Election News

Avrum Rosen. Photo from Rosen's campaign

A Huntington attorney with a history of public service has stepped forward to become the Democratic Party’s next challenger for the state’s 12th Assembly District.

Centerport resident Avrum Rosen has become the Suffolk County Democratic Committee’s candidate to face off against incumbent Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R- East Northport).

“I had been thinking about running again as we’re in pretty upsetting times, I don’t think we can be complacent anymore,” Rosen said. “I don’t think any Republican candidate who takes the positions Raia takes should go unchallenged.”

I don’t think any Republican candidate who takes the positions Raia takes should go unchallenged.”

— Avrum Rosen

A panel of four judges in New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division in Brooklyn ruled Aug. 22 that Northport resident Michael Marcantonio, 31, Raia’s original challenger, did not meet the state’s minimum five-year residency requirements after casting his 2014 ballot at Duke University in North Carolina while enrolled as a law student.

As such, Rosen said he decided to contact the Democratic Party about running for the position. He previously unsuccessfully ran for a state political office once before in 1996 in the 10th Assembly District against the late Jim Conte. 

“I was a complete novice at the time,” Rosen said. “With no funds and a lot less experience than I have now, I ran a very competitive race.”

Rosen currently runs a Huntington-based law firm, specializing in bankruptcy claims in addition to handling commercial and residential real estate cases. He received his law degree from Hofstra University.

“I went into bankruptcy work as it’s not that different from social work,” he said. “I call it economic social work to fix things in businesses and in people’s lives.”

The Democratic challenger served on the Town of Huntington’s planning board for nine years starting in 2002, where he said he’s fought for changes to put more restrictions on business operations like 7-Elevens — including opposing the 7-Eleven built in Centerport.

“… I think there are some solutions no one had talked about, including the municipalities’ rights to levy carbon taxes that might get LIPA to modernize the Northport plant.”

— Avrum Rosen

Two other key issues Rosen hopes to be able to address are state gun laws in the wake of school shootings such as Parkland, Florida, and Long Island Power Authority’s tax certiorari case to get the Northport Power Station reassessed.

“I’m a kind of think outside the box type of guy,” he said. “I’ve been doing my homework and I think there are some solutions no one had talked about, including the municipalities’ rights to levy carbon taxes that might get LIPA to modernize the Northport plant.”

Admittedly, Rosen said he had “a lot of work to do” and there’s still a chance he may not wind up on the Nov. 6 ballot. Marcantonio will be pleading his case before the judges in the state Court of Appeals Aug. 29, and if they do, he hopes to have the Appellate Division’s decision overturned to get his name back on the ticket.

“We feel confident they will hear our case given the importance of the issues at [hand] right now,” Marcantonio said Tuesday afternoon. “We need to raise the issue of student voting as they are prohibiting a common practice among New York students who participate in life of their college communities, and are preventing them from being able to run for office.”

Raia also confirmed there is an appeal filed against the Appellate judge’s decision that allowed the Suffolk Democrats to designate Rosen as the party’s new candidate. If overturned, he said the petitions could be found invalid and Rosen could also be ineligible to run.

The results of the court proceedings were not available by the publication’s press time.

File photo

Huntington Republicans have filed petitions seeking to add an additional party line next to their name on ballots this November.

Suffolk County Board of Elections confirmed that petitions were received seeking to create a Stop LIPA party line, a move conducted with the hope of capitalizing with voters on Long Island Power Authority’s ongoing legal battle with the Town of Huntington over the Northport Power Station.

We need to send the loudest message we can to Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo. What better way to send a message than to have those who are concerned voice this at the polls.”

— Andrew Raia

“This is a major issue with us losing a major decision in court,” New York State Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) said. “We need to send the loudest message we can to Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo. What better way to send a message than to have those who are concerned voice this at the polls.”

Raia referenced the decision made by Judge Elizabeth Emerson Aug. 16 that dismissed the third-party beneficiary lawsuits brought forth by the Town of Huntington and Northport-East Northport school district in which the judge found LIPA made no promise not to challenge the tax-assessed value of the Northport plant. 

