Election News

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.”

Perry Gershon thanks volunteers and supporters at his Setauket office June 26 after securing the Democratic Party nomination for Congress in New York’s 1st District. Photo by Alex Petroski

The stage is finally set for what will likely be a fierce campaign leading up to the November midterm elections.

Perry Gershon, a largely self-funded first-time candidate for political office, who spent years as a commercial mortgage lender and a small business owner, defeated four other Democrats aiming to take down incumbent 1st District U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) June 26.

Kate Browning speaks to supporters as she waits for election results to come in June 26 in Patchogue. Photo by Rita J. Egan

More than 20,300 1st District voters turned out to vote in the primary, which was open to only those registered as members of the party, as per New York State law. Gershon secured 7,226 votes, beating former Suffolk County Legislator Kate Browning, his closest competitor, by about 1,000 votes. Vivian Viloria-Fisher, another former legislator, finished third with 3,314 votes. In 2016, about 12,600 registered Democrats went to the polls on primary day to choose between Anna Throne-Holst and Dave Calone.

“The voters showed that we’re tired of what’s going on in Washington,” Gershon said to a room full of supporters and volunteers at his campaign headquarters in Setauket when it became clear his lead would hold up. He thanked his family and those who worked to help him win the nomination, as well as the other four candidates, who he said ran a clean race with an eye on unifying post-primary all along. “Our elected leaders are not responsive to what people are looking for. People want a new breed, and that’s what I stand for.”

Zeldin, who has been quiet about his potential challengers, wasted no time getting the campaign started on Twitter once Gershon became the presumed victor.

“Park Ave Perry may have bought himself the Democratic Party nomination in NY-1, but our Congressional seat is not for sale,” the incumbent wrote. “NY-1 isn’t electing a far left, Pelosi-loving, NYC Democrat who registered in our district very recently just to run for Congress.”

In an interview after his win, Gershon said he intends to make his campaign about health care, the environment and creating high-wage jobs in the 1st District.

Perry Gershon supporters anxiously await election results at his campaign headquarters in Setauket June 26. Photo by Alex Petroski

“I’m really excited, I feel like people believed in me and I’m so happy for it,” he said.

Many of those believers were people who readily admitted they’d never gotten much involved in politics in the past.

“I’ve seen a lot of people, like at my school, very few people who cared about politics beforehand but after the March for Our Lives, after the result of the Never Again movement, and even after what’s happening at the border right now, far more young people are getting involved,” said Scott Egnor, a Ward Melville High School student who helped organize the youth-led local gun control protests in March. He cited Gershon’s desire to ban assault-style weapons and strengthen background checks as the driving force behind his motivation to volunteer for his campaign. “Even at the office, he still wears his March for Our Lives hat, and I think that spoke to me a lot.”

Browning said in an interview from her watch party in Patchogue she’s not sure what her next move might be in politics, but vowed to support Gershon’s efforts to flip the seat in November.

“It’s about taking out Lee Zeldin, and we all need to regroup and support [Gershon],” she said.

All five candidates told TBR News Media in May they intended to support the primary winner.

Reporting contributed by Rita J. Egan.

Perry Gershon. Photo by Kyle Barr

As the five-headed Democratic Primary to select a challenger for 1st District U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) nears, six Stony Brook University faculty members, some with ties to Brookhaven National Lab, have authored a letter endorsing their preferred winner.

The signers of the letter are throwing their public support behind Perry Gershon, a first-time candidate for political office from the private sector, who made a career as a commercial mortgage lender and small business owner, citing his belief that “facts trump opinions.” The group also supports Gershon’s broader dedication to protecting the environment.

The endorsement came with a disclaimer that the signees being affiliated with SBU are for identification purposes only and do not imply institutional support for any political candidate. Other notable endorsements in the race thus far include Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski’s (D-Cutchogue) stated support for Kate Browning, a former legislator herself; and Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) backing Vivian Viloria-Fisher, another Suffolk legislature alumna. Notably, the group of six from SBU’s STEM department did not endorse BNL scientist Elaine DiMasi, who is also among the five candidates in the race.

The full letter from the SBU professors supporting Gershon is below, lightly edited for grammar and style.

