, then written and placed into our annual election issue. These articles range from 500 to more than 1,000 words each for some of the wider-ranging offices. 

The endorsements, on the other hand, are barely more than 200 words each. They represent the collective opinion of editors, along with our publisher Leah Dunaief who moderates the debates. We consider long and hard all that we heard, along with our experience with the candidates on the campaign trail. Sometimes we cannot come to an agreement, or may be on the fence, and meet again the next day to review pros and cons of our choices. The endorsements represent those who we feel might make a better fit for office, but they are also our chance to compliment the person we didn’t endorse or criticize candidates for past performance. 

We at TBR News Media congratulate all who stepped up to campaign for public office but, if we were to be honest, endorsements sometimes have little bearing on future performance. In 2016, we endorsed the opponent of Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. (D) for the office. Toulon won that election, and in 2018 we named him one of our People of the Year. What matters is what an elected official does for the constituents when in office.

Students holding buttons at voter registration

 

Vote Leslie Kennedy for County Seat District 12

We support Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) for county District 12. Kennedy had a few facts completely wrong with regard to Suffolk County’s new clean water initiatives. We urge her to be more careful with her criticisms about the cesspool and sewer replacement program. This program is essential, and it serves no good purpose to misinform a public. Margot Rosenthal, Kennedy’s opponent, may in fact be a good candidate. However, we were unable to connect with her. Elected officials need to be responsive to their constituents. That means returning phone calls from news outlets that aim to better inform the electorate.

Vote for Trotta for County Seat District 13

We strongly endorse Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) for county District 13. Jan Singer is a competent candidate. But Trotta’s background with the county’s Police Department provides incredible insight into the system. He’s a true watchdog and government agencies better serve the public when people speak out about corruption and wrongdoing. Trotta is running for office for the right reasons and we wish him luck and support in addressing the budget concerns.

Vote Berland for County Seat District 16

We urge voters to Re-elect Berland to the county legislature. For Suffolk County’s 16th Legislative District, we believe that incumbent Susan Berland (D-Dix Hills) is still the best choice to sit on the county legislature for the next two years. Her experience and record speaks for itself and she has the community knowledge needed for the job. 

She will be facing tough challenges with the future of the red-light program, it will be up to her and her other constituents to fix the problems of the program and alleviate concerns from the public who remain skeptical. 

On other issues like affordable housing and public safety, Berland’s time on the Huntington town council will prove to be important as she has shown an understanding of resident’s concerns in the past while supporting smart fiscal practices, pushing for more affordable housing projects, economic development and increased resources given to schools. 

To tackle the MS-13 situation, Berland will need to continue to work with community leaders, residents and the SCPD. 

While we admire Hector Gavilla’s passion for his district and the issues it faces, he unfortunately falls short on experience. Though the Republican candidate brought up some interesting ideas, they just aren’t fleshed out enough. It’s clear that Gavilla has become a community leader in his district and we encourage him to continue being in tune with residents’ concerns. Also, we encourage Gavilla to work with Berland.  It could lead to alot of positive things down the line. 

Re-Elect Spencer for District 18

Please re-elect Doc Spencer to a fourth-term. 

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D) has served the people of the 18th Legislative District well for the last seven years. 

The legislator’s background as a licensed physician has given him knowledge and experience to help in some of the county’s pressing issues like underage tobacco use and opioids. His record shows that he is committed to tackling numerous environmental and health issues that residents face, especially with the vaping situation. 

Spencer has demonstrated a good understanding of numerous topics and acts as a vital voice on the Suffolk County Legislature. 

We believe that Spencer is still the right man for the job. 

For Town Council Elect Cleary and Re-Elect Cergol

We urge you to re-elect Joan Cergol and elect Kathleen Cleary. Cergol has an impressive grasp of the issues in the Town of Huntington.  Residents are fortunate to have a hard-working and dedicated person representing them on the Town Council.  After serving only one year, before running for re-election, she cleary deserves to be re-elected.  She gets things done, is articulate and responsive to constituents. 

Kathleen Cleary brings similar enthusiasm to job.  It’s a tough choice between Cleary and incumbent Cook, who has been behind bold initiatives.  But Cleary’s unique background in business and horticulture offers the town fresh approaches to water quality problems.  

Andrea Sorrentino is a special candidate, who should stay active in the community.  His idea on creating more apprenticeships in the town needs to be embraced.  He’s a true community and family oriented person, qualities that people value. 

Vote for Shirley for Smithtown Town Council

Two seats are open for the Smithtown town council. We support Patricia Shirley (L) for a seat as council member. Shirley has noticed that the town’s board meetings could be more open and transparent. The current system allows citizens the right to address the board with little or no dialogue following the concerns raised. Decisions often appear to be discussed outside of public view. Other challengers to the incumbent candidate also call for more transparency and public engagement. We agree. 

