Politics

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.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Legislator Sarah Anker are all smiles on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas

By Desirée Keegan & Giselle Barkley

Voters may have to wait a little longer for 6th Legislative District election results.

As vote tallies poured in on Election Day, it appeared Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) had edged out Republican challenger Steve Tricarico by just one vote — literally. But with absentee ballots still being counted, according to Nick LaLota, the commissioner of the Suffolk County Board of Elections, the final results may not be available until after Thanksgiving.

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

According to LaLota, the board began counting the more than 550 absentee ballots on Nov. 12.

Although the margin between the two candidates is slim — Anker squeezed past Tricarico with 5,859 votes to Tricarico’s 5,858 — Anker hopes she can continue the work she’s been doing.

“I love doing my job,” she said.

Tricarico did not return calls for comment.

Anker said she’s been able to win support from a lot of Republican voters in the past, which she attributes to being active and having a presence in the community.

For now, she is not giving up on the projects she is working on, like addressing traffic safety on Route 25A and drug addiction throughout the county — while staying within the budget.

“I am fiscally conservative,” she said. “What I try to do is take our resources and make the most of them without spending additional money.”

“I’m very honored to be able to — hopefully when the count is official — to continue the work I do,” Anker said. “To get by, by one vote … Every vote counts. I’m hoping we can resolve the final count and I can continue the work I love to do.”

But county Legislator Sarah Anker has just one-vote lead; longtime Smithtown board member ousted; and all local boards maintain huge majorities

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Legislator Sarah Anker are all smiles on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The incumbents won big on Suffolk County’s North Shore this Election Day, with only a couple real upsets at the county and town levels.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) handily won a second term at the helm against his Republican challenger, lawyer Jim O’Connor, with 57 percent of the vote.

Bellone thanked many people for his victory and also thanked his opponent for a “good race.”

Steve Bellone gives a speech after being re-elected Suffolk County executive. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Steve Bellone gives a speech after being re-elected Suffolk County executive. Photo by Rohma Abbas

“Tonight the people of Suffolk County delivered a mandate: to advance the issues we talked about in this campaign,” he said, at the Democratic Election Night headquarters in Hauppauge. “To continue the reform government so that we can protect taxpayers, make government more efficient and effective. To reverse the decades of decline that we have seen in water quality so that we can protect this precious natural resource for ourselves and future generations.”

He vowed that he would work hard for the voters.

“To the people of Suffolk County: I want to thank you for the confidence you placed in me and this incredible team of legislators. I can guarantee you we will repay that confidence by working hard every single day to make progress on the issues that matter to you and to you families. We may celebrate a little bit tonight but that work begins tomorrow.”

Though Bellone was the clear winner early on, O’Connor said he was proud of his campaign.

“I think we talked about the issues that need to be talked about here on Long Island,” he said.

Despite the results, the challenger enjoyed himself: “I love this. … In America we run for office, we put our ideas forward and we let the people decide.”

Steve Tricarico, Legislator Sarah Anker's Republican challenger, feels confident about a win on Election Day. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Steve Tricarico, Legislator Sarah Anker’s Republican challenger, feels confident about a win on Election Day. Photo by Giselle Barkley

In the Suffolk County Legislature, incumbents from Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington towns won re-election, one of them by a razor-thin margin: Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who represents the 6th District, was leading her challenger by just one vote after the polls closed. It was not immediately clear if absentee ballots would tilt the scales in the favor of Republican candidate Steve Tricarico, a Brookhaven Town deputy highway superintendent. But Anker said Tuesday night that she felt “cautiously optimistic.”

Tricarico felt the same way.

“I’m feeling very confident,” he said before results were in. “This shows … that people are looking for a change. That’s what I’ve been offering.”

According to Tricarico, Republican absentee ballots outnumbered those of the Democrats, which he said boosts his confidence.

But Suffolk County Democratic Party Chairman Rich Schaffer was calling it in the other direction: “Sarah Anker — mark my words — in about two weeks will be a newly re-elected legislator.”

