Politics

Skyler Johnson, 19, is looking to run against Laura Ahearn and then Ken LaValle for state Senate. Photo from Skyler for Senate website

Just two days after the end of the 2019 elections Nov. 5, Skyler Johnson, a 19-year-old Mount Sinai resident and college student, announced he wanted to take on one of the longest-running incumbents in the New York State Senate.

Skyler Johnson, 19, is looking to run against Laura Ahearn and then Ken LaValle for state Senate. Photo from Skyler for Senate website

“Someone should not hold a seat for 43 years,” he said during a phone interview after he announced he was running. “We need
term limits.”

Johnson is a political science student at Suffolk County Community College and said he had already filed his name to run for the state Senate’s 1st District seat. As a local activist, he said he sees young people not getting a fair shake, with college students working 60-hour weeks to pay for higher education and senior citizens unable to afford much of the costs of living.

Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) has held the position since 1976 and has been cited by people like Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) for bipartisan support on issues of the environment. He has shown unwavering support for Stony Brook University and is often behind many state grants the college receives.

But Johnson said there are two issues that made him especially want to run that has expecially vexed the incumbent in recent years. One is the number of young people leaving Long Island and the lack of real affordable housing, the other is what he called a history of denying rights to the LGBT community. He cited the senator’s opposition to New York’s same-sex marriage bill in 2009 and his voting against a bill banning gay conversion therapy earlier this year. 

“It’s time to take our future into our own hands,” he said. “I believe I can bring much needed change.”

Johnson was the campaign manager for Sarah Deonarine, a Democrat who ran against another longtime incumbent, Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) for the Brookhaven District 2 council seat. He said that campaign gave him the experience of what it was like to be on the campaign trail. He said he plans to spend next year canvassing the district.

It won’t be an easy road for the first-time contender. He will have to first primary for the Democratic nod against Laura Ahearn, a well-known voice in advocating for crime victims and founder of organizations such as Parents for Megan’s Law and Crime Victims Center. 

Bruce Blower, a spokesperson for LaValle, confirmed that the state senator planned to run again in the 2020 election.

The young man agreed he was part of a larger wave of young liberally minded people looking to get involved since the 2016 election of Donald Trump (R). Johnson is going to be running in a presidential election year, which are notoriously the most hotly contested races to campaign.

“I expect people are ready for change,” he said.

It’s status quo in Huntington. Voters reelected incumbents to fill seats in the county Legislature and town council.

Andrew Raia and his mother Jo-Ann Raia watch the election night returns. He took more than 57 percent of the vote for town clerk. Photo by. Donna Deedy

The popularity of Joan Cergol (D) shined through on election night, maintaining a clear voter count lead as district results were reported. Eugene Cook (R) eventually took back his seat for town council, but early on election night it looked as if challengers Kathleen Cleary (D) or Andrea Sorrentino (R) might unseat him.

“It’s been quite a journey,” Sorrentino said. “I’m just a guy off the street who decided to run and became a strong contender in this election.”

In the end, Republicans maintain control of the town council with the same people representing citizens. And with Steve Bellone (D) cinching the county executive for a third term, it’s government as usual until the next election cycle.

The big change in Huntington: Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia, who served for 40 years, passes the baton to her son Andrew (R-East Northport), a state Assemblyman for 17 years. He stays in state office until Dec. 31 and assumes his role as town clerk Jan. 1. “I’ll be working two jobs for the rest of the year,” he said. “The first thing I’ll do is help my mother clear off her desk.”

He expects to leave state government with impact. On Nov. 1, he requested that the state Department of Health conduct a longitudinal study for the Northport Middle School, where students, teachers and staff have reported for decades poor air quality, enough to make people seriously ill. Some people blame the building for the school community’s high cancer rates and other rare illnesses.

Raia’s vacant state Assembly seat could trigger a special election. The process, Raia said, doesn’t require a primary. The governor, Andrew Cuomo (D), however, may opt to skip on a special election, since 2020 is an election year. The governor has 77 days from Jan. 1 to decide, according to Raia. 

David Luces, Rita J. Egan, Leah Chiappino and Donna Deedy all contributed reporting.

Councilmembers Tom Lohmann and Lisa Inzerillo after the election was called Nov. 5. Photo by Leah Chiappino

By Leah Chiappino

Smithtown Republicans gathered at Napper Tandy’s on Main Street in Smithtown Tuesday to watch the town election results and subsequently celebrate their victories. Trump shirts and GOP symbols were frequently spotted in the crowd and there was talk of Donald Trump Jr.’s upcoming St James fundraiser in conversation.

Smithtown receiver of taxes Deanna Varricchio (R) won reelection against Democratic challenger Justin Smiloff 70 to 30 percent for a four-year-term. She says she is looking to update the technology of her office in her new term. “Every day you get [equipment] in and it’s obsolete, so we’re looking to budget new equipment in,”  she said. She declined to say anything to the Smiloff, citing his lack of campaigning.

