From left, Olivia Santoro, Daphne Marsh, Victoria Daza, Aaron Watkins-Lopez and Blanca Villanueva, representing advocacy groups for education funding delivered a petition to Sen. John Flanagan’s Smithtown office Wednesday. Photo by Alex Petroski

A small group of people carried the voices of thousands of New Yorkers standing up for the students across the state.

Activists representing four New York State and Long Island groups in support of education funding — especially for low income districts — dropped off a petition with more than 9,000 signatures from across New York to state Sen. John Flanagan’s (R-East Northport) office in Smithtown Wednesday. Those in support of the petition pledged their support for state Assemblymen Carl Heastie’s (D-Bronx) “millionaire tax bill,” which was introduced in February and proposed an increase in taxes to those who earn upwards of $1 million annually.

The petition was also in support of a full phase-in of the money still owed to pay off the Campaign for Fiscal Equity resolution, which ensured that $5.5 billion would be committed to mostly high-need districts in 2007, and was supposed to take effect over the course of four years. This was a result of a lawsuit started in 1993, which eventually reached the New York State Court of Appeals, which ruled that high-need districts were being neglected. About $781-million of that money is still owed to Long Island schools, according to advocates of the resolution.

The groups represented at Flanagan’s office included New York Communities For Change, Jobs With Justice, Long Island Progressive Coalition and Alliance for Quality Education as well as community members from across Long Island. Flanagan was not in his office, and a legal aide who took the petition declined to comment.

“We need to address the emotional, physical, social, needs of the child and the Senate has shown that they are not caring right now with the budget they have proposed,” said Blanca Villanueva, an organizer from Alliance for Quality Education. “We need them to represent us because they represent all of Long Island and all of New York State.”

The petition was also delivered to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New York City office, Villanueva said.

Flanagan has said in the past that he is against the millionaire tax bill. He did not respond to a request for comment regarding the petition.

“As a constituent of Sen. Flanagan’s, I am calling on him to support the millionaire’s tax,” said Olivia Santoro, a member of the Long Island Progressive Coalition. “I valued my public school education and I want the same opportunity for students growing up in his district and across Long Island. That means that we need to fully fund our schools.”

On March 21, a group of about 40 wealthy New Yorkers in conjunction with the Fiscal Policy Institute and the Responsible Wealth Project sent an open letter to Cuomo in support of Heastie’s millionaire tax bill. Those in support included Steven C. Rockefeller and Abigail Disney, among others.

Flanagan’s proposed 2016-17 budget would eliminate the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which has cost districts across the state millions of dollars over the past several years in an effort to close a deficit. It also included almost $600 million for education, though Villanueva said at Flanagan’s office that it was not enough.

“We’ve got this Campaign for Fiscal Equity that we’ve been working very hard to support and we hope that [Sen. Flanagan] can stand with the students in making sure that they receive a quality education and the funding that’s necessary in order to deliver that,” Melissa Figueroa of New York Communities For Change said Wednesday. “We need this support, and I hope that he gets down with us.”

Figueroa is also running for a school board seat in Hempstead School District.

Signs held by those in support of the petition read, “Stand up 4 kids, NOT billionaires,” “Sen. Flanagan, who do you represent?” and “Millionaires Tax: Raise taxes on the 1% by 1% to raise billions for public school education.” The petition was launched on ColorOfChange.org, an organization dedicated to fighting institutional racism.

Members of the current village board of trustees in Head of the Harbor. Photo from the village

The incumbents came up big in Tuesday’s election in the Village of Head of the Harbor.

With Mayor Douglas Dahlgard and  trustees Judith Ogden and Gordon Van Vechten approaching the end of their current terms in April, residents voted to keep them on their side in Tuesday’s village vote.

Dahlgard received 187 to beat out 128 votes for challenger John Lendino of the Watchdog Party, who works as deputy commissioner in the village’s highway department.

Incumbent trustees Ogden and Van Vechten received 196 and 211 votes, respectively, beating out trustees candidate John DePasquale of St. James, who received 147 votes.

Four other Head of the Harbor residents received one or more votes as write-in candidates, including Dina Vivan with four votes, Carmela Lazio with two votes, Theresa O’Brien with one vote and John Kelly with one vote.

Northport Village trustees Jerry Maline, left, and Damon McMullen pose together. File photo

Northport Trustees Jerry Maline and Damon McMullen will each have a third term at the helm of their village.