Endorsement of Perry Gershon for Congress by faculty and researchers in science, technology, engineering and math at Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory

An open letter to the community:

As faculty and researchers at Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory  involved in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teaching and research, we believe it is of vital importance that you vote for Perry Gershon as your next U.S. Representative in Congress in New York’s 1st Congressional District June 26 in the Democratic Primary.

For all of us, at both the university and the lab in Brookhaven, mid-western Suffolk has been our home for many years, just as the South Fork in eastern Suffolk has been Perry’s home for over 20 years. CD1 covers both — we share the same aquifer and the same need for clean water. What happens here locally, in our country, and in the world, matters deeply to all of us.

We need Perry in Congress because he believes that facts trump opinions. Perry grew up in an academic family. His parents are both medical researchers at Columbia University. While a student at Yale, Perry was involved in original research as co-investigator on multiple published papers with faculty. He understands at his core that investigation and evidence must win out over demagoguery.

Perry believes in the overwhelming evidence of climate change and its profound effects at every scale, from Long Island to the entire Earth. Unlike President Donald Trump (R) and Zeldin, Perry would stay in the Paris Climate Accord and work to help America meet its goals. Perry holds that expanding markets for innovative clean technologies generates jobs and economic growth. Research at SBU, BNL, and Suffolk incubators can be at the forefront of turning CD1’s economy into one that supports good-paying, middle-class jobs that offer our young people the opportunity to stay on Long Island.

Perry knows that Environmental Protection Agency regulations, based on scientific study, are made to help and protect every one of us. Yet under Trump (R), EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt (R) and Zeldin, expert scientists are no longer even allowed to provide advice to the EPA, because recipients of EPA grants, who are the most knowledgeable experts, are forbidden from serving on EPA’s scientific advisory committees — the bodies that make sure regulations to protect public health and environmental values are based on sound science.

Perry knows that Department of the Interior decisions should benefit the country, not benefit any corporation that wants to exploit our natural resources for its bottom line. We do not need or want offshore oil drilling destroying our pristine coastline and threatening our tourist industry. While Zeldin feigns opposition, his support of Trump has allowed Zinke to move forward to expedite drilling permits.

Perry stands for the Democratic values that we all share: seeking truth and diversity of opinion. Unlike Trump and Zeldin, Perry actually listens. He actively seeks input and advice. His main goal is to solve problems in ways that benefit the greatest number of people.

On June 26, the Democratic Primary will choose the candidate who will oppose Zeldin in November. We firmly believe Perry Gershon has the intellect, the skills, the fortitude, and the resources to beat Zeldin — a powerful combination that is not matched by any of the other primary candidates.

We ask you to support Perry Gershon, to take back Congress by removing the man who has become Trump’s mouthpiece and enabler — Lee Zeldin. On June 26, please stand with us in returning truth to our government’s decision making.

Sincerely,

Dr. Douglas Futuyma, Distinguished Professor, Ecology and Evolution, SBU

Dr. Nancy Goroff, Chair Department of Chemistry, SBU

Dr. Stephen Baines, Associate Professor, Ecology and Evolution, SBU

Dr. Barry McCoy, Distinguished Professor, CN Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics, SBU

Dr. Lorna Role, Distinguished Professor and Chair, Neurobiology and Behavior, SBU

Dr. Gene Sprouse, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Physics and Astronomy, SBU

This post was updated June 19 to remove Dr. Jeff Keister as a signer and add Dr. Stephen Baines.

Kate Browning, Perry Gershon, Elaine DiMasi, David Pechefsky and Vivian Viloria-Fisher debate at TBR News Media's Setauket office. Photo by Kyle Barr

Fifty percent of the Nov. 6 ballot in the race to represent New York’s 1st Congressional District is already set, but there’s plenty to sort out before the other half is finalized.

Five candidates garnered enough signatures on their petitions for elected office, earning spots on the ballot for the June 26 Democratic primary. They’ll square off for the right to challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) in the general election.

Kate Browning. Photo by Kyle Barr

All five candidates were at TBR News Media’s Setauket office June 1 for a debate to point to the areas in which they differ, matters they think they’re better suited for the job and ways they can dethrone
their adversary.