Incumbent Smithtown Town Council Members, Thomas Lohmann (R) and Lisa Inzerillo (R) claimed victory over challengers, Libertarian Patricia Shirley, Democrat Richard Guttman and Democrat Richard Macellaro, for a four-year term with 32 percent of the vote each.

Lohmann looks forward to continuing his work as councilman.

“I want to get done what I started,” he said. “That includes the completion of a truly town-wide comprehensive master plan that is inclusive of every hamlet, to ensure that every hamlet is represented in what they want to see in their communities and their little area of the township.”

He said plans to work with Highway Superintendent Robert Murphy (R) to improve Smithtown’s infrastructure.

Lohmann is pushing for the completion of projects such as Lake Avenue Corridor project, the revitalization of Smithtown parks and beaches and the expansion of sewer systems in business districts like what was recently done in Kings Park.

“These are huge projects and we want to move them along,” he said. “We want to bring back a sense of pride in our community.”

He commended his challengers for running a civil campaign and congratulated them for their efforts.

“I ran because I’m a lifelong resident here and I believe in my community and wanted to do for my community what I thought wasn’t being done,” he said. “Each one of the candidates came forward because they wanted to bring something to the town and I applaud them for the simple fact that they put themselves out there, which is a very hard thing to do.

Inzerillo said she wants to continue to strengthen the vape code “to protect areas where teenagers are living and going to school.”

She cited a long list of accomplishments she wants to continue.

“I’m still maintaining the best animal shelter on Long Island,” she said. “We’re working with some developers that want to do some smart development but also keep the feeling of country in Smithtown.”

When asked if she wanted to say anything to her challengers, she replied, “unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to meet them, but I wish them best in the future.”

People go to vote at the Albert G. Prodell Middle School in Shoreham. Photo by Kyle Barr

Suffolk County Executive:

(WINNER) Steve Bellone (D) – 55.42% – 148,043 votes

John M. Kennedy Jr. (R) – 43.38% – 115,867 votes 

Gregory Fisher (L) – 1.18% – 3,147 votes 

 

Brookhaven Town Supervisor: 

(WINNER) Ed Romaine (R) – 61.52% – 51,155 votes 

Will Ferraro (D) – 37.42% – 31.113 votes 

Junie Legister (L) – 1.04% – 865 votes 

 

Brookhaven Highway Superintendent: 

(WINNER) Dan Losquadro (R) – 58.47% – 48, 624 votes 

Anthony Portesy (D) – 41.51% – 34,514 votes 

 

Brookhaven town council member, 1st District: 

(WINNER) Valerie Catright (D) – 57.36% – 8,647 votes 

Tracy Kosciuk (R) – 42.59% – 6,421 votes 

 

Brookhaven town council member, 2nd District: 

(WINNER) Jane Bonner (C) – 61.97% – 10,028 votes 

Sarah Deonarine (D) – 37.99% – 6,147 votes 

 

Brookhaven town council member, 3rd District:

(WINNER) Kevin LaValle (R) – 65.12% – 8,228 votes 

Talat Hamandi (D) – 34.85% – 4,404 votes 

 

Suffolk County Legislator, 6th District: 

(WINNER) Sarah Anker (D) – 54.32% – 9,715 votes 

Gary Pollakusky (R) – 41.05% – 7,342 votes 

 

Suffolk County Legislator, 5th District: 

(WINNER) Kara Hahn (D) – 63.1% – 9,763 votes 

John McCormack (R) – 36.88% – 5,706 votes 

 

Suffolk County Legislator, 4th District: 

(WINNER) Thomas Muratore (R) – 58.97% – 7,275 votes 

David T. Bligh (D) – 39.23% – 4,839 votes 

 

Suffolk County Legislator, 16th District

(WINNER) Susan Berland (D) – 53.89% – 6,501 votes 

Hector Gavilla (R) – 46.08% – 5,559 votes 

 

Suffolk County Legislator, 13th District: 

(WINNER) Rob Trotta (R) – 61.99% – 10,385 votes 

Janet Singer (D) – 38.01% – 6,367 votes

 

Suffolk County Legislator, 18th District:

(WINNER) William “Doc” Spencer (D) – 61.47% – 11,998 votes 

Garrett Chelius (R) – 33.81% – 6,599 votes 

Daniel West (C) – 4.71% – 919 votes 

 

Suffolk County Legislator, 15th District:

(WINNER) DuWayne Gregory (D) – 72.15% – 7,037 votes

Chrisopher G. Connors (R) – 27.68% – 2,700 votes 

 

Huntington town council member – two seats:

(WINNER) Joan Cergol (D) – 26% – 20,882 votes 

(WINNER) Eugene Cook (R) – 24.81%- 19,931 votes 

Andre Sorrentino Jr. (R) – 24.07% – 19,336 votes 

Kathleen Clearly (D) – 23.38% – 18,777 votes 

 

Huntington Town Clerk: 

(WINNER) Andrew Raia (R) – 57.71% – 23,804 votes 

Simon Saks (D) – 42.28% – 17,441 votes 

 

Smithtown town council member – two seats: 

(WINNER) Thomas Lohmann (R) – 32.35% – 14,076 votes

(WINNER) Lisa Inzerillo (R) – 32% – 13,925 votes 

Richard S Macellaro (D) – 17.36% – 7,556 votes

Richard Guttman (D) – 17.32% – 7,535 votes 

 

 

 

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

In the most profiled race of the year for Suffolk County Executive, Democrat Steve Bellone won handily over his challenger, County Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R) with 55 percent to Kennedy’s 43 percent. Libertarian candidate Greg Fischer gained just 1 percent of the overall vote.

