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10th Assembly District

Former legislative aide alleges then-state assemblyman forcibly touched him in Albany hotel rooms

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci. File photo by Sara-Megan Walsh.

A former staff member of Chad Lupinacci, Huntington town supervisor, has filed a lawsuit alleging the then-state assemblyman of sexual assault and harassment during his employment.

Brian Finnegan, Lupinacci’s former legislative aide and chief of staff, filed a lawsuit in Suffolk County Supreme Court Dec. 4 alleging that Lupinacci forced non-consensual sexual acts and inappropriate touching on him during overnight trips to Albany in December 2017.

“I was forced to forfeit my career in public service, something in which I took much pride in making our community a better place,” Finnegan said in a statement. “At the drop of the hat, my hard work was meaningless and I was unemployed, all because I was the target of a sexual predator. My life was shattered.”

“At the drop of the hat, my hard work was meaningless and I was unemployed, all because I was the target of a sexual predator. My life was shattered.”

— Brian Finnegan

Brian Griffin, a Garden City-based attorney with Foley Griffin LLP representing Lupinacci, said Finnegan’s allegations were “unequivocally false and completely without merit,” and an attempt at “an unjust and unwarranted financial payday.” The attorney said that despite the alleged incidents having occurred approximately a year ago, no complaint was ever filed with the New York State Assembly.

Finnegan worked as legislative aide for Lupinacci for three years while he represented the 10th state Assembly District and traveled with him to Albany at least once a month for work responsibilities. During that time, Manhattan-based attorney Imran Ansari, of Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins PC, said his client, Finnegan, was subjected to “a pattern of somewhat bizarre and inappropriate behavior” culminating in an alleged sexual assault.

“Mr. Finnegan was subjected to unlawful and unwanted sexual contact by Mr. Lupinacci that amounts to nothing less than assault,” the attorney said. “He endured harassment and abuse over his time working for Mr. Lupinacci and in order to escape this hostile work environment gave up a position in public service that was personally, professionally and financially rewarding. He’s suffered economic damages and pain and suffering, but most importantly, he seeks the justice.”

The lawsuit filed this month claims that Finnegan frequently was asked inappropriate questions about his personal life, including the women he was dating, from the then-assemblyman, and found evidence his employer went into his cellphone and computer without permission.

“Supervisor Lupinacci has spent over a decade educating our students, serving on the local school board, working in the [state] Assembly and as the supervisor of the Town of Huntington,” Griffin said in a statement. “Supervisor Lupinacci denies these claims and will continue to serve the people of the Town of Huntington in the same professional and dedicated manner that he has done throughout his career in public service. He will vigorously defend himself against these false allegations.”

On Dec. 5, 2017, Finnegan said he was sharing a hotel room at Hilton Albany with Lupinacci, who allegedly insisted it was for “budgetary reasons,” when between the hours of 2 to 5 a.m. he woke to finding his employer standing over him. The former aide alleges that he felt Lupinacci touching the zipper of his suit pants and attempted to bat him away, according to the lawsuit. He claims to have confronted Huntington’s supervisor-elect asking “What are you doing?” before falling back asleep, and a second time tried to confront him but Lupinacci allegedly jumped back into bed.

Supervisor Lupinacci denies these claims and will continue to serve the people of the Town of Huntington in the same professional and dedicated manner that he has done throughout his career in public service.”

— Brian Griffin

Finnegan claims he was reluctant to make a second overnight trip to Albany Dec. 12, 2017, and share a room with the then-state assemblyman at the Renaissance Albany Hotel. The ex-staffer said he awoke around 2:30 a.m. in the morning to find Lupinacci kneeling at the side of his bed. Lupinacci allegedly replied something about “checking to see if [Finnegan wanted food] and left,” according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges Finnegan’s boxers had been moved and manipulated to expose his genitals, and said he believes Lupinacci had inappropriate and nonconsensual sexual contact while he was asleep amounting to sexual assault.

“You’ve been touching me in my sleep and I’m not going to take it anymore,” Finnegan said confronting Lupinacci, according to the lawsuit. “This is done, this is over, I can’t work for you anymore.”

The ex-staffer said he left Renaissance Albany in the early hours of the night, purchased an Amtrak ticket home and waited as the politician allegedly attempted to repeatedly call his cellphone before driving around the city of Albany in an effort to find him.

“I was terrified and felt hunted,” Finnegan said.