In pitching herself as the candidate most capable to do the latter, former Suffolk County Legislator Kate Browning said she can take votes away from Zeldin in a variety of ways.

“We need to be able to appeal to the blue-collar voters, and I believe that’s something I can do,” she said. “Having a husband who’s in law enforcement, who’s an Army veteran — we hear Lee Zeldin talk about ‘vote for the vet, vote for the William Floyd graduate,’ and I live in his base, and I can tell you I know that I can take votes from his base. And having two kids in the military, I can take a lot of that away from him.”

Zeldin is a U.S. Army Reserve veteran.

Perry Gershon identified a different way that he can pull from Zeldin’s support. The candidate said he made a living in commercial mortgage lending for 25 years and owned a small business — a sports bar in New York City — touting the fact he is a political outsider hoping to shake things up.

“What that background means is that when I talk about the economy and jobs I have a little extra credibility, because I’ve been involved in creating jobs before,” Gershon said.

Elaine DiMasi. Photo by Kyle Barr

Elaine DiMasi provides perhaps the most unique qualifications of the bunch.

“There aren’t too many districts that can add a professional scientist to that problem-solving team that is congress,” said DiMasi, a physicist at Brookhaven National Lab. “There’s 435 professionals there — many lawyers, many legislators, many more people with business degrees than with backgrounds like mine, and it’s badly needed right now.”

David Pechefsky said he offers a blend of foreign and domestic policy experience despite never holding elected office, which is uncommon for most first-time candidates. He has worked as an adviser to governments abroad, in addition to his time as a staffer for the New York City Council.

“We’re going to need that to go toe-to-toe with Zeldin,” he said. “He talks a lot about foreign policy. Our national lawmaking body [is] going to have to vote on a whole host of issues pertaining to foreign policy, and I also feel deeply that the Democratic Party needs to challenge the narrative on foreign policy. We cannot afford to continue to have military interventions.”

Vivian Viloria-Fisher said she previously served as a delegate at three Democratic National Conventions in the past. That, her experience as a Suffolk County legislator and living in the district for nearly five decades helps her to understand the needs of 1st District Democrats, she said.

Perry Gershon. Photo by Kyle Barr

“This is who I am, this is who I’ve always been,” she said. “I have a footprint that goes throughout the district and I’ve done good work throughout this district. I’m well-known.”

Viloria-Fisher and Pechefsky said they possess empathy and compassion, respectively, which they said they feel Zeldin lacks. DiMasi said she’s dexterous, or quick-witted, capable of thinking on her feet in the midst of say, a scrutinized debate. Gershon said during his years in business he thought he’d earned a reputation as a person with high integrity, capable of getting along with people from all walks of life. Browning said she’s approachable, often having to remind people to call her “Kate,” as opposed to Legislator or Mrs. Browning.

The winner of the primary will be campaigning for a seat Zeldin won by almost 20 points in 2016, within a county Trump won by seven points, marking the first time a Republican presidential candidate secured Suffolk County since 1992.

Viloria-Fisher said she partnered with Republicans to pass various pieces of bipartisan legislation while representing the county. Pechefsky said he thinks his message — his willingness to advocate for working people — cuts across political lines. DiMasi said she thought her approach to campaigning — sticking to just the facts — would earn her respect with Republicans.

David Pechefsky. Photo by Kyle Barr

Gershon said he believes many people who voted for Trump in the past could be convinced to vote Democratic because he thinks many regret doing so, with an opportunity to score points because of the Republican tax plan, which did particular damage to Long Island property owners. Zeldin was one of few Republicans in Congress who did not vote for the bill.

The candidates identified many of the same issues — gun control legislation, immigration reform, health care options, lack of high-paying jobs, high cost of living in the district — as the most important to the voters they’ve spoken to, while also citing what they said they viewed as Zeldin’s misguided positions on these issues.

Browning named taxes and water quality as among the biggest concerns facing the district in the near future.

“[Zeldin will] come to the Island and say, ‘I have a great environmental record, I’m opposed to the offshore drilling, I’m all about clean water,’ however, he’s voting for bills that are polluting the waters in Virginia,” she said.