John Kennedy Jr. (R) the night of Nov. 5. Photo by Kyle Barr

Bellone was greeted by enthusiastic cheers at IBEW.

“It turns out that the voters have decided that there is more work for us to do here,” he said. “This will be my third and final term as County Executive, I don’t know what the future holds but it entirely possible that this could be my final race for public office… If that is the case I must give one final thank you to the person who has been with me for every race that I have won.”

He also thanked his opponents John Kennedy and Greg Fischer.

“I look forward to working together to build a better future for Suffolk County.”

Kennedy blamed the incumbent’s near $2 million war chest for the loss, along with negative campaign ads he said targeted not only him, but his wife and children.

He promised he would continue to be a financial watchdog for the county, saying he thinks the county will entire a financial death spiral it may not be able to pull out of.

“The good news is, I get to keep doing the job I love, being comptroller,” he said. “There’s no lack of fraud waste and abuse in Suffolk County, which we demonstrated the past five years.”

After a heated campaign season, and while the vote seemed to be close as they were tallied, Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) defeated her Republican opponent Gary Pollakusky 54 to 41 percent. Libertarian candidate James Kevin, who was not available for comment, gained nearly 5 percent of the vote.

When brought up on stage, Schaffer called her “landslide Anker.”

The 5th time legislator said it was her strong base and work of her campaign that helped pull her through. She added there are numerous projects she hopes to work on in the coming years.

“We have so many projects in the works … We have the Rails to Trails, the park in Middle Island, continue working with the opioid advisory panel,” she said. “There is so much work to do.

I really want to focus on mental health/addiction treatment, tackle the financial issues with the county, be proactive with supporting local business and those mom and pop shops.”

Pollakusky remained gracious after his loss, saying, “I hope Sarah serves her constituents well for our legislative district.” He added he will continue to be active in the community by leading the Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce and serving on the board of the Rocky Point Civic Association.

Susan Berland takes a photo with staff and supporters Nov. 5. Photo by Rita. J. Egan

In the Port Jefferson-Setauket area Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) won overwhelmingly against her Republican opponent John McCormack 63 to 37 percent.

Kara Hahn said she is looking forward to continuing working on several projects including protection of the environment, public safety and the opioid epidemic.

“Those numbers have to come down to zero,” she said. “We cannot accept more opioid deaths. The numbers have fallen a little bit, but we have to continue to work on that. We cannot be losing our children. It’s senseless. It’s preventable. We have to be sure we do what we can on that.”

McCormack was not available to comment.

Thomas Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) easily won over Democratic challenger David Bligh in the fight for the 4th district with nearly 60 percent of the vote. He thanked his wife and staff and said they would move on “stronger.”

While Bligh lost to Muratore for Suffolk County Legislator in the 4th district, he said he plans to stay in the political arena and to run again.

“Tom’s term limited after this year so there’s going to be an open seat in two years,” he said.

Bligh, an environmental engineer, said he has a long list of quality of life issues that he wants to address, including affordability and water quality issues.

Garcia announced Rob Trotta’s (R-Fort Salonga) 62 percent victory against Democrat Janet Singer, by mentioning Trotta’s propensity to stir the pot. Ever the firebrand, the Fort Salonga resident did not disappoint, getting to the mike and calling the Conservative party “corrupt,” adding “this is about honesty and integrity, and that party is clearly lacking.”

When asked to expand on that, Trotta said, “The entire Conservative party is corrupt, period.”

Singer said she was disappointed as she felt she would be a great legislator but enjoyed campaigning where she learned a lot.

She said before this election cycle she felt Rob Trotta didn’t pay attention to water quality issues. She feels it’s a non-issue for him and that suddenly it’s a “hot topic.” She was surprised water quality was included at the bottom of his campaign ad.

“I don’t really care what party you’re in, water needs protection, and it’s going to need money,” she said. “And he doesn’t want to vote for any expenditures, and we can’t do that.”

Rob Trotta the night of Nov. 5. Photo by Kyle Barr

Though her husband did not win over the majority of county voters, Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) still beat her opponent, Democrat Margot Rosenthal, 65 to 35 percent. She said, “We could not have done it without every single one of you,” adding, “while we didn’t get everything we wanted this time, we’ll get it next time.”