Anker said her election demonstrates that each vote counts. Asked what could have led to such a close race, the legislator said she’s got the political cards stacked against her as a Democrat representing a largely Republican district.

Legislator Kara Hahn and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone embrace after both are re-elected. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Legislator Kara Hahn and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone embrace after both are re-elected. Photo by Rohma Abbas

“Most political strategists have never understood how I won it the past three times, much less this fourth time,” she said. “But I feel it’s because the people appreciate what I do. They’re looking for leadership.”

From there, it was smooth sailing. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), the 5th District legislator, beat Republican challenger Donna Cumella, of Port Jefferson Station, with 63 percent of the vote. In the 13th, Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) beat Kings Park Democrat Rich Macellaro with more than 70 percent of the total.

In Huntington, Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) won his final term in the 16th District against Republican attorney Tom McNally with 60 percent of the vote.

“We understand what’s on the minds of our constituents, we listen to our constituents, and we deliver for our constituents,” Stern said.

Also, Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) took the 18th District against his challenger from the right, Grant Lally, after garnering 56 percent of the votes.

“It’s exhilarating,” a joyous Spencer said. “It’s really is. After two years of hard work and six-month campaign, to really have the people recognize I’m giving my heart and soul to try to support us means a lot to me.”

Doc Spencer celebrates a win on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Doc Spencer celebrates a win on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Despite her loss, Cumella stayed positive and said she wouldn’t let this year’s election deter her from running for the same position in the future. She said she is now “a little bit more educated with the political arena.”

About her victory over that Republican, Hahn said, “I’m really gratified by the confidence the community has shown in me and I very much appreciate it and I plan to work just as hard as I’ve worked in the last four years.”

Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma), the 4th District legislator, and the 12th District’s Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) were effectively unopposed for re-election and secured their next terms.

“I’m ecstatic,” Muratore said. “Maybe we can bring some of our ideas to the table … We’re about doing the right things to people.”

Supervisor Ed Romaine celebrates his re-election as the head of Brookhaven Town. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Supervisor Ed Romaine celebrates his re-election as the head of Brookhaven Town. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Kennedy said she did not spend time campaigning and was pleased with the outcome.

“I want to go home and go to bed so I can wake up tomorrow ready to vote on the Operating Budget Committee board,” she said.

Brookhaven Town saw its supervisor, Ed Romaine (R), and its highway superintendent, Dan Losquadro (R), re-elected easily — Romaine won 72 percent of the votes against Democratic challenger Douglas Dittko and Losquadro beat out his own Democratic opponent, Jason Kontzamanys, with 69 percent of the voters’ support.

Romaine called his landslide victory “encouraging” and Losquadro said, “I really feel that this is a validation of the work that we’ve been doing in the town.”

“It’s such a big department, and really, for the fundamental services that people expect from their tax dollars are that their roads are safe, cleared of snow and debris, and I’m very excited to be given the opportunity to continue to do that work.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright go in for a kiss after both win re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright go in for a kiss after both win re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The three incumbents running for re-election to the Brookhaven Town Board on the North Shore were returned to their seats. Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) beat Republican challenger Ed Garboski, the president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association. She had 56 percent of the vote to his 44 percent.

“I worked really hard,” she said Tuesday night. “The community came together.”

She has no small task ahead of her. If all of the election results stand, she will be the only Democrat on the Town Board next year, after her effectively unopposed North Shore colleagues Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) and Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) won re-election, as did South Shore Republican Councilmen Dan Panico and Neil Foley. But Cartright’s lone Democratic colleague, Councilwoman Connie Kepert, was ousted by Republican challenger Michael Loguercio Jr.

“I’m kind of speechless, which isn’t normally the case for me,” Bonner said about winning by a large margin. “I’m super, super excited to get started, move forward. I can’t wait to get to work tomorrow.”

LaValle called his own win an “honor.”