Maline and McMullen each secured a seat on the village board of trustees Tuesday night over challenger Joe Sabia, with McMullen receiving 955 votes and Maline receiving 733 votes, according to the clerk’s office. Sabia finished third with 519 votes.

Maline and McMullen, who first won their seats in 2008, will have another four years together.

“It’s a very good working relationship,” Maline said in a phone interview last week. “We don’t always agree on things, but we talk it out and we come to a consensus on what’s best for the village. We support each other in our individual endeavors that help the village. We have a mutual respect for each other.”

One of the polarizing issues during this campaign cycle has been the board’s proposed budget, which would require piercing its 3.27 percent tax levy cap, causing a larger increase in taxes.

During a candidates night on March 8, Maline said piercing the state-mandated cap and increasing taxes above the limit, which the board can do with a 60 percent vote, would accommodate residents’ desires for village services.

“The facts are the facts,” Maline said at the event. “We don’t want to lessen your service. All the input I have from the residents [is] that you want the services to remain the same.”

McMullen said he is proud of the work he has done with the village’s budget.

“It’s been a privilege to be a part of the team that has helped the village get the best bond rating it can get,” McMullen said at the event.

Challenger Joe Sabia discusses taxes and the tax cap. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Challenger Joe Sabia discusses taxes and the tax cap. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Challenger Joe Sabia, who served on the Northport-East Northport school board and also ran for mayor in 2014, was opposed to the idea of piercing the cap.

“When you start to override the tax caps, it becomes a very, very dangerous thing because that means you’re raising your taxes higher than the rate of inflation,” Sabia said at the event.

None of the three candidates responded to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Giselle Barkley contributed to this report.

Challenger Joe Sabia discusses taxes and the tax cap. Photo by Giselle Barkley

With the polls open, residents have little time left to decide how to cast their votes. Last week’s candidate forum could help.

Former school board member Joe Sabia and incumbents Jerry Maline and Damon McMullen, who are all vying for two seats on the Northport Village Board of Trustees, discussed taxes, stormwater and more during a debate on March 8 at the Northport American Legion Post 694 Hall.

Maline and McMullen are each running for a third term.

Although Maline’s opening statement touched upon drivers speeding in the area and geese in village parks, residents were more concerned about why the village continues to pierce its tax levy cap in the annual budget.

Although the state mandates a fluctuating cap on how much municipalities can increase tax levies, a local board can override the cap and approve a budget above the limit with a supermajority of votes, or 60 percent. This year, the Northport board has proposed to pierce their 3.27 percent cap, for a new budget total of $20.4 million.

Incumbent Damon McMullen addressing rain garden inquiries. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Incumbent Damon McMullen addressing rain garden inquiries. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Maline said piercing the cap, and increasing taxes above the limit, would accommodate residents’ desires for village services.

“The facts are the facts,” Maline said at the event. “We don’t want to lessen your service. All the input I have from the residents [is] that you want the services to remain the same.”

The incumbent added that a lack of community participation makes it harder to come up with different ideas of addressing residents’ needs without increasing the budget.

“It’s a conglomerate of ideas, it’s not just ideas of people on the board,” Maline said.

For his part, McMullen said using reserve funding instead to offset a tax increase would negatively affect the village’s finances in the future.

Sabia felt the opposite. He proposed using reserve money to help keep taxes at bay and prevent the village from piercing the cap.

“My point would be to go through every single budget line item and every category in there and see what we can absolutely … reduce or make sure we’re not paying for duplicate services,” Sabia said.

While some residents continued pressing the candidates about taxes, other asked about the village’s rain garden plans.

Incumbent Jerry Maline speaks to residents. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Incumbent Jerry Maline speaks to residents. Photo by Giselle Barkley

In light of flooding in the area, the village has sought to establish a rain garden along Main Street. The garden would help catch the first inch to inch and a half of rainfall and filter out harmful chemicals in the process. According to McMullen, the village is currently waiting on a $500,000 grant to fund the garden, and is looking at ways to add catch basins for even more stormwater absorption.

“This is a method that’s been used around the country and it has been very successful,” he said of the rain garden.

Maline said he would continue to attend and participate in board meetings even if he is ousted from his seat. McMullen thanked residents for attending and said he hopes to upgrade the bathroom sinks in the village’s park, among other projects.

Sabia has his own agenda if elected, which includes maintaining handicap access to the parks, securing grants from the state to get more LED lights and maintaining the village’s sidewalks and roads. But his main focus remained on securing lower taxes for the village.