For the 16th District, Susan Berland (D-Commack) won out against several-time Republican challenger Hector Gavilla. The race became extremely heated towards the end, with allegations that Gavilla intimidated Berland at a local meet the candidates. Gavilla, on his part, claims Berland’s husband nearly assaulted him.

Schaffer spoke on the incident.

“If you wanted to see probably one of the most despicable races in Suffolk County, was the race that took place in the 16 LD,” Schaffer said. “Let me tell you something, it’s a shame when you happen to have a candidate, a legislator who has been in office for almost 20 years, tell you she’s frightened by her opponent.”

Susan Berland thanked her supporters, staff and volunteers.

“I’m grateful to the residents of the 16th district who have confidence in me to represent them for the next two years.”

William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) easily conquered the vote against Republican challenger Garrett Chelius with 11,998 votes to Chelius’ 6,599.

Chelius was brought up on stage for consolation, and Garcia lauded them for their work in campaigning.

Spencer spoke of his ideas and projects going forward.

“I’m looking towards the future — I want to still focus on our environment, our kids, the vaping/opioid epidemic,” he said. “I think there is a lot of work to be done there. Also, I want to finish some infrastructure projects like the sewers in Huntington Station.”

The lone upset of the night, Republican challenger Anthony Piccirillo won with barely a 1 percent margin against William Lindsay (D-Holbrook). The Democrats have asked for a recount, but if Piccirillo succeeds it would mean the Democrats 11-7 hold on the legislature would become a 10-8, just as partisan divide between officials seems at a near peak. Last year, Republicans and Democrats butted heads over lump bonding issues, with Republicans using their slim minority to block bonds they called were being pushed through by Democrats.

David Luces, Rita J. Egan, Leah Chiappino and Donna Deedy all contributed reporting.

Ed Romaine the night of Nov. 5, 2019.

The race for Brookhaven town supervisor was called before the final votes were tallied, with the night ending with Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) racking up 51,155 votes to Democratic challenger Will Ferraro’s 31,113 votes.

Romaine went on stage to thank the town for an “overwhelming mandate,” of the town board.

Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) the night of Nov. 5. Photo by Kyle Barr

“We are going to go back to work tomorrow,” he said. “The reason we ran is so we can govern, to move Brookhaven forward so we can fix its finances, help its AAA bond rating, get rid of the zombie homes and do all the things that are necessary to build a better town.”

In a phone interview after the night was called, Ferraro congratulated Romaine on his election, but urged the incumbent to listen to resident’s criticisms of the town’s recycling policies and road infrastructure. He added he will continue to be a community organizer in the local area and plans to get involved with his local school board. He added he did not plan on running for another office at least until after next year.

“I ran on 100 percent what I believe in, with every fiber of my being,” he said. “I have no regrets.”

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) defeated her challenger, Coram Democrat Sarah Deonarine with around 62 percent of the vote to 38 percent.

Though last year’s referendum to give town councilmembers a four-year term, Bonner said it will mean elected officials can focus on long term projects, especially “environmental based projects.”

Deonarine said campaigning was strenuous and difficult.

“If I could pull it off anybody can,” she said. “So, I hope other people follow in the footsteps. I’ve met amazing people. We started something new and we’re really hoping for a better Brookhaven in the future.”

She doesn’t plan to run for office again but is interested in the behind the scenes work and helping future candidates, saying there’s no existing playbook.

“I learned so much that was not given to me when I started.”

Kevin LaValle the night of Nov. 5, 2019. Photo by Kyle Barr

In the battle of Port Jeff Station neighbors, with Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) against her challenger Tracy Kosciuk, a nurse running on the Republican ticket, the town board’s lone Democrat won with 57 percent of the vote.

Cartright said she plans to focus on completing land use plans in the Three Village area and Port Jefferson Station and working on the cottages at West Meadow Beach among other initiatives.

“I’m looking forward to completing the process on all of these initiatives that we’ve embarked upon in the community,” she said.

Kosciuk said that even with her loss, she “still won in many ways,” by “making my opponent more responsive to everyone in the council district, rather than specific pockets.” She added she hopes her opponent works toward revitalization efforts and on the zombie homes issue.

In the Middle Country area, incumbent Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) won with 65 percent of the vote against his Democratic challenger, social justice activist Talat Hamdani.

The incumbent thanked his constituents, and said he plans to continue bringing more business into the Middle Country area and finalize work on the Selden Park Complex.

Hamdani wasn’t available for comment.

In the race for town highway supervisor, Dan Losquadro (R) beat his Democratic challenger Anthony Portesy with 48,624 votes to the Democrat’s 34,514.

Losquadro thanked Garcia and said he was “overwhelmed by the mandate” of the voters.

“They see the progress we have made in Brookhaven,” he said. “They have seen the efforts and results that are possible when we work together. The results of this election will allow us to plan long term.”

Portesy said he ran a good race and thanked all his supporters who came out for him.