Raia is one of four political candidates who obtained the 1,500 signatures needed to petition for a Stop LIPA ballot line. The three Republicans who joined him are: Jeremy Williams, challenger for the state’s 10th Assembly District; Jim Leonick, candidate for Huntington town council; and Janet Smitelli, campaigning to be Huntington’s receiver of taxes.

Leonick, who previously ran for Huntington’s board in 2017, said he believes LIPA’s lawsuit against the town should be one of the leading issues this election cycle. In campaigning, the candidate said he feels residents haven’t been kept well informed on the situation and need leadership not simply willing to oppose LIPA, but also to consider alternative solutions.

You are taking a serious issue and you are creating political fodder with it.”

— Joan Cergol

“They haven’t all been open to other methods of addressing the LIPA situation,” Leonick said. “Such as eminent domain or a [British thermal unit] tax. I’m open minded and I think we need to broaden our defense.”

Smitelli could not immediately be reached for comment on her petition to obtain a Stop LIPA party line on the ballot.

Huntington Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D), appointed to her seat earlier this year and running for a full term against Leonick, called Republicans’ effort to create a Stop LIPA line deceptive.

“You are taking a serious issue and you are creating political fodder with it,” she said. “For him to try to create a Stop LIPA line with his name next to it is basically false advertising.”

The councilwoman said both eminent domain and the energy tax have been discussed, but were measures not supported by Republicans in town government. She said having sat through executive sessions with Huntington’s attorney on the matter, she has gained greater knowledge and insight of the issues that have shaped her decisions and public statements. 

“What makes [Leonick] more dedicated or committed to fighting LIPA’s reassessment than me?” she asked. “He didn’t call me up. He doesn’t know.”

They’re just sorry they didn’t think of it first.” 

— Jim Leonick

Cergol accused Republicans’ canvassers of being deceptive when soliciting signatures for the Stop LIPA petitions, claiming residents thought they were signing a petition to stop the utility company from having the plant reassessed.

“We made an effort to ask volunteers to explain to people exactly what they were signing,” Leonick countered. “We did not do this to be deceptive.”

Suffolk Board of Elections officials said anyone who objected had three days to file a general objection, with six more days to file specific lists of objections. Cergol said her campaign has filed notice of objection with attorneys working on drafting a more specific list of legal objections to be submitted later this week.

“They’re just sorry they didn’t think of it first,” Leonick said.

Republican candidate Dan DeBono, far right, with this family. Photo from DeBono campaign

First-time political candidate Dan DeBono said there are two different kinds of Republicans. One supports the little guy, and the other only helps the rich get richer.

There are corporate Republicans and then there’s, like me, middle-class Republicans,” he said. “Corporate Republicans will seek to apply all government power to help conglomerate corporations… enrich the big guy and hope that trickles down to the small guy. Middle-class Republican’s vision of leadership is creating an environment where the middle class can thrive.”

There are corporate Republicans and then there’s, like me, middle-class Republicans.”

— Dan DeBono

DeBono hopes to bring his vision to the U.S. House of Representatives for the 3rd District,  challenging incumbent Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) on the Republican party line for the seat this November.

His campaign focuses on middle-class issues due to his upbringing. Born in 1968, he grew up in Northport and graduated from Northport High School. DeBono then attended Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts on a Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship that allowed him to join the U.S. Navy SEALs after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. The candidate spent four years as an officer in the Navy serving overseas during the Gulf War and U.S. and NATO’s intervention in Bosnia.

After serving, DeBono went to The Booth School of Business at The University of Chicago where he obtained a master’s degree in business administration. He spent the next 20 years in the finance industry. DeBono became involved in the local politics as a committeeman for the Town of Huntington’s Republican Committee and provided financial advice to the presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney (R) and Rudy Giuliani (R).