“You have to remember, we have a National Grid lawsuit against us. We have school districts that want more money from us,” Sabia said. “When you start to override the tax caps, it becomes a very, very dangerous thing because that means you’re raising your taxes higher than the rate of inflation.”

Voting is open until 9 p.m. at Northport Village Hall.

Northport Village trustees Jerry Maline, left, and Damon McMullen pose together. File photo

Jerry Maline and Damon McMullen won their first bids for Northport Village trustees back in 2008. They both ran unopposed in 2012.

But on Tuesday, March 15, there is a chance the pair, who have been tied together for eight years, might be split up.

Former member of the Northport-East Northport school board Joe Sabia is the third candidate vying for the two open trustee positions this year.

“It’s a very good working relationship,” Maline said in a phone interview about McMullen. “We don’t always agree on things, but we talk it out and we come to a consensus on what’s best for the village. We support each other in our individual endeavors that help the village. We have a mutual respect for each other.”

Maline, 53, has lived in Northport since 1996. In addition to being a trustee, he also serves as the village’s commissioner of information technology, parks, personnel athletic activities and planning and development. Maline works as a trial attorney for State Farm, though his legal experience includes time in the district attorney’s office in the Bronx, as well as stints as a trial attorney for narcotics and homicide cases.

Maline said he believes his legal background has helped to keep litigation costs low for the village.

“I’m just running on my merits,” Maline said. “Everything I do is intertwined with the village… I live around the corner from Main Street. I walk through the parks five to seven times a week. I walk up and down Main Street five to seven times a week. I just want what’s best for Northport Village.”

Maline mentioned improving parking in downtown Northport as one of the goals he’d like to accomplish if he were to secure another term. One of McMullen’s causes during his tenure has been to improve the water quality of Northport Harbor and Bay, which Maline said is an issue he’d like more time to deal with.

“Ideally I’d love for kids to be able to swim in the harbor again,” Maline said.

Maline and his wife Carla have two kids, an eighth-grader and an 11th-grader, in the Northport-East Northport school district.

McMullen, who could not be reached for comment, is the current village commissioner of police and wastewater treatment. He is retired from the U.S. Postal Service, and is also a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Maline said McMullen has led the charge to improve water quality, which played a part in the reopening of the Centerport shore in July 2015.

“When you run for election, you have an idea of all of the things you want to get done, but other things came up that need attention,” McMullen said in an interview after his re-election in 2012. “Right now the main issues are improving the water quality [of Northport Harbor and Bay] and upgrading the sewer treatment plant. But we want to continue to make improvements to our parks.”

His colleagues have called McMullen a tireless worker who always finds time to help others.

Sabia said in an interview he is running because votes on the Village board too often pass with a consensus. He said he’d like to shake things up. Maline declined to comment on challenger Joe Sabia.

Election day is Tuesday, March 15, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Northport Village Hall.

Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern. File photo by Rohma Abbas

U.S. Rep. Steve Israel’s announcement that would he would not see another term in the 3rd District, which spans from the North Shore of Queens through parts of Smithtown, has sparked discussion across the region about who will succeed him. Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) is the latest to throw his hat into the race for the seat.

Israel (D-Huntington) made the decision two weeks ago that he would not be seeking re-election in November, and legislators and lawmakers from across Long Island have been declaring their intention to fight for his seat. This week, Stern said he believes his record sets him apart from the rest as a candidate who listens to his neighbors.

“My record tells a story, it highlights issues that are important to me,” Stern said in a phone interview. “When my neighbors see what’s happening in Washington, they think their voices are not being heard. I know I will be the congressman that hears them.”

He said his record has consistently supported the local issues that are important to the residents of the 3rd District and many pieces of legislation he has drafted have become state and national models.

Stern said that with his family in mind, he created the Safe and Sustainable Procurement Act, which bans baby products made with BPA, a chemical found in plastics that can seep into the food or beverages inside the plastic containers and have harmful health effects.

“It was the first legislative initiative banning these type of products throughout the entire country,” he said. “I was proud that this local bill was used a model for other jurisdictions.”

This act was eventually adopted by the New York State Senate, the European Union and the Food and Drug Administration.

The Protect Our Fallen Heroes Act is another piece of legislation Stern created that expanded to the national level. The purpose of this act, he said, was to protect the sanctity of funerals, specifically military funerals, from protesters.

Stern said this is now the adopted policy of all national cemeteries. The federal version of the bill, Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act, was first enacted by Congress in 2012, two years after Stern’s original bill was drafted.

Recently, Stern worked with Israel to adopt Stern’s Housing Our Homeless Heroes Act into a federal bill to provide housing for homeless veterans.