Pechefsky identified availability of affordable housing, for people from all income brackets, as desperately needed.

Vivian Viloria-Fisher. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Brookhaven is losing population except for Patchogue, and seniors can’t afford to stay here either,” he said. “When you say we’re trying to figure out interventions that can make for healthier communities, healthier neighborhoods — housing is one you could tackle directly. I worked a lot on housing policy in the city.”

Viloria-Fisher also noted the importance of creating reasons — be it high-paying jobs or vibrant downtowns — for young graduates to remain local and plant roots.

She also referenced Zeldin’s position on guns, and campaign donations he has received from the National Rifle Association, as counter to the values of voters she said she’s spoken to.

“He calls it Second Amendment support, I just call it gun violence support,” she said. “Nobody needs to carry around an assault weapon.”

DiMasi said she’s been trying to get through to those with a distaste for politics, recalling a conversation with an African-American as she was campaigning door-to-door.

“The fact is, I believe that federal law is the place to decrease discrimination,” she said. “Laws create personal biases, much more so than the other way around, and that’s from research. We have to understand just how deeply disenfranchised people have become.”

Steve Stern. Photo from Stern's office

Former Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) said he knew his neighbors best and his confidence was backed up when the ballots were counted Tuesday night.


Special Election Results
Steve Stern (D)          5,748
Janet Smitelli (R)       3,949

Stern became the first Democrat elected to represent the 10th Assembly District in New York State Assembly in more than 30 years by defeating Republican candidate Janet Smitelli, 5,748 to 3,969 votes, in the April 24 special election.

“I look forward to being a strong voice for Long Island,” he said “That’s exactly what’s needed in New York State Assembly.”

Stern received approximately 59 percent of the ballots cast, according to the unofficial results posted by Suffolk County Board of Elections. He ran on the Democrat, Working Families, Independence, Women’s Equality and Reform lines.

The newly elected assemblyman called it a “historic win” indicative of the larger political dialogue happening across the country.

“So many people in our community believe that the federal government is going in a dangerous direction,” Stern said. “If Washington is not going to address the issues and what’s going on, we have a responsibility to do it up in Albany.”

“If Washington is not going to address the issues and what’s going on, we have a responsibility to do it up in Albany.”
– Steve Stern

Stern will be sworn in April 30 to take over the seat vacated by Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R). The new state assemblyman thanked his campaign volunteers and said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) had called to offer his congratulations.

The state’s 10th Assembly District has been represented by Republicans since the early 1980s. The longest-serving assemblyman was Huntington Station resident Jim Conte (R) who held the office from 1988 until his death in October 2012. Lupinacci, who worked for Conte, then won the seat in a 2012 special election.

“I’d like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to my opponent Steve Stern upon his victory,” Smitelli posted April 24 on Facebook. “During this campaign we discussed the issues and got the community engaged. I wish him the best of luck.”

She could not be reached immediately for further comment.

Stern previously said if elected he intended to continue local efforts but on a much larger scale, such as combating gang activity, which he has done by helping to get county funding for automatic license plate readers that target criminals. He’s also passionate about protecting the environment and the area’s water quality, having co-sponsored legislation identifying key areas of importance when it comes to developing sewer infrastructure. Stern said this legislation plays a key to downtown revitalization of Huntington Station. He said he’s a strong supporter of term limits and bipartisanship.

His first action upon being elected, in keeping with a personal tradition started during his days in county Legislature, Stern said, was driving around town starting to pull up his campaign signs.

Cast your ballot for the April 24 special election from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at regular polling locations

Republican Party candidate Janet Smitelli, and Democrat Party candidate Steve Stern. File photos

By Sara-Megan Walsh

A Huntington political newcomer and a former Suffolk County legislator are vying for votes to become the area’s new state Assembly representative next Tuesday.

Republican Party candidate Janet Smitelli and Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) are both hoping to be elected to fill the assembly seat vacated by Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) to represent the 10th Assembly District in the April 24 special election.

“It’s a very important election for the 10th Assembly District,” Lupinacci said. “It’s very critical to remind your family, your neighbors and your friends to vote on that day as every vote is going to count in this special election.”

