Election News

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Suffolk County Legislator William ‘Doc Spencer. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

By Rohma Abbas

Suffolk County Legislator William ‘Doc Spencer. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Suffolk County Legislator William ‘Doc Spencer. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

A doctor and Democratic Suffolk County legislator is vying for another two-year term to lead the 18th Legislative District in a race against a Lloyd Neck resident and former congressional contender who feels he can do the job better.

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) is facing a challenge from Republican Grant Lally in the election next week. The two men sat down with the Times of Huntington, Northport & East Northport in separate interviews earlier this month to chat about why they’re running for office.

Spencer touts a list of accomplishments in his four years in office, several of them health-related. He spearheaded a measure to stop companies from manufacturing energy drinks to kids. He worked to ban the sale of powdered caffeine to minors, and raise the age of selling tobacco products from 19 to 21. He also helped Northport Village obtain funding to update its wastewater treatment plant.

“I think that we’ve been able to start moving things in the right direction,” he said.

Lally, by contrast, was critical of the legislator at several points in the interview, and said taxes are a big issue in the district, something he feels he stands apart from Spencer on. Lally most recently ran an unsuccessful campaign to unseat U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) from his position. If elected, Lally said he would attempt to be more involved than Spencer.

“I’ll be more engaged,” he said. “He’s a very successful doctor. I salute him for that.”

Grant Lally photo by Rohma Abbas
Grant Lally photo by Rohma Abbas

If granted another term in office, Spencer said he would fight to go after pharmaceutical companies to support local anti-drug programs, claiming they’re part of the reason why so many people have become addicted to certain drugs. He also said the county is “terribly lacking” in outpatient solutions for those who do fall to addiction.

“I think we need more community support programs,” he said.

When it comes to crime, Spencer said while cops have made steady progress in making Huntington Station safer, the public still feels unsafe. He said he’d like to engage young people and help bridge a cultural gap between minorities and police, because minorities often feel the police aren’t there to protect them. He wants to add more bilingual officers and appropriately trained officers on the street.

“We have to capture the hearts and minds of these young people,” Spencer said. “ … I don’t think we can shoot our way out of this problem.”

Lally agrees there’s a crime issue in Huntington that needs to be addressed. He suggested doing so by having a stronger connection with federal law enforcement, coordinating resources to attack problems like gang activity, on a regional level.

“Gangs don’t just stop at the county line,” he said.

Spencer suggested tapping federal resources. He said he wants to compete with gangs to recruit young people — who gravitate towards them by societal pressure of not feeling wanted or belonging — to the good side. He said he wants to make it “unpalatable” for gangs to thrive in Huntington Station. “That’s how we change the culture.”

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Bob Creighton is running for re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas

By Phil Corso

Larry Vetter is running for the Smithtown Town Board. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Larry Vetter is running for the Smithtown Town Board. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Over the past several years, if a Smithtown Town Board vote resulted in a 3-2 tally, chances were incumbent Republicans Bob Creighton and Ed Wehrheim were the lone naysayers. Both electeds have been seeking re-election this fall, as political newcomers from both sides of the aisle have stepped up for their seats.

Creighton, 77, came out on the bottom of a three-way Republican primary back in September, losing the GOP line on Tuesday’s ballot to both Wehrheim and Lisa Inzerillo, 50, of Kings Park, while still retaining a spot on the Conservative, Independent and Reform party lines. Meanwhile, Democrat Larry Vetter, 62, threw his hat into the race over the summer and has been vying to break the town’s all-Republican board.

All the candidates, except for Inzerillo, sat down with the Times of Smithtown last week to discuss top issues facing Smithtown and what their plans were to address them if elected.

Creighton said he hoped his record would speak for itself in his bid for another term, citing his background in law enforcement and private sector success before joining the Town Board in 2008. In the interview, both Creighton and Wehrheim discussed that familiar 3-2 split on the board and argued that dissension too often got in the way of progress.