Stern also said many of his initiatives were accomplished with bipartisan support on the county level.

“I have a proven leadership, working with colleagues from both parties,” he said. “The way that I have been able to do my job, it clearly shows I am a representative that is sorely needed in D.C.”

Israel has served in Congress for the last 15 years, and said that after this year he feels it is his time to step down and make room for a new perspective.

“While I will miss this place and the people I have had the privilege to serve, I am looking forward to spending more time home,” he said in a statement. “Simply put, it’s time to pass on the torch.”

Stern said Israel would be missed, but also said he is eager to continue his legacy, which includes continued support for veterans.

“I have had the great privilege of working with Congressman Steve Israel for the past 10 years,” Stern said in an email. “He has been an outstanding advocate for our community and especially for our men and women currently serving our great nation.”

Stern gave Israel kudos for his collaboration on the legislator’s Housing Our Homeless Heroes Act and said it was an honor to work alongside him.

Aside from Stern, Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport), Huntington Town Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) and state Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station) are among the North Shore politicians who intend to campaign for the seat. From Nassau County, North Hempstead Town Board member Anna Kaplan threw her hat into the ring.

Congressman Steve Israel. File photo

After serving Long Island for more than 20 years, U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) has said he will be stepping down in November to pursue other interests and give someone else a chance at leading the 3rd District, and his announcement last week has led to an even broader political conversation facing the greater North Shore of Long Island.

A North Shore native, Israel held his first leadership position as president of his high school class in Levittown. Years later, he was sworn in as a councilman on the Huntington Town Board in 1993, when he said he strived to bring stability to a then conflicted and divided government.

Israel said the lessons he learned at the town level never left him as he moved on to the national political stage.

“I focused on putting partisanship aside [in Huntington] and rebuilding the town’s finances,” he said. “With [Supervisor Frank] Petrone, together we brought to the town the highest bond rating on Long Island and ending political bickering.”

Petrone (D) echoed the sentiment. “We forged ahead because we supported each other,” Petrone said in an interview. Petrone came into office as a Republican but with Israel’s support he eventually switched parties.

“We both had a commitment to work together for the benefit of the residents,” he said.

Israel took that mind-set of minimizing political bickering all the way to Washington, D.C. There, Israel created the Congressional Center Aisle Caucus to promote civility, compromise and change the divisive partisan atmosphere in the nation’s capital. As chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, he said he told all candidates he worked with that “if they wanted any hope, they needed to think not as a Congress person, but as a local councilperson.”

He said serving in Huntington was all about problem solving, and there is currently a “huge thirst” for the same in the U.S. Congress.

“I never would have been in Congress without serving in Huntington.”

Israel said he was proud that after leaving Huntington, he was able to continue to build on town projects while serving in Washington and taking a Huntington problem and developing it into a national solution.

For example, in his work with the Housing Our Heroes Act, Israel collaborated with Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) to use the legislator’s bill crafted to house homeless veterans and turn it into a national piece of legislation that provided housing for veterans.

“He was of great assistance to me on my landmark ‘Housing Our Homeless Heroes Act,’ and it was an honor to work with him on his innovative ‘Housing Our Heroes Act’ to end veterans homelessness,” Stern said in an email.

Before the Housing Our Heroes Act, Israel worked with U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) to help put veterans back to work with the Hire More Heroes Act, signed by President Barack Obama (D) in 2014. The law created an incentive for small businesses to hire more veterans who have health care coverage provided by federal departments.

“When we’ve worked together, we found it enhances and multiplies our success,” Zeldin said in a phone interview.

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) said Israel and his staff were an invaluable resource to help pass legislation like the Sunlight Law, which was signed into law in April and ensures that veterans and their families will directly benefit from charitable donations and penalize any person who impersonates a decorated veteran.

“He has represented us well and has really supported his Long Island constituents,” Spencer said in a phone interview.

Looking ahead, Israel said his advice to his colleagues still in Congress is to spend little time in Washington as well.

“The trappings of power in Washington can trap you,” Israel said. “I pride myself on never spending a weekend in that place. Go to a diner, and at pizza places in your district. That is where you will learn the most.”

Huntington Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) volunteered for Israel’s congressional campaign in 2000 and said she became good friends with him through that time.

She later went on to win Israel’s seat in Huntington once he left for Washington.

“He taught me it was important not to loose sight of solving one problem at a time,” she said in a phone interview.