Janet Smitelli

Smitelli has lived in Huntington for more than 30 years but is relatively new to politics, referring to herself as an outsider. She has not held an elected position before claiming recent events have inspired her to throw her hat in the ring.

Janet Smitelli. Photo from Smitelli’s campaign

“I’ve become politically involved because I’m getting pretty sick of what’s going on, and I know I can use my talents and experience to make some type of difference, to help and be part of the fight,” she said in an interview with TBR News Media.

The longtime Huntington native is a mother of three and has strong community ties. Smitelli served as an assistant Scoutmaster for local Boy Scout troops and taught Sunday school. For more than 30 years, she has fought to protect residents as a civil litigator. This April, she hopes to add New York State assemblywoman to that list.

“I’m someone who has been very busy these past few months, getting the word out, and getting my name out,” she said. “I’ve been trying to get to as many people as I can to let them know how sincere and passionate I am about this.”

As a lawyer, she has represented those filing lawsuits and those on the receiving end of them, motor vehicle collisions, slip-and-falls and, predominantly over the last 10 years, construction accidents. She spends her free time actively volunteering in the Huntington community.

“As an attorney, you learn to represent your client with zeal; you learn to represent your client passionately, and I will be doing that for the people who live in my district.”

— Janet Smitelli

If elected, Smitelli said she wants to tackle what she believes are the major challenges facing Huntington. This includes pledging to eliminate excessive taxation, receive funds to preserve and protect waterways and our drinking water, increase funding for K-12 extracurricular programs and veer young people away from gangs and opioids by keeping them involved in community programs.

She also said she wants to strengthen the transparency between government and residents by making it easier to access information and calling for reform.

“As an attorney, you learn to represent your client with zeal; you learn to represent your client passionately,” she said. “And I will be doing that for the people who live in my district.”

Read more about Smitelli in TBR News Media’s candidate profile here. 

Steve Stern

Stern is a familiar face to many members of the Huntington community, having served as their longtime Suffolk County legislator. He left the position Dec. 31 due to being term limited after 12 years but now hopes to bring his knowledge and experience to Albany.

Steve Stern. Photo from Stern’s office

“I’m running on the key issue of great concern to the residents of the 10th Assembly District which is taxes,” he said. “Particularly given the changes at the federal level which will have a dramatic impact on middle-class families in our area.”

While in the Legislature, Stern sat on the Suffolk County Veterans and Seniors Committee. He wrote the law that created the state’s first Silver Alert system — which helps locate seniors with Alzheimer’s or cognitive diseases who have gone missing — and initiated the first ban in the nation on the use of the BPA chemical in baby bottles, sippy cups and toys. Stern said he launched the Housing Our Homeless Heroes Act, as part of a long-term effort to bring an end to veteran homelessness in Suffolk.

Recently, the Democratic candidate spoke out against the proposed Villadom Corp.development to build a 486,380-square-foot mall with mixed retail and office space on Jericho Turnpike in Elwood citing traffic and quality-of-life issues.

If elected, Stern said he wants to continue local efforts but on a much larger scale, such as combating gang activity, which he has done by helping to get county funding for automatic license plate readers that target criminals. He’s also passionate about protecting the environment and the area’s water quality, having co-sponsored legislation identifying key areas of importance when it comes to developing sewer infrastructure. Stern said this legislation plays a key to downtown revitalization of Huntington Station. He said he’s a strong supporter of term limits and bipartisanship.

“I look forward to being a strong voice for Long Island. That’s exactly what’s needed in New York State Assembly.”

— Steve Stern

“I look forward to being a strong voice for Long Island,” Stern said. “That’s exactly what’s needed in New York State Assembly. I know who I represent very well. I was elected and re-elected by my neighbors because they know Stern was dependable and a proven leader who delivered for his constituents.”

Read more about Stern in TBR News Media’s candidate profile here. 

Go vote

The polls will be open April 24 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Voters should go to their normal polling locations used in the November general elections.

The candidate who is elected to represent the 10th District will serve approximately 130,000 residents, according to 2010 Census data, which includes all or part of Cold Spring Harbor, East Northport, Greenlawn, Lloyd Harbor, Lloyd Neck, Melville, Huntington and Huntington Station.

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