Ed Wehrheim is running for re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Ed Wehrheim is running for re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Earlier this year, Creighton, who is in his second four-year term on the board, took to a work session to propose that the town consider installing commissioner positions similar to those held in neighboring townships like Brookhaven and Islip, which he argued would streamline workflow and make department heads more accountable. Town Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) was outright against the proposal and opposed it each time it was discussed before the board, which Creighton said stonewalled it from progressing.

“I’ve worked to try and change government a little bit and to make it more accountable, but it really hasn’t been acted on,” Creighton said of the plan, which Wehrheim also supported. “It will not be acted on until two of the other council people take a stand, which they will not do as long as Mr. Vecchio is there.”

Wehrheim, who is running for his fourth term on the board, said he would use another term in office to stimulate economic growth in the town, specifically with downtown business revitalization and infrastructure repairs in mind.

When asked how he planned on bettering his standing in the classic 3-2 Town Board split, Wehrheim said he would only keep doing what he has been doing — bringing business to every work session with hopes of spurring action.

Bob Creighton is running for re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Bob Creighton is running for re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas

“It’s a political issue that doesn’t need to exist. It might be great press, but I don’t pay much attention to the dissension,” Wehrheim said. “I bring business to every board meeting, because I have constituents that need me to discuss issues important to them.”

Wehrheim cited a recent legislative effort he championed alongside Creighton, adding that the two “went back and forth” over a minimum wage proposal for the town’s seasonal workers. That minimum wage hike was subsequently included in the 2016 preliminary budget in September.

Vetter, the lone Democrat in the four-way race, said one of the key points that set him apart from the rest, in his first run for public office, was his “outside looking in” perspective coupled with his extensive background in environmental science and business. He centered his campaign on attacking the “Long Island brain drain” and fighting to keep young adults in Smithtown by making it a more vibrant place to live and raise a family.

“I have four adult children — they’re all gone and off Long Island,” Vetter said. “I have three grandchildren I’m watching grow up on Skype. Everything springs from that, and that includes industrial development, downtown revitalization, housing initiatives, and other aspects, like sewers, infrastructure.”

Vetter said that if elected, he would only seek out one or two terms before removing himself from the board because of his strong support for term limits.

Earlier this month, Vecchio joined other marquee Republican names in Smithtown on the steps of Town Hall to endorse Inzerillo, flanked by councilmembers Tom McCarthy (R) and Lynne Nowick (R) as well as Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) and state Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James).

Inzerillo, however, did not respond to several attempts to organize a four-way candidate debate at the Times of Smithtown’s headquarters. She was also absent at other debates throughout the town, with the latest one a week before Election Day at the Smithtown Fire House.

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Town head has eyes on illegal housing, environmental issues

Supervisor Ed Romaine discusses his last term and his goals for another two years if re-elected. Photo by Desirée Keegan

After his first full term at the helm, Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said he thinks the Town of Brookhaven should look better than it does, and if re-elected plans to continue the town on its positive trajectory.

Romaine is running for another two years as supervisor against Democratic challenger Douglas Dittko, who declined to attend a debate at the TBR Newspapers office alongside his opponent. Dittko also did not answer a request for an interview.

According to the Suffolk County Democratic Committee’s website, Dittko, a Manorville resident, is a civic leader who has worked to preserve open space and has been involved in other community issues.

For Romaine, re-election means finishing up current environmental projects, managing the town’s budget and introducing technology to make it easier for residents to interact with the town. While he said there is still work to be done, he highlighted improvements since his special election in early 2013, which put him into office for several months before he was re-elected to a full term.

“My predecessor left in mid-term and he left with a fiscal crisis. He was firing over 100 people as he left,” Romaine said, referring to former Supervisor Mark Lesko (D). “We stopped some of those firings — I haven’t laid off [anyone] since I took office.”

While in office, Romaine has helped get the town’s debt under control, and this year the town finished paying off its pension debt. One of the ways in which Romaine brought in funding to do that was selling the former tax receiver’s office in downtown Port Jefferson as well as the old town hall in Patchogue.

“I’ve worked on finances because I’ve learned from a long life that all issues of government are issues of money,” Romaine said.