“Overall, we fought a good race … If anything, I’ve forced a level of accountable the highway department hasn’t seen in decades,” he said. “There was a level of energy in this cycle in 2019 that we didn’t see in 2017 and that’s really going to build going into 2020 as we go into the congressional and presidential races.”

Dom Pascual, a Democrat, took on Lou Marcoccia (R) for receiver of taxes, but voters went again for the incumbent with the Republican making near 60 percent of the vote.

“We cared, and we listened,” Marcoccia said.

Pascual said he thought they put on a strong campaign.

“I’m a [Democratic] district leader so I’m going to continue to recruit people,” he said. “We’re not going away no matter what. I ran in 2017, it was just me, and this time around we recruited over 50 people. Demographics are in our favor, there’s more Democrats moving into Brookhaven than Republicans, so I think eventually things will change.”

David Luces and Rita J. Egan contributed reporting.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker is running against Republican Gary Pollakusky to represent the 6th District. Photos by Alex Petroski

Five-term Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) is once again facing Republican challenger Gary Pollakusky, a Rocky Point business owner and head of the recently remodeled Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce. The candidates challenged each other in 2017, but while many issues remain the same, such as county finances, coastal water issues and opioids, the campaign season has been even more contentious than two years before.

Many of the Republicans running for county Legislature this year have made county finances a major part of their campaigns, and Pollakusky made it a point when he ran two years ago. 

“The $4 billion plan is unrealistic — it will come down to taxpayers, people who are leaving the Island, to take on this burden.”

— Gary Pollakusky

In a recent in-house debate at TBR News Media offices, the Republican challenger pointed to the recent report from the New York State comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli (D), which called Suffolk one of the most fiscally stressed counties in the state, Pollakusky adding the county now has junk bond status. He said small businesses have a hard time opening in Suffolk County, that it takes two to three years when it should, at most, two to three months. He said the county should have done more to bring in retail giant Amazon. 

Though the largest percentage of residents’ tax bills are due to school districts, the challenger said Suffolk should look to work with both the state and local school districts to reduce the number of administrators, even creating a “chancellor of education” to oversee that cause.

Anker, who first came to the Legislature in 2011 during a special election, argued that the county is not in as much fiscal stress as Republicans have said. She argued that the county’s Baa2 bond rating by Moody’s shows a different picture of the county’s financial shape. She said finances have improved significantly since when she was first elected.

The incumbent argued that instead of looking to bring in Amazon, the North Shore should look to become an “ecotourism hub,” with amenities like the new North Shore Rail Trail and Tesla Science Center.

“Instead of making a right to go pumpkin picking and wine tasting, take a left to downtown Rocky Point, so we can revitalize it,” she said. “So many stores have gone out recently.”

The Republican challenger criticized Anker for removing Rocky Point from the county sewer list and called Suffolk’s prototype septic system program a “toilet tax.” Though residents can get grants from New York State that pay most or all of the installation, Pollakusky argued there are fees attributed to landscaping or regular maintenance. 

“As far as runoff, the $4 billion plan is unrealistic — it will come down to taxpayers, people who are leaving the Island, to take on this burden,” he said.

Anker called Suffolk the “most proactive agencies in government that addresses this issue,” adding she supports the prototype septic systems as well as the county water authority’s multibillion dollar plans to reduce 1,4-dioxane in wells throughout the county. 

She added the reason she removed Rocky Point from the sewer list came from a request by the Rocky Point Civic Association whose members said they did not want to pay an additional sewer tax.

Anker currently chairs the Suffolk County Heroin and Opiate Epidemic Advisory Panel, which was created in 2017. She said the panel has already borne fruit with one recent example being Suffolk County police’s new mass spectrometer, which can identify previously undetectable substances. She said the device came from a suggestion on the 24-member panel. She added the county’s lawsuit of pharmaceutical company Purdue and the Sackler family may bring in millions of dollars of revenue to the county.

“Instead of making a right to go pumpkin picking and wine tasting, take a left to downtown Rocky Point, so we can revitalize it.”

— Sarah Anker

Pollakusky argued that while some county statistics say the opioid epidemic has plateaued, he hasn’t seen an example of that in the district, claiming there is a glut of “drug dealing homes” all across the North Shore. Like in 2017, he criticized his opponent for voting to close the Foley Center in Yaphank, saying it could have been used for bed space and as a treatment center.

Anker came back saying the county should look toward public-private partnerships in creating new treatment space.

Though the candidates talked about the ongoing issues, they were also asked how they felt about their opponents campaign tactics during this contentious season. The challenger’s voice rose during the debate as he criticized Anker for mailings published by political advocacy group People for Political Responsibility, depicting him in photoshopped, unflattering images. He claimed Anker had been disbursing campaign material at functions like the Downtown Rocky Point Summer Concert Series and advocating for herself over radio. 