The Republican candidate said he sees a host of challenges facing Long Island stemming from regulation, taxes and infrastructure problems. It’s hit a breaking point where he says businesses and people do not want to stay here. Given the high cost of living, he sees more and more young people deciding not to stay on the island.

It’s too expensive to live here and raise a family.”

— Dan DeBono

“It’s too expensive to live here and raise a family,” DeBono said. “The balance between income and cost of living has gotten so out of whack that generally young people are not returning after college.”

He wants to put pressure on both the federal and state government to supply funds to ensure the Long Island Rail Road is overhauled. DeBono also supports plans to cut small-business regulations and reduced state income taxes to help alleviate Long Island’s high cost of living.

While he largely agrees with cutting taxes, the challenger said he would not have voted for the 2018 federal tax cuts simply because the amount of allocated for individuals in lower tax brackets was too small and the duration was too short, only going until 2025. He also said the loss of state and local tax deductions will have a negative impact.

In his campaign, DeBono points to corporate Republicans as those who think of large businesses first and top-down economics whereas he wants to strengthen Long Island’s economy by building up the middle class. DeBono is campaigning on a platform of specifically targeting corporate mergers and consolidations, which he said creates anti-competitive monopolies and oligopolies, as well as targeting regulations that hinder new businesses rising up to compete.

Industry after industry have concentrated down into three to four players. This is a huge contributor to the destruction of the middle class.” 

— Dan DeBono

“The same pattern of consolidation has occurred in nearly every industry in the United States,” DeBono said. “Industry after industry have concentrated down into three to four players. This is a huge contributor to the destruction of the middle class.”

On other national issues, DeBono said he believes in strong borders and supports efforts to build a wall, or barrier, along the U.S.-Mexico border. The Republican candidate also said he believes health care prices are crippling America’s middle class and he would prefer a market-based solution — but did not rule out a national single-payer system.

DeBono strongly believes in a free and competitive market, but he also supports unions.

“A robust free market will always form the most reasonable and durable form of job protection,” DeBono said. “We have structural issues that must be addressed first before those protections can kick in. At this point in the cycle unions are more important than they’ve ever been.”

DeBono is holding an open house at the Huntington American Legion Post 360, located at 1 Mill Dam Road, Sept. 17 at 6:30 p.m.

Michael Marcantonio speaks at his July 30 press conference. Photo by Kyle Barr

Democratic challenger Michael Marcantonio will be removed from the ballot for the 12th Assembly District after courts ruled he failed to meet the residency requirements.

A panel of four judges in New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division in Brooklyn ruled Aug. 22 that Marcantonio, 31, of Northport, did not meet the five-year state residency requirement to run for state Assembly. The political candidate called it “unjust.”

“I’ve been punished simply for exercising my right to vote,” he said.

“I’ve been punished simply for exercising my right to vote.”

— Michael Marcantonio

The panel’s decision found that when Marcantonio cast a ballot in the 2014 elections in North
Carolina, where he was enrolled as a law student at Duke University at the time, he had severed his connection to New York. The issue first came to light in July, when three supporters of Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport), whose seat he was vying, Ralph Notaristefano, Paul D’Alessio and Kathleen Barnhart filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court.

“I did everything everyone else does when they go away to school, I did nothing different — the only difference is I tried to run for office afterward,” the political hopeful said. “It’s going to discourage young people from running for office.”

Marcantonio said he was unsure of bringing the case to the state Court of Appeals, citing that the court has the sole discretion to determine whether or not they’ll hear his plea. Ultimately, he said he believes time will show the judges’ decision was in error.

It’s a symptom of the cancer in our body of politics in New York State.”

— Michael MarcAntonio

“It’s shocking that the court, who is supposed to be the guarantor of our democracy, our justice, our voting and electoral rights would instead disenfranchise our district from having a real choice in this election and undermine young people’s right to run for office,” Marcantonio said.

As Marcantonio was found ineligible, Raia  will run unopposed. Raia could not immediately be reached for comment. The incumbent previously weighed in on the issue stating to TBR News Media that anyone who may want to run for office after attending school in another state should use absentee ballots.