One of the incumbent’s focuses in another term would be housing. Following the recession, there were more than 200 foreclosed homes that the town is trying to maintain or tear down. And residents of neighborhoods near Stony Brook University complain of illegal boarding homes bursting with college students. To combat that issue, Romaine and town officials have already enacted some restrictions, like making it illegal to pave over front lawns to make more room for parking.

Another goal the supervisor has for a second full term is expanding his single-stream recycling program beyond Brookhaven’s single-family homes. The single-stream system, in which residents can put all of their recyclables on the curb together, has already drastically increased recycling townwide, and has made money for Brookhaven because the town sells material it brings in.

He would also like to continue his efforts to encourage renewable energy use and reduce nitrogen pollution in local bodies of water.

“It’s time for us to wake up,” Romaine said. “We’re going to lose what we cherish about living in this town if we don’t start to preserve our waterways.”

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Sarah Anker talks local issues at a debate at Times Beacon Record Newspapers. Photo by Elana Glowatz

By Desirée Keegan

With her second full term under her belt, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said she hopes a third term would allow her to expand on the toughest issues facing the 6th District. But her Republican challenger, Steve Tricarico, says it’s time for a fresh perspective.

Steve Tricarico talks local issues at a debate at Times Beacon Record Newspapers. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Steve Tricarico talks local issues at a debate at Times Beacon Record Newspapers. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Tricarico, who works as Brookhaven Town’s deputy highway superintendent, said the county’s finances were a main focus of his campaign to unseat the incumbent. Anker, however, said she is also focused on being fiscally responsible, but keeps tending to the needs of her constituents at the core of her decision-making.

“I’m looking forward to taking on more issues, more problems, and then addressing them, but also taking on projects that are benefiting the community,” said Anker, a 30-year Long Island resident. “I’m ready to jump in the fire and be the action to get things done. I’ve put in so much time and energy and effort — I’ve networked, I’ve created these very strong relationships and I have the knowledge to move those projects forward.”

But community projects, her opponent argued, still cost money, one way or another. Tricarico, born and raised in Shoreham, said he planned to address the county’s financial stress by proposing that legislators avoid budgeting for sales tax increases year to year.

“It would force us to make the difficult decisions in our departments to stay within our means, and any extra revenue could go toward paying off what we’ve already borrowed,” he said. “I think that we’re drowning, and we need someone that understands public finance, and I do it every day of my life, professionally, to make those cuts and find those efficiencies. I think all the services in the world are great, but if people cannot afford to live here, they mean nothing. And I’m fighting to make it more affordable here, in Suffolk County.”

Sarah Anker talks local issues at a debate at Times Beacon Record Newspapers. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Sarah Anker talks local issues at a debate at Times Beacon Record Newspapers. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Tricarico said he managed a $115 million budget, as an example of his understanding of finance.

Anker argued that while she and her challenger both understand that addressing issues requires dollars, she’s done work to keep the county financially sound. She helped reduce county government costs 10 percent by streamlining services, saving taxpayers more than $100 million annually.

There are other issues Anker said she’s addressing and projects she’s working on to help the people of the 6th District, which she argues Tricarico does not have the experience to address.

“Besides keeping the county fiscally stable, we need to speak for the residents here, and that’s something I’ve been doing for the last 25 years,” she said. “We can’t address the issues in the community unless we talk to the constituents, work with them and meet with them. My doors are always open, my phone is always available, and I don’t know if [Tricarico] has the experience to do that.”

Anker noted particular projects she’s spearheaded that she feels enhance the quality of life of her constituents.

After her grandmother died of breast cancer, Anker founded the Community Health and Environment Coalition, which was vital in advancing the New York State Department of Health’s research on cancer cluster causes, the legislator said. She also implemented the Green Homes Go Solar program, to bring renewable energy opportunities to residents.

Anker also advocated to create Heritage Park in Mount Sinai, initiated the North Shore Coastal Erosion Task Force, created the Jobs Opportunity Board to connect graduating seniors with local jobs, started a sports safety forum as a result of a recent death and some serious student-athlete injuries, and provided more health services to people struggling with addiction.