Anker fired back that she had nothing to do with the mailings and had not handed out campaign material at these functions, instead handing out informational pamphlets for services provided by the county. She said her radio show was not sponsored at all by her campaign and only talked of work being done in the Legislature. 

Both have continuously blamed the other for politicizing an incident several months ago at the final summer concert series event, when chamber members were barred from entering the concert. Chamber members said they had permission from the local Veterans of Foreign War post, which participates in putting on the concerts, but Anker said she had only received word that they wanted to attend the day before, and that they did not have space for them. The chamber was allowed a single table at the concert, she added. Pollakusky said it was unfair she was able to attend and “campaign” at the concert while disallowing others.

This post has been amended from how it appeared in the Village Beacon Record to clarify Anker’s position on informational material for services provided by the county.

Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) and Democrat Sarah Deonarine are asking for residents votes Nov. 5. Photos by David Luces

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), a longtime civic leader and six-term council member since 2007 is facing a challenge from Democratic Sarah Deonarine, a marine biologist out of Coram with years of working in state and local government.

In an October debate at the TBR News Media offices, candidates went back and forth over questions of development on the North Shore, clean energy initiatives and keeping young people on Long Island.

“What I’m hearing is that people want to stay in their homes — age in place.”

— Sarah Deonarine

Deonarine said she sees Brookhaven at “full carrying capacity” in terms of development and is calling for a study on capacity to see if the town is at “full build-out.” She added that another issue which leads to the Island’s brain drain is a lack of affordable or millennial housing, compared to states like Colorado.

“What I’m hearing is that people want to stay in their homes — age in place,” she said.

Other issues for her is the lien put on a property after a derelict house is removed, making redevelopment expensive. She asked that the list of zombie homes in town be made public, as well as refocus Brookhaven Code Enforcement Division which she called aggressive in “trying to make money for the town.”

Bonner instead cited the Route 25A corridor study, and which started in the first years of her first term, which she boasted has been picked up by the Town of Riverhead and continued by Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) in the Three Village area. The study led to “massive rezonings” which limited further build-out. She said all current large-scale developments were grandfathered in before the outcome of the study. 

One of those includes the senior living facility development going up along Route 25A in Mount Sinai, which came about after the Mount Sinai Civic sued the town to stop another “Ranches style” development. The Mount Sinai Meadows project was reconfigured from retail space into majority millennial-geared rental/part commercial.

“Mount Sinai Meadows is going to change the face of Mount Sinai,” Bonner said. “It’s also going to stimulate the [Mt. Sinai] shopping center that’s right next to it.”

She disagreed with Deonarine’s statement on code enforcement, saying the division was more focused on the well-being of people in their homes. She said Suffolk County police asked the town not to publicize the list of zombie homes.

The town has boasted of its clean energy initiatives, including solar farms and wind farms at Town Hall in Farmingdale. Bonner called the solar farm developments in Shoreham a way of reducing the impact of farms and grass products on the aquifer while growing green energy in the town. She mentioned the electric car charging stations at sites like Heritage Park in Mount Sinai. 

“We’re doing our part to reduce our carbon footprint.”

— Jane Bonner

“We’re doing our part to reduce our carbon footprint,” the incumbent said.

The Democratic challenger said she thinks it’s time Long Island as a whole moves away from being hesitant on new green energy initiatives, especially with complaints over aesthetics. 

“People are afraid of their views being blocked — it’s a time we need to move past that, and it’s time to think about the environment and move away from fossil fuels,” she said.

If elected, Deonarine said she would bring a different viewpoint to the board, six of whom are Republican with one lone Democrat. She also pushed her opponent on proposition 1, the referendum given the green light by voters last November, saying it had been poorly worded, giving town council members term limits while at the same time extending terms from two to four years. She said the Republican members of the board largely supported it, and though Cartright had at first supported it, she later pulled back her support.

“The current board makeup, and current Republican Party makeup, it is very biased,” she said. “With only one Democrat on the board, that’s not a representation of the Town of Brookhaven.”

Bonner said the board has been bipartisan in getting things done, with no lack of ability or willingness to cross party lines and help each other in daily duties. In terms of proposition 1, “we all supported to go to referendum for the four-year terms,” she said. “It was overwhelmingly supported by nearly 60 percent.”

Incumbent Susan Berland and challenger Hector Gavilla are vying for Suffolk County’s 16th Legislative District seat. Berland of Dix Hills is the Democratic candidate and has served on the Legislature for the past two years. She served on the Huntington Town Council as a councilwoman for more than 16 years prior to being elected county lawmaker. 

Republican hopeful Hector Gavilla is seeking political office for the first time. In 2017, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for the 16th District seat which he lost to Berland. Gavilla has been a licensed real estate broker since 2003 and has run Commack-based Long Island Professional Realty since 2010.

The candidates are concerned with the future of the red-light camera program, the county financial situation, affordable housing and public safety. 

Red-light camera program:

The incumbent says she believes red-light cameras save lives. 