She also took over Israel’s role on the Keep Huntington Beautiful campaign that sponsors annual community clean-up programs and gives Huntington residents a chance to participate in keeping their town clean.

The departures of both Israel and Zeldin’s predecessor, former Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop, have left room for fresher faces from Long Island to make their mark in Washington, but those who follow the race said it could lead to a shift in power for North Shore representatives.

Jeffery Segal, a political science professor at Stony Brook University, said Israel will be leaving a powerful position and could have even expanded his reach if he stayed.

“Congressman Israel has been the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee,” Segal said in an email. “That makes him extremely influential in terms of securing support for projects he favors. Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader, is 75 years old. Steny Hoyer, who as minority whip is second in leadership, is 76 years old. Congressman Israel is only 57 years old.  Israel possibly could have become one of the Democratic leaders and possibly even Speaker.”

Since Israel’s announcement last week, many lawmakers have come out to say they will consider running for the soon to be vacant seat. Berland, Spencer and Stern are among the many who have said they may throw their hat into the race.

Assemblyman Chad A. Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station) has already formed a campaign committee for his possible run.

“There are serious issues facing our country and I think that my elected experience at the state and local level will prove invaluable in helping to get the country headed in the right direction,” Lupinacci said in a statement.

Supervisor Ed Romaine takes his oath of office at the 2016 inauguration ceremony at the Town of Brookhaven headquarters. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Brookhaven is back in business.

Elected officials, their family members and other residents packed into the Town of Brookhaven auditorium in Farmingville on Jan. 7 to witness Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) being sworn into his second full term in office alongside fellow recently elected and re-elected board members, including board newcomer Councilman Michael Loguercio (R-Middle Island) and other town officials.

Loguercio said he was also in good spirits. He said the ceremony was a good way to begin “the long journey to continue helping the community.”

Back in November, Loguercio won the race for the 4th District — a position previously held by former Councilwoman Connie Kepert, a Democrat.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said Thursday’s ceremony was a day of celebration that helped validate how residents voted during the 2015 elections. Bonner added “they like to make it open to the public so they could see the whole process and take part in it.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speaks during the 2016 inauguration ceremony at the Town of Brookhaven headquarters. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speaks during the 2016 inauguration ceremony at the Town of Brookhaven headquarters. Photo by Giselle Barkley

In light of the board’s past work, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) highlighted Romaine’s performance as the supervisor saying that Romaine has always been one of the fiercest and most passionate advocates for what he believes in.

“That’s what leadership is about really,” Bellone said. “Putting aside the things that will at the end of the day do not really matter to people’s lives but what will make our communities and our town and our country a better place.”

Although residents saw the supervisor and Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) officially sworn into their terms for the first time on Thursday, other elected officials recently elected to the board were officially sworn in at a previous event held on Tuesday Jan. 5. While several councilmembers were no strangers to the ceremony, the swearing in process still never gets boring, one North Shore lawmaker said.

Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro takes his oath of office for the first time at the 2016 inauguration ceremony at the Town of Brookhaven headquarters. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro takes his oath of office at the 2016 inauguration ceremony at the Town of Brookhaven headquarters. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“I’m really excited to get started again,” said Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) before the ceremony. “It was a great first two years — we accomplished a great deal. I’m really looking forward to the next two years.”

Romaine was sworn in last by Judge Judith Pascale, who also spoke highly of the supervisor and his leadership before he took his oath of office. Despite the praise, Romaine admitted that addressing challenges in the town is a group effort.

“Working in concert with our colleagues at Suffolk County and New York State will determine in large part the future we face,” Romaine said in his speech following his oath. “I pledge to work with my town board to find common purpose. To address these challenges head on and to make decisions necessary for a prosperous future and one that serves all the residents of this town.”

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn is among the lawmakers hoping to use the #MeToo moment not only to change culture, but to change laws. File photo

Suffolk County Democrats have a new majority leader in the Legislature.

The Democratic caucus voted unanimously on Saturday to name Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) the newest majority leader, replacing Legislator Robert Calarco (D-Patchogue), who is expected to succeed Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) as deputy presiding officer in early 2016 after a vote scheduled for the first week in January.

Schneiderman was term limited out of the Legislature and will be succeeded in the 2nd District by Legislator-elect Bridget Fleming (D-Sag Harbor).

Hahn, who was first elected to the Legislature in 2011, referred to her quick rise to the majority leader position as validating and empowering, as she looks ahead into the new year.