While Tricarico, who is also concerned about keeping young adults on Long Island, said he wouldn’t throw away any projects Anker has already put into motion that he in turn supports, he said he disagreed with how Anker handles addressing problems, pointing out Anker’s tendency to create task forces when addressing issues.

“I’m a man of action,” he said. “I think that there’s a lot that we can do to make the government more efficient. What the residents want to see is less task forces, less commissions, less talk and more action, and that’s what I’m offering the 6th District.”

An issue Tricarico brought up was the progression of the 10-mile Rails to Trails recreational path that would run from Mount Sinai to Wading River.

“What have we been doing for 15 years?” Tricarico said of the project, which was originally introduced in 2001. “I grew up in this community and I’ve been hearing about Rails to Trails since I was in high school. I think that the project has taken way too long, if it’s ever going to happen.”

Anker, who took office in 2011, said the federal government takes time on any project, and said that after a year of required public input, a plan will be in place, and the money is there to complete the project.

Tricarico said if elected into the Republican minority caucus, he will work with the Democratic majority to get things done, but said he would not be a “rubber stamp” for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D).

“We’re basically seeing one government here,” he said. “To get thing done, of course you have to work across aisles, but we need a check and balance. We need a Republican legislature, which is a check on absolute power.”

Tricarico admitted he does see good work in what Anker has done, but said he wants to work in a different direction.

“I think Legislator Anker is a good advocate to the community,” he said. “I see her at a lot of different events, she’s a good people person, she’s able to relate with folks. I just think the county needs a different leadership at this time, especially when it’s related to fiscal issues.”

This version corrects information about how long Legislator Sarah Anker has been in office.

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Keith Barrett. Photo by Elana Glowatz

By Victoria Espinoza

Parking in Huntington village, accessory apartments and town finances were just a few of the hot topics Huntington Town Board candidates tackled at a debate hosted by this newspaper on Oct. 23.

Councilwoman Susan Berland. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Councilwoman Susan Berland. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) and Councilman Gene Cook (I) are seeking re-election, and challengers Keith Barrett, a Democrat and Jennifer Thompson, a Republican, are in the running for two open seats.

Berland has been in office since 2001 and is seeking a fifth term, and Cook has been in office since 2011 and is seeking his second term.

Barrett is currently deputy director of general services for Huntington Town and president of the Huntington Station Business Improvement District. Thompson is a trustee on the Northport-East Northport school board.

The candidates first discussed issues Huntington businesses face.

“Upgrades take too long,” Barrett said, referring to planning applications. “It can be done faster if the building department was streamlined.”

Councilman Gene Cook. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Councilman Gene Cook. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Berland and Thompson echoed Barrett’s sentiments. Thompson said this slow process deters people from making changes to their businesses.

“I am consistently hearing it’s a tedious process,” Thompson said. “When people take that risk to open a business they should be rewarded. Town hall shouldn’t be a roadblock.”

Berland said she welcomes business owners to come into her office and meet with department heads to go through their plans. “I have various department heads come in,” Berland said. “We sit down and look at their plans and we have every department say what’s good and bad about the plan and what you need to change.”

Cook said the biggest challenge facing business owners is high taxes. He said he has never voted for Supervisor Frank Petrone’s budget because “there is mismanagement of money and misappropriations of funds.”

Candidates agreed accessory apartments are important but need much supervision and regulation.

Cook said that he likes the idea of accessory apartments, but they are “going a little bit crazy,” because people aren’t adhering to town guidelines. Cook said every accessory apartment resident should have a spot for a car in his or her driveway and not park on the street.

Keith Barrett. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Keith Barrett. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Thompson agreed that with the right exceptions and variances, the units are beneficial.

“I’m interested in looking case-to-case to see what makes sense for that particular area,” Thompson said. She also said the town should be looking at other models to see how they are handling issues like this.

Young people and seniors can both benefit from such housing, Barrett said.