Now barred from running, Marcantonio said he will continue to support the campaigns of several other Suffolk Democrats up for re-election this November including state Assemblyman Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) for the 16th District, Huntington Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) and challenger Jim Gaughran who will run against state Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset).

The political hopeful said he already spoke with Rich Schaffer, supervisor of Suffolk County’s
Democratic Committee, about bringing the fight to the state Legislature when it reconvenes in January. Schaffer and other members of Suffolk Democratic Committee could not immediately be reached for comment.

I will be a candidate moving forward for whatever office I have the opportunity to run for.”

— Michael Marcantonio

Marcantonio wants there to be changes made to the five-year state residency requirement to make clear the intention is not to punish students who pursue higher education in another state.

“It’s a symptom of the cancer in our body of politics in New York State,” he said. “Our elections laws are not structured in a way to incentivize youth participation or incentivize people to get involved in the process. They are designed to make it as difficult as possible.”

He also states he will continue to work to encourage the young voter to get to the polls this November given the “unprecedented levels” of young engagement following recent events such as the Feb. 14 Parkland, Florida, high school shooting.

Marcantonio said the outcome has not discouraged him from taking part in political endeavors.

“This will not be the last time you hear of Michael Marcantonio,” he said. “I will be a candidate moving forward for whatever office I have the opportunity to run for.”

Democratic challenger files immediate appeal, keeps eyes on November's general election

Michael Marcantonio speaks at his July 30 press conference. Photo by Kyle Barr

A judge has ordered Democratic challenger Michael Marcantonio’s name be removed from the ballot for the 12th Assembly District.

New York State Supreme Court Judge Richard Horowitz issued a decision Aug. 17 that Marcantonio, 31, does not meet the minimum residency requirements to run for state Assembly.

His campaign has already filed an appeal of the decision, a staff member of Suffolk County Board of Elections confirmed Aug. 20.

“We will be proceeding with an appeal not just for our campaign, but for young people across our state that would be disenfranchised if this decision was allowed to stand,” Marcantonio said in a statement. “Long Island is facing a loss of our young people as they obtain education and are forced to seek opportunities elsewhere. This decision would place further barriers between young people and their ability to serve our communities.”

“We will be proceeding with an appeal not just for our campaign, but for young people across our state that would be disenfranchised if this decision was allowed to stand.”

— Michael Marcantonio

In July, 12th District residents Ralph Notaristefano, Paul D’Alessio and Kathleen Barnhart filed a lawsuit contending Marcantonio did not meet New York’s residency requirements to run. Under state law, any candidate for state office must show he or she has resided within the state for a minimum of five years and in the assembly district for one year.

The judge ruled that because Marcantonio registered to vote in the 2012 presidential election in North Carolina, where he attended law school at Duke University from 2012 to 2015, he did not meet the five-year New York State residency requirement, according to a statement issued by Marcantonio’s campaign.
Marcantonio could not immediately be reached for further comment. His campaign did not immediately provide a copy of the judge’s decision upon request.

At a July 30 press conference at Cow Harbor Park in Northport, Marcantonio said he believes his right to run for office is protected under the U.S. Supreme Court decision Symm v. United States (1979), which he said allows for students’ right to vote without losing their residency.’

“Merely registering to vote as a student out of state is not enough to eviscerate your residency in this state as a New Yorker,” Marcantonio said July 30.

The Democratic challenger remained on North Carolina’s voter lists until he graduated with his legal degree in 2015. He changed his registration to New York for the 2016 presidential primary, and cast a ballot in the last Northport school board election.

Marcantonio had previously said if he lost the lawsuit, he feared it could bar young people from voting while attending out-of-state school and then coming back to run for office.

Incumbent state Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport), whose seat Marcantonio was vying to grab, previously weighed in on the issue stating anyone who may want to run for office after attending school in another state should use absentee ballots.