“I am truly honored that my colleagues have put their trust in me to lead our caucus,” she said in a phone interview Monday. “I feel like I have a proven record of getting things done, and I’m going to do everything I can to work with my colleagues to address the needs of Suffolk County.”

As majority leader, Hahn will lead caucus meetings and help set the Democratic agenda in the county Legislature, a spokesman from her office said. In her four years as a legislator for the North Shore’s 5th District, Hahn has been at the forefront of several legislative battles advocating for the environment, the fight against drug addiction and public safety. She said she planned on tackling the same issues with her majority leader role, with hopes of enacting change for every district in the county.

“It’s important to me that we work hard to solve people’s problems,” she said.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) referred to Hahn’s legislative record as a promising attribute to his party’s newest majority leader. Bellone has signed onto several pieces of Hahn’s legislative agenda items over the past several years, including attempts at addressing domestic violence in Suffolk County and limiting the abundance of microbeads polluting county waterways.

“Kara Hahn has a proven record on critical issues like protecting our environment, tackling the opioid crisis and advocating for victims of domestic violence,” Bellone said in a statement. “I know Kara will use the platform of majority leader to be even more effective on the issues that she has spent her life fighting for, and which are critical to move Suffolk County forward.”

Calarco said he has known Hahn for a long time, dating back to when the two of them worked as aides in the county Legislature long before they were first elected. He gave his long-standing colleague encouraging words as she prepared to succeed him as majority leader.

“I think she’s going to be great,” he said. “She knows the Legislature well. She knows how to get things done. She’s a very good fighter for her district and the county as a whole.”

Among the top issues Hahn said she hoped to lead the Democratic caucus in addressing were spurring economic development throughout the county, requiring the county to test groundwater for toxins, preserving open spaces and advocating for healthy living.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Legislator Sarah Anker stand together on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas

By Desirée Keegan

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker has won back her seat after a hard-fought battle that began on Election Day, when the polls closed with her leading her challenger by only one vote.

After absentee ballots were counted, the 6th District legislator expanded her lead to 17 votes, ending a race on Thursday that had originally been projected to drag through Thanksgiving.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Legislator Sarah Anker stand together on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Legislator Sarah Anker stand together on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas

“It’s been a very intense race,” Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said. “I’ve had so many people come up to me, claiming that they were that one vote, and I am greatly appreciative and thankful that my supporters did go out there and vote. The bottom line is that every single vote counts.”

First-time Republican challenger Steve Tricarico, a deputy superintendent for the Town of Brookhaven Highway Department, said although the results were not what he preferred, he will continue to be a voice in his community.

“This is a great civics lesson,” he said. “We ran a good race, a clean race, an honest race, and I’m just glad that a lot of the positions that we took throughout the campaign have gotten out there. I grew up here, I live here, I’m raising my family here in the 6th District and I will continue to be an advocate for those issues that I feel are most important to the residents.”

Tricarico said he called Anker to congratulate her and wish her luck in her new two-year term, but also said he voiced his desire for the incumbent to think about some of the issues he focused on in his campaign, such as the local cost of living and public safety.

Anker will start her sixth year in office in January, in an area that frequently elects candidates from the opposite party — 6th District voters have consistently supported Conservative Councilwoman Jane Bonner for Brookhaven Town Board and Anker’s predecessor was Republican Dan Losquadro, who vacated his seat to become a state assemblyman and then later the town highway superintendent.

“People ask me why I put myself through the stress to run a very competitive campaign, and my answer would be because I love to help people, and I want to continue to do that job; people underestimate what I can do and what I can get done,” Anker said. “I think during the counting of the absentee votes, the GOP was quite surprised. They expected to win a number of votes over in the senior community, but I gained a lot of support there because I worked really hard in that area to help them with their problems and to help them with concerns and issues.”

Steve Tricarico is confident on Election Day. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Steve Tricarico is confident on Election Day. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Tricarico said he is back to focusing on his job at the highway department, and that with results showing that nearly half of the people in the 6th District are looking for change, he will not be closing the door on a future run.

Joking that she will be taking some much-needed time off, Anker said she is also ready to move forward with projects she’s been working on, such as those geared toward keeping young professionals on Long Island by erecting affordable housing and connecting college graduates with local jobs. In focusing on public safety, Anker has been working with Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson to address drug addiction on the North Shore.

“Even though this race was very close, it still shows that people are happy with the job that I’m doing and they’re willing to jump the party line,” Anker said. “I make sure I’m inclusive of a lot of ideas. I’m transparent. I think my ability to stay focused on the goal of helping people and trying to resolve problems has elevated me above the fray.”