“I think we need to be regulating these apartments,” Barrett said. ‘I drive around and see 10 cars on a driveway.”

Berland said she is an advocate of accessory apartments, and that she spearheaded legislation to ensure they are owner-occupied. “The big problem was when investors were coming in and buying these single-family houses and turning [them] into a multiple-resident, hotel kind of thing,” Berland said. “Which I think is inappropriate and ruins communities.”

Parking in Huntington village has been an issue many residents have sounded off on.

Jennifer Thompson. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Jennifer Thompson. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Thompson and Cook both backed an idea for a parking garage that they say wouldn’t cost taxpayers, Cook, the owner of a construction company, said developers come to him all the time looking for jobs, and that there are companies out there that would take on this project as a public-private partnership.

“At least let’s open the door to the conversation,” Cook said.

Barrett was not in favor of the idea.

“I’m not a big fan of the three-story parking garage,” Barrett said. “I would like to explore some other alternatives first.”

Barrett said he sees these parking garages as being very costly. He thinks the biggest reason parking is an issue is because the village’s employees take up all the spots. Barrett said he’s interested in following Atlantic City’s structure, where employees park remotely and are bussed into the downtown.

Berland said the idea with a parking garage is to have some sort of structure with businesses on the bottom that would help subsidize the costs of the spots. She also said that there is no such thing as a parking garage that doesn’t cost taxpayers.

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Legislator Tom Muratore, above, runs for re-election for the 4th Legislative District. Photo by Ron Pacchiana

Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore said he doesn’t consider himself a politician, but more of an advocate for the people he represents. He said he hopes that mentality will help him earn another term on the job.

“People don’t realize how much government has to offer,” he said. “Yes, you pay the taxes, but you also enjoy the services. My priority is to provide those services.”

This is the fourth time Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) is running in the 4th Legislative District, which includes Selden, Centereach, parts of Ronkonkoma and Farmingville, Coram, Holbrook, Lake Ronkonkoma, Lake Grove, Medford and Port Jefferson Station. His Democratic opponent, Jonathan Rockfeld, has not actively campaigned for the position.

With an absentee opponent, Times Beacon Record Newspapers had the chance to sit down with Muratore alone and discuss his past term and future plans, if re-elected to a fourth term.

For Muratore, ensuring public safety was one of the top issues he wanted to work to address. Over his last term, Muratore proposed a resolution to monitor the use of drones in the county, citing past incidents in California and Connecticut where drones were problematic — planes carrying water remained on the ground during a wildfire in California, impeded by drones taking photos. In Connecticut, a man put a 9mm automatic pistol on a drone before it took to the sky.

His initial resolution proposed banning drones on beaches from May 15 to Sept. 15, as well as around public buildings in the county. The resolution was watered down before it was approved, 17-1, after legislators and County Executive Steve Bellone (D), who is also running for re-election, took issue with the bill. If re-elected, Muratore hopes to revisit the issue and possibly tighten restrictions.

“Something’s going to happen, I just know it,” Muratore said. “[But] I hope [nothing happens] before we can revamp this drone bill.”

One idea he has is to make it mandatory for those flying drones to become members of the American Model Association, which would help track the owner of a drone and provide insurance if the drone harms an individual.

Increasing staffing within the police department is another issue on Muratore’s list. He mentioned that the county has fewer officers now than it did 10 years ago and said the limited staff makes it difficult to address problems like drug abuse.

“Drugs are like a tree: If you really want to kill a tree … you start at the roots,” Muratore said. “By going out and making arrests for small amount of heroin [and] small amounts of marijuana, you’re just trimming the leaves.”

Drug dealers are the stem of the issue, according to Muratore, but insufficient police staffing prevents officers from conducting longer, in-depth investigations.

In a fourth term, Muratore also plans to continue his involvement with the Red Light Safety Program, through which cameras at traffic signals help catch and ticket cars that run red lights. While county Democrats and Republicans have not always seen eye-to-eye on the issue, with Republicans calling the ticketing program a money grab, Muratore wants to continue talks to reform it. While he voted in favor of initiating the program a few years ago, he disagreed with the county’s supposed manipulation of fees associated with the program.