From left, New York State Assemblyman Andrew Raia and Democratic challenger Michael Marcantonio. File photo, photo from Facebook

New York 12th Assembly District Democratic candidate is facing allegations that he has not lived in the state long enough to run for office.

District residents Ralph Notaristefano, Paul D’Alessio and Kathleen Barnhart filed a lawsuit July 25 in New York State Supreme Court contending Democratic challenger Michael Marcantonio does not meet New York’s residency requirements.

When you change your car registration and open up a new voting registration in another state and that state says you must be resident of that state to vote, that’s pretty clear cut for me.”

— Andrew Raia

Under state law, any candidate for state office must show he or she has resided within the state for a minimum of five years and in the assembly district for one year.

Current state Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) said the more contentious issue in the lawsuit is whether Marcantonio, 31, has been a resident for the mandatory five years.

Marcantonio attended law school at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, where he registered to vote in the 2012 presidential election as an enrolled student from 2012 to 2015.

“When you change your car registration and open up a new voting registration in another state and that state says you must be resident of that state to vote, that’s pretty clear cut for me,” Raia said.

In a July 30 press conference at Cow Harbor Park in Northport, Marcantonio said he believes his right to run is protected under the U.S. Supreme Court decision Symm v. United States (1979), which he said allows for students right to vote without losing their residency.

“Merely registering to vote as a student out of state is not enough to eviscerate your residency in this state as a New Yorker,” he said.

Marcantonio remained on North Carolina’s voter lists until he graduated with his legal degree in 2015, He changed his registration to New York for the 2016 presidential primary, and cast a ballot in the last Northport school board election.

The Democratic candidate said if he loses the lawsuit, he fears it could bar young people from voting while attending out-of-state school and then coming back to run for office.

“What we’re seeing today is an assault on young people,” Marcantonio said. “If we lose this lawsuit every single New Yorker who goes out of state for school and [vote,] they would be barred from running for office for five years after they graduate school.”

Merely registering to vote as a student out of state is not enough to eviscerate your residency in this state as a New Yorker.”

— Michael Marcantonio

Raia said that if anyone wants to run for office after they attend school out of state that they should send absentee ballots. Marcantonio countered that filing absentee ballots is too difficult for young people because they have to get it notarized. One has to get a absentee ballot notarized in South Dakota and North Carolina, according to Vote.org.

Raia said Marcantonio does not primarily reside in Northport, but rather lives in a New York City apartment closer to where he works at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis. Marcantonio has taken an unpaid leave of absence from his job to campaign, saying his main residence is his Northport family home, Marcantonio said he keeps a city apartment to use when he’s too tired to travel after work.

Raia also argued that Marcantonio is not well connected to the district. Marcantonio had raised more than $100,000 by July, more than double Raia’s campaign, according to financial disclosures filed with the state Board of Elections. Yet, only approximately $1,500 of the Democrat’s war chest came from nonfamily members in the voting area. Marcantonio said he expects his campaign to acquire more local donations in the months before the election.

Judge Richard Horowitz of the New York State Supreme Court is presiding over the case. The date was postponed but both parties are now due in court Aug. 17.

Marcantonio said he expects to win the lawsuit. “Northport is a great place to grow up — it made me who I am today,” he said. “I want to spend the rest of my life here, raise kids and send them to the same great schools I went to.”

Michael Marcantonio speaks at his July 30 press conference. Photo by Kyle Barr

Northport native Michael Marcantonio said his life has been shaped by two major events of the 21st century, 9/11 and the Great Recession, that now define his first campaign for political office.

Marcantonio, 31, is running as the Democratic candidate for New York State’s 12th Assembly District against incumbent, Andrew Raia (R-Northport) in the upcoming Nov. 6 election. A self-identified millennial, he seeks to address theissues of high taxes, public transportation and LIPA lawsuit that he feels threaten Long Island’s future.

Born in Huntington Hospital, Marcantonio said growing up during 9/11 and the Iraq War colored his vision of the United States as a country while attending Northport High School. He said the 2008 financial crash and subsequent recession greatly affected his ability to get a job after graduating from Lafayette College in Pennsylvania in 2009.