Reelect Lohmann for Town Council

We recommend reelecting Tom Lohmann (R) to Smithtown town council. Lohmann is committed to getting work done, full time. Though we wish he would take on a more receptive and less dismissive tone, we feel that he has sleeves rolled up and now has the background needed to complete tasks like the sewer projects. Since other challengers to the town council are requesting more transparency and better engagement with the community, the current town council likely is getting the message. When elected officials personally commit to accountability, the community benefits.

 

Photo from Tom Muratore's campaign website

In the race for Suffolk County legislator in the 4th District, we enthusiastically endorse Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma).

He has recently secured funds for a feasibility study for sewers in his district and has worked with multiple government agencies as well as community groups to purchase land in order to develop Selden Park Complex.

Sewers in the district will bring in more businesses and the park complex will provide much-needed open space to the area. The legislator has also always been a big supporter of the last working farm in Centereach, Bethel Hobbs.

We strongly hope to see his challenger David Bligh remain in the political arena. An environmental engineer, he seems to be knowledgeable and passionate about water quality in Suffolk County.

As a father of three with the hope that the kids will be able to remain living on Long Island when they grow up, he would also make affordable housing on the Island a priority.

Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro. Photo by Phil Corso

The responsibilities of the Brookhaven highway superintendent prove to be a daunting task, as it is the third biggest highway department in the state. The position oversees thousands of miles of roads and we feel that Dan Losquadro (R) is still the right man for the role. He has done an admirable job with the budget given to him in fixing roads throughout the town. 

While some residents may not be fond of Losquadro, they do deserve a more transparent process and more communication on when work is being done. Putting a list of expected road work on the Town’s website as his challenger Anthony Portesy (D) proposed is a good idea to qualm residents’ questions and concerns. It would probably lessen the amount of calls and letters his office receives. 

We commend his challenger, Portesy, for deciding to run again for this position, as he brought in fresh ideas and enthusiasm. We believe with enough experience down the line Portesy could make himself an attractive candidate for other offices in the town or other municipalities. We hope he continues to stay involved in the local community and politics.  

Photo by Kyle Barr

Growing up in Centereach and a graduate of Centereach High School, Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) has deep roots in the community. He has seen the area grow, and at times suffer, and therefore fights for what’s best for his district.

It’s because of his commitment to Town of Brookhaven District 3 that we strongly endorse him in his fourth term as town councilman.

LaValle has developed strong relationships with business owners in his district and listens to their needs. He also understands the importance of open spaces as he remembers being a child with no proper ball fields to play on.

He has worked with the state, county and town to get the Selden Park Complex developed that will provide multipurpose fields, a walking trail, ice skating rink and playground and is a proponent of the last working farm in Centereach, Bethel Hobbs.

He also strongly supports Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) with his study for a sewer district.

We applaud his challenger Talat Hamdani for her work in battling Islamophobia and fighting for social justice. We encourage her to remain in the public eye, and we hope we will see her name on an Election Day ballot in the future.

Photo by Kyle Barr

In Brookhaven’s District 1, TBR News Media enthusiastically endorses incumbent Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station).

While we feel her opponent, Tracy Kosciuk, has a lot of good ideas and plans to back them up, we are concerned that her schedule may already be packed with nursing, union and family responsibilities. Despite the best time management skills, sometimes commitments are scheduled at the same time. While we know Cartright’s assistant, Jennifer Martin, will sometimes attend meetings or events for her, most of the time we have seen the councilwoman present when invited, and many residents have found her approachable when bringing issues to her attention.

While giving Kosciuk more than a month to confirm a date for a debate, she was still unable to attend our meeting of an hour or so and was not present for the Oct. 25 debate.

The councilwoman represents the lone Democratic voice on the board, and also represents diversity as a person of color. She is willing to work with her fellow members, but we often respect her for being sometimes the lone dissenting voice on a number of issues. Single party rule is never a good thing.

Cartright has been at the forefront of revitalizing Port Jefferson Station and the Route 25A corridor in the Three Village area. She has made connections with businesses, developers, civic associations and residents to create visioning plans for these areas, and we are confident she has the passion and enthusiasm to see these projects through completion if elected to serve a fourth term.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner. File Photo by Giselle Barkley

It’s been 12 years since Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) first stepped into office, and we at TBR News Media say she richly deserves another term. 

Bonner has been a steadfast representative for her district, and despite her years on board she remains tireless in representing the people of her district. The Mount Sinai Jetty repairs are finally coming to fruition, much thanks to her advocacy. She is a consistent friend to local civic groups such as Mount Sinai’s in its advocacy for refocusing the Mount Sinai Meadows project toward millennial-geared apartments. Her work helping to remediate zombie homes cannot be understated. 