“People need to stop at a red light, they shouldn’t run through it and stop appropriately,” Berland said. “If people did that then you wouldn’t have the ‘money grab’ argument because they wouldn’t be paying the fines for them.”

Berland said there is a need for improvements in the program. She proposed looking at individual camera locations and potentially moving cameras to other problem areas. 

The incumbent also said they want to make sure they can oversee the placement of cameras once they get a new contractor. 

Gavilla disagreed saying the red-light camera program is a scam.  He argued that the cameras are placed disproportionally in low-income areas. 

“The county has discriminated by putting red-light cameras in low income communities,” he said. “There are none in the affluent areas [on the Island].” 

Though he admitted that if someone runs a red-light they deserve a ticket. 

Suffolk’s financial future:

The county’s finances have been one of the main topics of discussion in this year’s election season. According to a recent state comptroller report, Suffolk was under the most severe fiscal stress of any county in 2018 for the second year in a row. Suffolk had an operating deficit of about $26.5 million in 2018 and a general fund balance deficit of $285 million. 

Gavilla said the county is spending money it doesn’t have. 

“The total [deficit] amount depends on who you speak to,” he said. 

If elected, the challenger would get rid of certain special taxes and fees. He would also look to consolidating services and making cuts in some departments. 

“We need to cut expenditures, we can do that very easily by going to department heads and employees and incentivizing them to find ways to cut their fees,” Gavilla said. 

Berland said when Bellone was elected to office, the county was $500 million dollars in debt. 

“There hasn’t been an increase in the property tax line and we have kept within the 2 percent cap,” she said.  

Berland said they are continuing to provide the services residents need, while acknowledging that the county has cut numerous government job position in the last few years. 

Affordable housing on Long Island/Town of Huntington:

The county legislator said there is a need to find affordable housing for everyone. 

“We need to be able to provide affordable housing, you have these [housing] developments built and then 20 to 30 years later it goes to market rate,” Berland said. 

The incumbent looked to the recent Ronkonkoma Hub project as a way they could provide affordable housing as well as keep working families and young people on the Island. 

Berland said she supports continued economic development in the town and giving more resources to schools. 

 The challenger on the other hand would look to bring back high paying jobs to the area. 

Gavilla said he wants to bring back Fortune 500 companies, mentioning that his own father worked for a subsidiary of Grumman when he was young. He also said he would work with state lawmakers to assist in bringing those jobs here. 

In addition, Gavilla said there is a tax problem that needs to be fixed. 

“Property taxes are too high and that affects everything,” he said. “ You have to keep business owners here.”

Public safety (opioids/vaping/gang violence):  

Gavilla said while visiting homes throughout the area people are happy that federal government officials are assisting in the fight against MS-13. 

“I’ve visited close to 5,000 homes … the Hispanic communities are happy the feds are involved,” he said. 

Gavilla said there is a need for increased police presence as he believes more can be done on the opioid epidemic as well. 

According to him, the Hispanic communities are against making parts of Suffolk County as sanctuary areas, saying “they want the bad guys out.” 

Berland agreed with Gavilla that more can be done with MS-13, but said the Suffolk Police Department is doing a good job. 

The incumbent said in terms of immigration, people that are committing crimes should be deported. 

Berland supports banning vaping in the county, saying it has created “a whole new generation of kids smoking.”

“We also need to crack down on the sale of opioids and increase Narcan training,” she said.

Smithtown Town Hall

The Town of Smithtown is run by a four-member Town Council and a town supervisor. Two seats are open for this year’s election with five people running for office. Smithtown’s council is currently all Republicans. Two incumbents are running for reelection: Thomas Lohmann and Lisa Inzerillo. Their challengers include two Democrats, Richard Guttman and Richard Macellaro, and Libertarian candidate Patricia Shirley. 

Patricia Shirley (L)

Patricia Shirley

Kings Park resident Patricia Shirley is running a grassroots campaign to institute change. She said she would like to see the town’s system of government shift to include more transparency and citizen engagement. She’s noticed that at meetings council members tend to talk too technically without engaging residents. She said she has been going door-to-door and business-to-business mainly in Hauppauge, Smithtown and Kings Park to find out what’s on the minds of Smithtown residents. A native Long Islander, she’s noticed a declining state of the Kings Park business district over the last eight years. She wants to see the community thrive, so it offers a promising future for children.

Shirley takes pride in her entrepreneurial background. Her expertise lies in budgeting and grant writing. She expects to be able to help Smithtown improve its planning, auditing and budgeting. She’s been in the health care field for 25 years and has worked at Developmental Disabilities Institute, also known as DDI, in Smithtown over the last 11 years. The group home has grown tremendously during her tenure there, she said. She has also founded the Shirley Academy, a school that trains people on medical billing practices. 

If elected, Shirley’s priorities include promoting entrepreneurship. She promises more round table discussions with community members.

New tools are needed, she said, for a new generation. Residents, she said, need to regain control. 

“I am a woman and an African American,” she said. “I’m black and I bring diversity to the town.”