“If you’re getting tens of thousands of tickets and you increase the fee by $5, you’re getting half a million to a million dollars, maybe more,” Muratore said. “That’s just money-grabbing right there.”

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Jane Bonner discuses previous terms and goals for another two years, if re-elected. Photo by Elana Glowatz

After four terms in Brookhaven Town, Councilwoman Jane Bonner isn’t ready to stop.

“The longer I’m at it, the more I realize that more needs to be done,” Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said.

The veteran politician is looking to be re-elected to a fifth term with the hopes of working on that “more.”

“Every year you’re in office, it’s like peeling back an onion layer,” she said. “I’m finishing up my eighth year in January, and the longer I’m at it the more in-depth issues can be resolved.”

Bonner faces a challenge from Democrat Andrew Berger, but Berger did not return requests for an interview.

Bonner explained that when she was first elected, she did the “quick, sexy things. You make a little splash so people know you’re serious.” But now she’s rolling up her sleeves and delving into the grittier projects.

In her time at Town Hall, Bonner has helped establish a neighborhood watch group in Mount Sinai, pushed to revitalize downtown Rocky Point, spearheaded sidewalk projects on major streets like North Country Road and Shore Road, and helped complete the Route 25A corridor study, a project Bonner said she is most proud of.

“We’ve delineated a true downtown for Rocky Point,” Bonner said of the study, which now serves as a guideline for development along the busy artery from Mount Sinai to Wading River. The study allows for some development in downtown areas, “but it will never look like Middle Country Road, and I think that’s a good thing. Development will happen in the areas where there’s already development; it won’t sprawl out.”

Bonner also lent a hand in Shoreham, to help locate a new solar energy farm. With that property, which will be used to set up solar panels, according to the councilwoman, about $1 million — in payments in lieu of taxes — will go to the local school district over the next 20 years.

The incumbent has also worked to protect open space — the town is in the midst of acquiring the wooded Cordwood Landing property in Miller Place — and to beautify the area, going after derelict houses and storefronts.

“I felt like Rocky Point and Sound Beach and everything up north were like the stepchildren — that’s why I ran for office,” Bonner said. “I stamp my feet and get my stuff done. We’re making Brookhaven better every day by improving the appearance of it and … it improves the quality of life for the residents in the community.”

If re-elected, Bonner said she will continue to work on the projects she’s put into motion, like using $1.3 million in federal funding to clean up Friendship Beach in Rocky Point and pushing for more funds to repair the town’s jetty in Mount Sinai Harbor. That dilapidated jetty represents a hazard to boaters and allows the harbor to fill with sand, but a $10 million repair project — of which $6 million is already set aside, Bonner said —will help keep recreation and business in the inlet.

“We work very, very hard to show people that we are a very, very constituent-driven office,” Bonner said. “I send out newsletters to let the community that I represent know the projects that are going on. There’s something to do every day and the longer you’re at it, the more you see needs to be fixed, and the longer you’re at it, the more things that you can get done.”

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Suffolk County Legislator Leslie Kennedy is looking for her first re-election on Nov. 3. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Just months removed from a special election that brought her into office, Suffolk County Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) faces her first re-election bid.

Kennedy was elected to represent the 12th District — which includes Smithtown, Nesconset, Hauppauge, the Village of the Branch, Lake Grove, and parts of Commack, Islandia and Ronkonkoma — in April to succeed her husband, former county legislator and now county Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R), and has since placed constituent concerns at the core of her campaign. Her Democratic opponent, Adam Halpern, has not actively campaigned and did not attend a debate at the Times of Smithtown’s headquarters.

In the interview, Kennedy prided herself as being a researcher and a behind-the-scenes government official who wears her heart on her sleeve. While serving on the county’s operating budget committee, she said she takes the county’s finances very seriously and often refers to tax dollars as “OPM” — other peoples’ money.

“I debated hard whether or not to run, but I love government,” she said. “I love the ability to help and serve. There has to be a voice of reason that realizes the enormity of the financial problem we are in.”