There is a mass exodus on Long Island of young people who can no longer afford to live here.”

— Michael Marcantonio

“It was a disaster for many people in my generation, but it’s remained hard,” Marcantonio said. “I was fortunate that I had a family that was able to weather that storm, but your whole life can’t start when you’re still living at home without a job.”

In 2012, the first-time political candidate enrolled at Duke University in North Carolina to earn his doctorate in law. After returning to New York in 2015, he was hired by the Manhattan office of law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP as an associate, where he and many other young partners work close to 80 hours a week. He considers himself a part of the young generation who have had to struggle with the high cost of living on Long Island, which has been worse for youth than other areas, he said.

“We are working much harder, much longer with and much less job security than we ever have before,” Marcantonio said. “People our age would be getting involved more if it weren’t for these structural hurdles that have been holding us back. … There is a mass exodus on Long Island of young people who can no longer afford to live here.”

We are getting gouged in taxes on Long Island — we are getting absolutely soaked.”

— Michael Marcantonio

Marcantonio said he is running in support of the youth on Long Island, and he is currently battling a lawsuit that contends he does not meet the five-year requirement for living in the 12th Assembly District because he registered to vote in North Carolina where he went to school. Marcantonio considers the lawsuit an assault on young people’s ability to run for office.

One of Marcantonio’s main campaign promises is to upgrade Long Island’s infrastructure, starting with investing in rebuilding Long Island Rail Road. He also called for an expansion of Suffolk County sewers to replace cesspools he said are affecting the water supply. He added that Albany should foot the bill to pay for those upgrades.

This is not a Suffolk County specific problem, this is a New York problem,” Marcantonio said. “Suffolk County should not have to borrow at higher interest rates because we have less borrowing power than the state.

He said he plans to advocate for strengthening unions in both the public and private sector, to make higher education more affordable and for more public sector job opportunities in areas such as health care, teaching and construction.

This lawsuit is a total fraud, an utter and total fraud, and we are going to fight this.”

— Michael Marcantonio

“The decks are stacked against us,” Marcantonio said. “You can’t even raise a family on a private sector job because you don’t have the job security, and you’re not getting the pay you would get to sustain a family. We don’t have as much access to credit if we would want to buy a home.”

He also said that there cannot be any further state tax increases on Long Island, in order to lower the area’s high cost of living.

“We are getting gouged in taxes on Long Island — we are getting absolutely soaked,” he said.

The Town of Huntington is currently in the midst of an eight-year ongoing legal battle due to the Long Island Power Authority lawsuit over the value of Northport Power Station, as LIPA claims it has been overtaxed. LIPA is seeking a 90 percent reduction of its annual taxes, a difference of approximately $56 million and growing. Marcantonio said he believes the town should not have to pay a dime in back pay.

“This lawsuit is a total fraud, an utter and total fraud, and we are going to fight this,” Marcantonio said. “We need a legislative contingency plan.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine. File photo by Erika Karp

Although politicians in Brookhaven Town are not up for election this cycle, voters will be asked a question with long-term implications for town government in November.

Brookhaven Town board voted unanimously to establish a referendum on the ballot Nov. 6 asking town residents to weigh in on changes to terms in office for elected officials, specifically increasing terms from two years, as is currently the law, to four years for councilmembers, the supervisor and highway superintendent. The referendum will have a second component as part of the same yea or nay question: limiting officials to three terms in office. That component would impact the above positions, as well as town clerk and receiver of taxes. Both components will appear as part of a single proposition, according to Town Attorney Annette Eaderesto. Putting the issue up to a vote was established as a result of an Aug. 2 public hearing. If passed the law would go into effect for terms beginning Jan. 1, 2020.

“[The voters] have, in the past weighed in, and whatever they weighed in to is not being listened to now,” Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said during the hearing. “Maybe that’s fine with them, maybe it’s not, but I would like to go back and ask them, ‘what do you think?’”