She wants to make sure that people get out and vote to bring the count up. This is her first time running for public office.

Richard Guttman (D)

 Richard Guttman

Richard Guttman is another Kings Park resident running for a seat on the Town Council in part because of the decline in the Kings Park business district.

He blames overdevelopment as the underlying cause of many of Smithtown’s issues, whether it’s water quality, traffic jams, cut throughs or the lack of sidewalks and proper street crossings. Overall, he said, it creates safety concerns. 

“Trying to go into a store in Kings Park, you put your life on the line,” he said, referring to the parallel parking situation on Main Street. 

Guttman wants quality of life to be a main consideration to improve Smithtown communities. Projects, he said, are pushed through.

“When you put up a building, there’s more to consider than tax revenue,” he said.

Guttman is local attorney with 20-years’ experience. He operates his general law practice from his home. He handles immigration, tax and some criminal cases. Lately, many of his cases pertain to foreclosure, he said. He helps people file for bankruptcy to avoid losing their homes.

People, he said, are overtaxed. “Maybe, with a different president, that will change,” he said. As a council member, Guttman promises to advocate to keep costs down. 

With regard to economic development, Guttman recognizes the need for better infrastructure, such as sewers. He’d also like to see the Kings Park Psychiatric Center, where he regularly runs, move forward with plans to preserve the grounds as parkland. 

“I know it’s in the works, but I’d like to get it moving,” he said. 

Guttman is currently taking care of his mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. If elected, he hopes to help institute programs to help other people in similar situations. 

“I am honest, earnest and promise to do a good job for all the hamlets, to listen to constituents and to come up with solutions that benefit the people.” 

Richard Macellaro

Richard Macellaro

Kings Park resident Richard Macellaro is running for Town Council, but has not been actively campaigning. However, he said in a telephone interview that he wants to win. Macellaro, one of two Democrats in the field for Town Council seats, is also calling for more openness and transparency in Smithtown government. He said that the public needs to more informed about the rights of taxpayers. Agencies and departments need to meet with council members on a more regular basis, he said.

Macellaro is semi-retired and currently works part time for the county’s Traffic and Parking Violations Agency. For 30 years he worked as a director of a home health care business in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

For nearly 60 years, Macellaro said, the town has lacked a master plan to guide the town’s development. If elected, he will make sure one is implemented and reviewed every five years to make sure the town stays focused. Macellaro has previously run for Suffolk County Legislature and New York State Assembly. 

Tom Lohmann

Thomas Lohmann

Tom Lohmann is running for reelection. He was originally voted into office in 2017 and wants to continue what he said he started — reinvigorating the town. His priorities include seeing through the implementation of a master plan for the town’s development. 

“The last time we had a master plan was in the ’60s and we’re doing it, it’s underway,” he said. 

The job requires full-time service and should not be part time, Lohmann said. The retired New York City police officer will take the $75,000 a year for the Town Council position and, combined with his police pension, he said he’s committed to do the work.

“It’s not about the money,” Lohmann said. 

Since he’s been elected to office, Lohmann said he’s spearheaded projects to reinvigorate parkland and beaches, including Gaynor Park and Flynn Memorial Park. The town has three sewer projects underway in Kings Park, Smithtown and St. James. The Kings Park sewers are moving ahead, he said, he’s currently looking for a location for the wastewater treatment plant for Smithtown and expects the St. James sewer to become a combined venture with Gyrodyne, in St. James, in the very near future. 

For 62 years, Lohmann has lived in the Town of Smithtown, currently in the hamlet of Smithtown. He said he is a third generation Smithtown resident. As farmland has turned to shopping malls and highways, Lohmann said he’s seen the change. 

The key to overdevelopment, Lohmann said, is smart development. A master plan, he said, takes care of that. He notes that the town lacks affordable housing. The younger generation, he said, doesn’t want a house. They want to be near a train line to the city and travel by Uber place to place and walk the town. It’s different, he said, from when he grew up. 

The 2 percent tax cap, which state lawmakers have made permanent, Lohmann said, is restrictive. Going forward, he’d like to have more interaction with the school districts. As far as combining services with other branches of government to trim the tax burden on residents, Lohmann said the town is already doing it. 

“We’re doing more with less,” he said. 

Prior to taking office, Lohmann worked as an investigator with insurance crime bureau of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. He also worked part time as a Head of the Harbor police officer. 

Lisa Inzerillo

Lisa Inzerillo 

Kings Park resident Lisa Inzerilla has been serving as Town Council member since 2015. She said she focuses on common sense initiatives to deliver efficient services, save tax dollars and protect suburban quality of life. She’s committed to making Smithtown user-friendly and has helped the IT department launch a new website this year. Inzerillo initiated the town’s Animal Shelter reform. She serves on the Labor Management and the Risk Management committees. Inzerillo is proudest of amending town code to prohibit hookah lounges and vape stores near schools, playgrounds and day care centers.