Sarah Deonarine has a good breadth of knowledge relating to environmental issues but lacks detail in her plans to deal with people leaving Long Island and addressing zombie homes. The liens placed on properties after they are demolished hinders new people buying the property, but in the end, someone has to pay for that remediation. 

Last year, the town included Proposition 1 on the ballot that restricted candidates to three terms but also increased the stint of those terms to four years. Our newspapers endorsed against the proposition, which allows incumbents like Bonner to continue in office for two extra years than they had for the past decade. We do hope that will allow candidates to focus more on issues and less on campaigning, but we also wish town reps listen to dissenting voices over Proposition 1 and take those complaints into account with any future referendums.

Ed Romaine. Photo by Kyle Barr

As the Town of Brookhaven is the closest level of government to residents, the supervisor position requires a person who can look at each hamlet as its own entity, while also looking at the whole.

We at TBR News Media believe Ed Romaine (R) has done that well, and for that reason TBR News Media is choosing to endorse Ed Romaine to continue his role as supervisor.

It’s a shame Will Ferraro (D) has chosen such a candidate like Romaine to run against. We enjoyed his energy and passion and believe his head and heart are in the right place. We sincerely hope he continues to run in local elections. We see him as another one to watch in the future.

We do like some of the Democratic challenger’s plans, especially concerning a capped pay-as-you-throw system toward trash. Romaine, however, has done a good degree of due diligence in banking $12 million for when the landfill finally closes in 2024. Garbage will become Long Island’s top issue in only a few years’ time, and officials should start getting a concrete plan now, rather than later, for what Brookhaven will do with residents’ trash. 

Romaine’s track record on environment and green energy issues has been commendable, and we hope his plans for the CCA program and any other future plans to reduce residents’ tax burdens will go a long way to keeping people in the Town of Brookhaven.

Sarah Anker. File photo by Erika Kara

Despite the proliferation of news and ads surrounding the county executive race, there was one election in the District 6 area many spoke of being more exhausting than the others, and that was the race between Democratic incumbent Sarah Anker and Republican challenger Gary Pollakusky. 

We at TBR News Media do not appreciate some of the methods used in this election, which happened on both sides of the isle. There were some campaign ads that Anker should have put her foot down to stop. On Pollakusky shoulders, the methods employed passing around often misleading information regarding his opponent were also not appreciated. The situation involving the last summer concert series got out of hand, and neither candidate handled it to the standard a legislator requires.

Beyond that, TBR News Media is endorsing Sarah Anker to continue on as legislator. While we appreciate the challenger’s concern for county finances, his ideas for confronting schools and their taxes don’t hold much water. While he has complaints about how much residents will spend on dealing with water quality issues, he did not have much in the way of concrete plans.

Anker has been involved in much, from opioid panels to the North Shore Rail Trail, which we hope will become a major thoroughfare for ecotourism.

We hope that if Anker wins another term, she reaches out to some who have been vocal about feeling unheard. District 6 needs a person who can bridge that divide, and we believe Anker can increasingly fill that gap

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. File photo by Kyle Barr

The 2019 race for Suffolk County executive could prove to be closer than in previous years. Incumbent Steve Bellone (D) looks to secure a final term and continue his vision of improving Suffolk’s water quality and getting the county’s finances in check. 

On the other side, you have County Comptroller John Kennedy (R) who knows finances and has been looking out for taxpayers’ pockets. 

Libertarian candidate Greg Fischer also has his mind on the county’s finances and as a former businessman he brought up some interesting ideas. 

The race will be a tough one, but we think reelecting Bellone is the right way to go. 

While Bellone has been criticized for the county finances, we have to remember he inherited a tough task when he came into office in 2012. While he has made some strides in better budget ingduring his tenure, including streamlining government, cutting over 1,300 jobs among other initiatives, there is still work to be done on that front. Kennedy is right to bring up the county’s finances as it remains to be a chief concern and he probably knows more about finances than Bellone, but we feel he is better fit in the county comptroller role than county executive. As comptroller, we hope he can continue to work with Bellone to keep the county spending in check. On other issues, like water quality and public safety, we feel Bellone is better suited to take on those things. Kennedy has a point in criticizing Bellone’s septic improvement system plan as the technology is still relatively new and hasn’t been proven to work. More research will need to be done to ensure these septic systems are working properly for homeowners. 

In the fight against MS-13, Bellone has continue to work with SCPD and community leaders in eliminating the gang from the Island. Kennedy is right that the federal government involvement has been vital in dealing with the gang.

Fischer is passionate about the residents of Long Island and brought up some interesting ideas. Unfortunately when it comes down to it, he just lacks experience compared to the other candidates. We encourage Fischer to continue to be involved in local issues and possibly in the future try to run for more local government positions.