Over in Huntington, town board incumbents Gene Cook (I) and Susan Berland (D) were returned to the board after a four-way race with 27 percent and 24 percent of the vote, respectively. Democratic challenger Keith Barrett and Republican challenger Jennifer Thompson fell short, each garnering about 22 percent of the vote.

“I can’t wait until tomorrow,” Cook said Tuesday night. “I felt good throughout today because I’m always honest and I think I’ve shown that in the last four years.”

Councilmen Ed Wehrheim and Bob Creighton discuss the Smithtown board election results. Photo by Phil Corso
Councilmen Ed Wehrheim and Bob Creighton discuss the Smithtown board election results. Photo by Phil Corso

Berland said she was “proud and humbled” to be re-elected.

“I just want to keep doing good things for the people of the town and making the town the best place it can possibly be,” she said.

Smithtown Town Board experienced a bit of an upset. Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) was re-elected to one of two board seats, after receiving 31 percent of the vote, but his colleague Bob Creighton (R) was unable to battle back after losing a Republican primary to newcomer Lisa Inzerillo.

Inzerillo was elected Tuesday night with 28 percent of the vote, as compared to Creighton’s 20 percent. The latter total was even lower than that of the lone Democratic candidate for Town Board, who lost after garnering just 22 percent of the vote.

Inzerillo held a private gathering at her home Tuesday night and did not respond to requests seeking comment, but took to her Facebook page to thank her team.

Larry Vetter says the people have spoken in choosing not to elect him. Photo by Kevin Redding
Larry Vetter says the people have spoken in choosing not to elect him. Photo by Kevin Redding

“I am grateful beyond words for all of the support I received from residents,” she said. “It is very humbling to know my grassroots campaign was successful. I look forward to working with the new town board and working for the residents that elected me.”

Wehrheim, who frequently works with Creighton on town projects, called Inzerillo’s win “a loss for Smithtown” and called his own victory “bittersweet” as he prepared to work with the newcomer. Creighton apologized to his room of supporters Tuesday night, adding that he was “sorry things didn’t work out.”

About his defeat, Vetter said, “The message is clear: The town didn’t want me. … Apparently the town is satisfied with what they have.”

Earlier in the night he had said, “If I lose and it’s tight, I might try again. If I get clobbered, I’m not gonna do it again.”

Rohma Abbas, Giselle Barkley, Phil Corso, Victoria Espinoza, Desirée Keegan, Kevin Redding and Eric Santiago contributed reporting.

Follow #TBRVotes on Twitter for up-to-the-minute posts on the election.

Suffolk County Executive
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a Democrat, was running for re-election against Republican challenger Jim O’Connor. With 1,047 of 1,052 election districts reporting, Bellone was leading 57 percent to 43 percent.

4th Legislative District
Legislator Tom Muratore, a Republican, was looking for a fourth term against absentee Democratic challenger Jonathan D. Rockfeld. With all election districts reporting, Muratore had 74 percent of the vote.

5th Legislative District
Kara Hahn, the Democratic incumbent, was facing off against Republican challenger Donna Cumella. With 53 of 54 election districts reporting, Hahn had 63 percent of the vote to Cumella’s 37 percent.

6th Legislative District
Legislator Sarah Anker (D) faces a challenge from Republican Steve Tricarico, a Brookhaven Town deputy highway superintendent, in her quest for a third term. With all election districts reporting, Anker had 49.99 percent of the vote to Tricarico’s 49.98 percent. They are just one vote apart. Anker described her feelings as “cautiously optimistic.”

12th Legislative District
Leslie Kennedy, a Republican, was largely unopposed for re-election, against absentee Democratic challenger Adam Halpern. With 62 of 63 election districts reporting, Kennedy had 70 percent of the vote.

13th Legislative District
Legislator Rob Trotta (R) was running for another term in the Legislature against a familiar face, Kings Park Democrat Rich Macellaro. With 64 of 65 election districts reporting, Trotta had 71 percent of the vote.