In 1993, residents voted to implement a limit of three, four-year terms on elected officials, though that law was no longer applicable following a 2002 public vote to establish council districts, as state law dictates councilmembers in towns with council districts serve two-year terms, according to Emily Pines, Romaine’s chief of staff and a former New York State Supreme Court justice, who spoke during the hearing.

Several members of the public commented in opposition of various aspects of the referendum, saying the two components should be separated to be voted on individually; there’s not enough time to untangle issues with the language of the law, like what to do with an individual who served as a councilperson for 12 years and then is elected to another position such as supervisor; and how to handle time already served by current members. Others cited shorter terms as fostering more accountability for elected representatives.

“I think it’s too complex to be one resolution,” said Jeff Kagan, a resident and representative from Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organization. “I think you’re asking the voters to vote on somethings they like and somethings they may not like.”

Anthony Portesy, the Democrat candidate for town highway superintendent in 2017 and a private attorney, spoke against extending terms to four years, but said he would be in favor of three years because having to campaign every two years can be “arduous.”

“While I’m not opposed to the extension of terms per se, four-year terms is an eternity in politics, too long for hyperlocal town races,” he said. “We don’t want to create electoral feudalism in Brookhaven through the coercive powers of incumbency.”

Patchogue Village Mayor Paul Pontieri spoke in favor of going to four-year terms during the hearing about having to run for office every two years, saying it can get in the way of accomplishing goals set forth at the beginning of a term. Romaine and councilmembers Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) and Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) each expressed similar sentiments when asked if they intend to support the idea in early July when the public hearing was set.

“You don’t have the constant churning in politics that can sometimes undermine the system,” Romaine said. “It allows for long-range planning and programs. It takes the politics out of local government.”

Eaderesto said the town’s law department will draft the wording as it will appear on the ballot in November and share it with the town board prior to submitting it to the Suffolk County Board of Elections by Oct. 1.

By Sara-Megan Walsh

A Nesconset man was arrested for allegedly making a terroristic threat against a campaign worker at  U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin’s (R-Shirley) headquarters last July 6, according to Suffolk County police.

Nesconset resident Martin Astrof, 75, was arrested for allegedly threatening one of U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin’s campaign workers. Photo from SCPD

Martin Astrof was arrested Friday after he allegedly threatened to kill one of Zeldin’s supporters and supporters of President Donald Trump (R).  Astrof went to Zeldin’s campaign headquarters on Terry Road in Smithtown and became irate with a campaign worker, identified by Zeldin’s office as Donato Panico,  at approximately 11:15 a.m., police said. After allegedly threatening to kill Panico and other supporters, Astrof backed his car up in an aggressive manner nearly striking the worker, according to police.

“Donato Panic is an exceptional citizen who has dedicated his life to serving our law enforcement and nation’s veterans,” Zeldin said in a statement. “He should never have been targeted like this today for his support of a political candidate.”

Astrof, 75,  allegedly fled the scene and was arrested a short time later in front of his home in Nesconset. He was charged with one felony-count of making a terrorist threat and one count of second-degree reckless endangerment.

“In the United States of America, political scores are settled at the ballot box, not by trying to kill your political opponents,” Zeldin said. “It is unacceptable to resort to actions to kill or seriously harm political opponents or otherwise incite those violent actions by others. It must stop now.”

The congressman said he himself has received several death threats, and his wife and children have been targeted as well since the last presidential election in 2016.

Astrof was arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip July 7 and released after posting bail in the amount of $25,000 bond. A temporary order of protection was issued by Suffolk County police.

 

U.S. Congressman Lee Zeldin's campaign kickoff event was held June 28 in Smithtown

More than 350 supporters attended U.S. Congressman Lee Zeldin’s (R-Shirley) campaign kickoff event at the Smithtown Elks Club last week, but full media coverage of the guest speakers may be hard to come by.