With her husband also serving the county as comptroller, Kennedy said she gained perspective on what kinds of things Suffolk could and should do to make money.

“We don’t collect what we should collect,” she said, referring to certain taxes not being actively pursued in areas like hotels, motels or bed and breakfasts. “We need to recoup that money. If we did, we wouldn’t be seeing historical buildings fall, or arts and entertainment budgets being cut.”

The legislator has spent her time pushing for top-tier constituent services while also keeping her ear to the ground when it comes to the county’s business community. She has been attending several Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency meetings since being elected and said she wanted to work to employ tax incentives to draw businesses to the region.

As for quality of life concerns, Kennedy said public safety projects like new sidewalks and infrastructure upgrades were top priorities of hers. She has also identified herself as an environmentalist and backed that up by pushing for projects that aim to clean up the county’s water.

One of her biggest qualms with how county government works, Kennedy said, was an overabundance of management. If re-elected, she said she would advocate for less management and more action.

“We’re top heavy,” she said. “There is more management than necessary. I have never seen so many titles.”

In order to make the county a more vibrant place for young people to grow and raise families, Kennedy said the Legislature needed to act on keeping taxes low and the streets safe. If re-elected, she said she would keep her constituents at the heart of her decision making.

“We have to get our act together,” she said. “It’s sad to watch people have no opportunities. They are struggling to stay in their houses and I don’t think life should be that hard.”

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Kara Hahn photo by Desirée Keegan

By Elana Glowatz

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn said she wants a third term in office to continue working on protecting public health, while Republican challenger Donna Cumella said she wants to focus on Suffolk County’s finances.

Donna Cumella photo by Desirée Keegan
Donna Cumella photo by Desirée Keegan

Hahn (D-Setauket) has spent much of her two terms in the 5th Legislative District on environmental and public safety issues, crafting a bill that put Narcan, an antidote for opioid overdoses, into the hands of first responders and another that set the gears into motion to ban tiny plastic pellets called microbeads that pollute our water supply, among others. But in a recent debate at the Times Beacon Record Newspapers office, Cumella said while that work is important, the county’s fiscal state is a more pressing issue.

The challenger, a Port Jefferson Station resident, said county officials, in crafting budgets, habitually overstate county revenues and understate expenses, creating a serious deficit.

“Projections far exceeded what the reality was,” she said, referring specifically to county estimates on sales tax revenue.

She said borrowing is “out of control” and called for a smaller government.

But Hahn fought the idea that the county is spiraling.

“Our debt burden is manageable,” she said, adding that Suffolk tends to pay off its debt quickly and legislators always look for ways to decrease borrowing. About the size of government, she noted that the county has been reduced by about 1,200 positions in the last few years.

Kara Hahn photo by Desirée Keegan
Kara Hahn photo by Desirée Keegan

The incumbent also said that a certain amount of debt is unavoidable, because “you can’t pay cash for everything.”

Cumella and Hahn agreed that neighborhood revitalization is important. The Republican emphasized that the county could get help from state and federal grants to push along the projects. The Democrat stressed that the county needs to grow its number of high-paying jobs and said she has an idea to boost the economy by training workers for technology-based positions at Suffolk County Community College.

There were not many other similarities between the two women. One of the ways the candidates stood apart was on their methods for improving the county’s cash flow. Cumella said the county should be sharing more services with other municipalities, specifically local towns, and Hahn said she has been holding meetings on finding new revenue streams, such as penalizing polluters like those who use certain fertilizers on their lawns.

The legislator is looking for another term because she is “deeply committed to making a difference” and there is still work to be done. She has been working on initiatives to raise awareness of chemicals used in dry cleaning, affecting water quality and public health; to make it easier for people to safely get rid of leftover prescription medication; and to change the way the county addresses domestic violence and its victims.

Cumella, on the other hand, spoke against partisanship in the Legislature and said getting the county’s finances in order will help keep young people on Long Island.

“We need to keep our families together,” she said.

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