16th Legislative District
Steve Stern, a Democratic legislator, wanted to win his final term in office against Republican attorney Tom McNally. With all election districts reporting, Stern won with 60 percent of the vote to McNally’s 40 percent.

18th Legislative District
Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D) was vying for a third term against Republican challenger Grant Lally. With all election districts reporting, Spencer won with 56 percent of the vote to Lally’s 44 percent.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor
Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) was running for re-election against Democratic challenger Douglas Dittko. With 294 of 296 election districts reporting, Romaine had 72 percent of the vote.

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent
Dan Losquadro, the Republican incumbent, was in a race for another term against Democratic challenger Jason Kontzamanys. With 294 of 296 election districts reporting, Losquadro had 69 percent of the vote.

Brookhaven Town, 1st Council District
Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, a Democrat from Port Jefferson Station, was facing off against Port Jefferson Station civic leader Ed Garboski, a Republican, in the race for town board.
With all election districts reporting, Cartright won with 56 percent of the vote.
She said, “I worked really hard. The community came together.”
If all election results stand, Cartright will be the only Democrat on the town board next year — her one Conservative and four Republican colleagues won re-election and her only Democratic colleague was ousted by a Republican.

Brookhaven Town, 2nd Council District
Jane Bonner, the Conservative councilwoman, was running against an absentee challenger, Democrat Andrew Berger, in her quest for a fifth term on the town board. With 46 of 47 election districts reporting, Bonner had 69 percent of the vote.

Brookhaven Town, 3rd Council District
Kevin LaValle (R) was hoping to win another term as a town councilman against absentee Democratic challenger Christian DeGeorge. With 50 of 51 election districts reporting, LaValle had 74 percent of the vote.

Huntington Town Board
Incumbents Susan Berland (D) and Gene Cook (I) were running for new terms on the town board against Democratic challenger Keith Barrett, the town’s deputy director of general services, and Republican challenger Jennifer Thompson, a Northport school board trustee. In this race, the two candidates with the highest vote counts win seats. With all election districts reporting, Cook was on top with 27 percent of the vote to Berland’s 24 percent, Barrett’s 22 percent and Thompson’s 22 percent. Conservative Michael Helfer had 5 percent of the vote.
Cook said, “I can’t wait till tomorrow. … I felt good throughout today because I’m always honest and I think I’ve shown that in the last four years.”

Smithtown Town Board
Councilmen Bob Creighton and Ed Wehrheim, both Republicans, faced challenges from Republican Lisa Inzerillo, who beat out Creighton in a Republican primary in September, and Democrat Larry Vetter. The two candidates with the most votes win seats on the town board in this race. With all 92 election districts reporting, Wehrheim took the lead with 31 percent of the vote, followed by Inzerillo (28 percent), Vetter (22 percent) and Creighton (20 percent).
Wehrheim, who frequently works with Creighton on town projects, called Inzerillo’s win “a loss for Smithtown” and called his own victory “bittersweet” as he prepared to work with the newcomer.
Vetter said, “The message is clear: The town didn’t want me. … Apparently the town is satisfied with what they have.” Earlier in the night he had said, “If I lose and it’s tight, I might try again. If I get clobbered, I’m not gonna do it again.”

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Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden), above, discusses the 2015 election. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) is always on the move.

The 38-year-old Brookhaven Town councilman, who is running for a second term, said he is trying to bring energy back to his district.

“You want to get people back into government,” LaValle said during an interview at the Times Beacon Record Newspapers office. “[You] have to make people feel the government is their for them.”

His Democratic opponent, Christian DeGeorge, did not return a request for an interview.

One big accomplishment of LaValle’s first term was finishing negotiations for athletic fields by Hawkins Path Elementary School in Selden, near where Boyle Road meets Hawkins Road. The Middle Country area has long needed field space, and LaValle began targeting that property when he was an aide for Legislator Tom Muratore. The county now owns the land, and the town is utilizing it and making improvements to it.