Two members of the local press were kicked out of Zeldin’s June 28 event after an attendee in their vicinity vocally decried one of his controversial featured speakers, former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

“I asked, ‘Why do I have to leave?’ There was no reason given,”said Pat Biancaniello, editor of the site Smithtown Matters and one of the journalists removed from the event.

Chris Boyle, communications director for Zeldin’s 2018 campaign for Congress, said that a protester made an outburst that created a disturbance in the middle of the rally, causing the congressman’s security team to react.

“[I]n an effort to escort all those involved out of a crowded and loud rally, three people, including the protester, were identified as being involved in the outburst and were escorted out,” Boyle said in a statement.

I asked, ‘Why do I have to leave?’ There was no reason given.”

– Pat Biancaniello

Setauket resident Susan Perretti, the woman identified as having created the disturbance at the event, said she had RSVP’d she would be attending with two friends in hopes of getting an opportunity to directly address her congressman unfiltered, saying town hall-style events tend to only allow for prescreened questions. When two friends were denied entry, she proceeded to head inside.

Perretti, a member of the North Country Peace Group advocacy organization, said once inside she had a hard time keeping quiet while hearing comments made by several former advisers to President Donald Trump (R) and what she called “hate” speech from attendees.

“Then when Sean Spicer came out, I just started saying, ‘It’s enough — it’s enough,’” she said.

When Zeldin’s security team approached her, Perretti said she was asked to leave or she would be arrested. Upon asking why, Perretti said she was informed that she was trespassing before being escorted off the premises peacefully.

Biancaniello said she and Dave Ambro, editor of The Smithtown News, were standing in close proximity to Perretti when the commotion began. The editor of The Smithtown News took a photo of Perretti’s outburst, according to those in attendance, before he was the first journalist to be escorted out.

Then when Sean Spicer came out, I just started saying, ‘It’s enough — it’s enough.'”

— Susan Perretti

Ambro declined to comment on the event.

State Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) said he was close enough to see Zeldin’s security team approach both Perretti and the reporters, but he could not hear the conversation over the rally and it was unclear what was unfolding.

“There was a list of people who were known troublemakers [the security team] was on the lookout for who were known to be trying to get in,” Fitzpatrick said, “Two were discovered trying to find their way inside to disrupt the event.”

However, the assemblyman said the reporters kicked out were not associated with the protester.

“I did not witness any problem whatsoever by David or Pat,” he said. “From what I could see, there was no reason for them to be asked to be removed. They were not part of the disruption. When the commotion started, they were obviously paying attention to it as reporters would.”

Biancaniello said she was the second journalist to be forced out by Zeldin’s security team. She alleged she identified herself as a member of the press, was openly wearing a media badge provided by Zeldin’s team and that her camera was hit by a guard when she attempted to take a photo.

When asked to leave, the two other people, later identified as the editor of the longtime anti-Zeldin Smithtown News and a left leaning local blogger, did not display those credentials they were provided …”

– Chris Boyle

“I think it was people were intentionally singled out,” the Smithtown Matters editor said.

Zeldin’s staff said the press failed to appropriately identify themselves to the security team.

“When asked to leave, the two other people, later identified as the editor of the longtime anti-Zeldin Smithtown News and a left leaning local blogger, did not display those credentials they were provided almost as if they wanted to get thrown out to write about it afterwards,” Zeldin’s communications director said. “Following the outburst, they did not contact any members of our team until hours after the event ended.”

Biancaniello said she had called and emailed Zeldin’s office immediately following the event without response. After making her story public in a Facebook post at approximately 8:30 p.m., Biancaniello said she was informed several local residents contacted Zeldin’s office and she eventually received an emailed reply asking why she never properly identified herself as being with the press despite alleging she was wearing her press badge.

The Smithtown Matters editor said she has grave concerns about the precedent the event may set for media coverage of the upcoming race for the 1st Congressional District.

“What does it say when only the people given admission again were the people who you think will cover it positively?” she said. “That’s not where the world needs to be today. We have enough people coming after journalists and the integrity of the media in general.”

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