LaValle said he wants to continue work on that property, perhaps adding a walking trail and a parking lot to make it easier for people to use.

Moving forward, taxes and road maintenance are two of the most important issues in the 3rd Council District, according to LaValle, who grew up in Centereach. He said he tried to prioritize the roads in need of maintenance, like filling potholes and improving drainage, in his past term and will continue to do so if re-elected.,

“I tell every resident this: We can’t pave every road. I’d love to pave every road, but we don’t have the money to do that.”

He also sees cleaning up graffiti as an important issue. Greentree Park in Farmingville, for one, has been tagged over and over. Since removing graffiti is costly, LaValle hopes to help law enforcement gather enough information to build a case and eventually catch those responsible for the graffitti.

To improve the flow of traffic and safety on the roads, LaValle wants to push more businesses along Middle Country Road to allow vehicular access between their properties.

“There’s so many entrances and exits [on Middle Country Road],” the councilman said. “There’s always somebody jumping out in front of you or the car in front of you. [It] backs up [the lane and] causes all the accidents.”

The cross-accesses would allow drivers to move between businesses without having to get back onto the road as frequently.

Regardless of the problem at hand, LaValle said action is important when it comes to improving the district.

“[A decision] may not change the problem tomorrow, but 20 years from now it could completely solve … a problem, so every decision you make, you always have to think four or five steps ahead.”

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County Executive Steve Bellone photo by Giselle Barkley

By Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said he hopes to continue his work addressing the county’s top issues, including affordable living, financial issues and wastewater management. But in order to do that, he first has to get past Republican challenger Jim O’Connor.

County Executive Steve Bellone photo by Giselle Barkley
County Executive Steve Bellone photo by Giselle Barkley

O’Connor (R), a partner in the Manhattan law firm of Maroney O’Connor LLP, said he was hoping to unseat Bellone and get a handle of the county’s finances, which he argued are currently in bad shape.

“We are in massive amounts of debt,” O’Connor said. “Our taxes are a significant problem.”

Bellone said that he inherited a $500 million deficit when he arrived to his position in 2012, and during his short time in office he said he has been able to resolve a “legacy of issues” left to him — including minimizing that deficit.

O’Connor also said one of the issues looming over the next several years is the county’s handling of negotiations with police salary contracts.

“They are back-loaded contracts,” O’Connor said. “The real impact of these contracts won’t be felt until 2017 and 2018.”

O’Connor said he does not know how the county will pay for those salaries, and proposed to freeze them if he is elected.

“One of the things we can control is our labor costs,” O’Connor said.

Jim O'Connor photo by Giselle Barkley
Jim O’Connor photo by Giselle Barkley

Since his election, one of the examples Bellone heralded as evidence that he was working to streamline government efficiency and cut spending was his proposal — approved by public referendum last year — to merge the offices of the county comptroller and treasurer to cut costs. Bellone said it should save more than $1 million annually. He also said he has reduced the government by more than 1,100 positions.

Bellone said he is focused on shoring up the county’s water quality in his re-election bid.

“Unless we reverse the decades of decline that we’ve seen in our water quality, we are mortgaging our future,” Bellone said of why improving the county’s wastewater management is so crucial. Bellone celebrated SepticSmart Week over the summer, when he encouraged residents to stay informed on how to properly maintain their septic systems.

Both candidates discussed how they planned to fully utilize the county’s resources and make living in Suffolk more affordable.

To get there, Bellone said he wants to better utilize Stony Brook University, because “as Stony Brook University goes, so goes Suffolk County.” He said one the challenges and opportunities residents in the area have is enacting initiatives that better link Stony Brook University with other North Shore assets like Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

O’Connor said he and Bellone have a fundamental difference on how to go about dealing with affordable living in Suffolk County.

“I don’t agree that the way to do this is more [government] programs,” O’Connor said. “The way to do this and stimulate more economic growth is by turning things around and making sure Suffolk isn’t the second-most expensive place to do business and live in the United States. The only way to do that is by reducing the costs.”

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