The former staffer said he gave his resignation to Lupinacci days later and declined a position already offered to him as an executive assistant and senior adviser in the incoming Huntington administration.

The lawsuit seeks monetary compensation from the Huntington town supervisor for economic damages, in addition to pain and suffering, Ansari said. While a specific dollar amount was not cited, the attorney argued his client could have been earning considerably much more working for the town with better benefits. Finnegan is now employed by Todd Shapiro Associates Public Relations in Manhattan.

Steve Stern. Photo by Kyle Barr

Steve Stern (D) may not have held his New York State Assembly seat for very long, but TBR News Media sees that Stern is willing to give it his all, and in doing so receives our endorsement for the 10th Assembly District seat.

While we appreciate Jeremy Williams running for office at such a young age, he did not show up to speak at our annual candidate debate that was hosted for him and his opponent. We did not have the opportunity to hear if he had concrete plans for dealing with issues pertaining to the district.

Stern’s already laid a good groundwork and track record by helping to sponsor and pass six bills in the six weeks he had available after his special election and before the end of the legislative session. We hope that kind of get-up-and-go attitude continues into a full term, and that he makes good on his word to bring more funds to aid downtown revitalization efforts.

Stern describes himself a conservative Democrat, and we hope that can translate into bridging the gap between Democrats and Republicans in these politically dividing times.

From left, incumbent Assemblyman Steve Stern will run off against Republican Jeremy Williams Nov. 6. Photo by Kyle Barr, photo from Jeremy Williams

The New York State Assembly’s 10th District seat is up for grabs. Come Nov. 6, residents have the choice between age and experience, or a youth with enthusiasm.

TBR News Media was prepared  to host a debate with state Assemblyman Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) and his Republican challenger Jeremy Williams, but the latter candidate did not show.

Stern, a prior Suffolk County legislator for 12 years, won a special election to the state Assembly after Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) vacated the seat in January. Now, the incumbent said he has a great track record in government, sponsoring and helping to pass six separate bills in six weeks on a number of state and local issues.

“I was dropped into session and not even told where the bathroom was,” Stern said. “I’m proud in being able to accomplish so much in such a short period of time.”

I’m proud in being able to accomplish so much in such a short period of time.”

— Steve Stern

The 22-year-old Williams is a lifelong Huntington Station resident, and now lives in a house close to the one his great-great-grandparents built. The Republican challenger said previously that he decided to run for office after commuting to his job in Manhattan, working as a public relations representative for several technology companies, and seeing how expensive it was to live on Long Island.

Williams said he wants to focus on getting more funds to Suffolk and that he would work to end what he called an unfriendly business climate, especially in regard to high tax rates and fees.

“We have to fast track the application process for these businesses, maybe with a five-year property tax abatement,” Williams said in a phone interview after the debate.

Stern said he also believes that businesses need incentives to come to and grow on Long Island. Specifically, he would want to offer tax breaks for companies looking to set up shop on Long Island, and that he would use state funds to incentivize the county to reduce its business and development fees, specifically environmental fees. The incumbent  also said that he will focus on making sure Suffolk gets a higher percentage back from the $5 billion in taxes it pays out to the state annually.

“The $5 billion that we send up to Albany is enough to fund both Suffolk County and a good bit of Nassau county as well,” the Democratic candidate said. “If we receive some significant percentage of that back, our taxpayers would be able to have a better quality of life.”

In development, Stern, who was opposed to enterprises like Villadom that would have created a mall on vacant land in Elwood, said there should be more incentives from the state to build new projects on developed parcels rather than on open space. “Before anybody goes knocking down areas of pristine property there has to be an incentive for redevelopment,” he said.

Williams said he agreed with redevelopment over new developments, but he emphasized the problems with modern transit-oriented developments don’t aid in helping young people stay on Long Island.

“Transit-oriented developments are disingenuous — most of those affordable homes go to people 55 years or older,” he said.

Stern said if re-elected he would work with Republicans and Democrats to provide commuters or their employers access to funds for transportation purposes, and encourage programs for college students to work with local businesses or startups.

Transit-oriented developments are disingenuous — most of those affordable homes go to people 55 years or older.” 

— Jeremy Williams

“There has to be a public-private partnership that has real meaning for the development of this company, but as local taxpayers, if we are to make investments into this company and provide the intellectual capital, that this is going to be a company that will commit to its future growth on Long Island,” the incumbent said.

Williams said he agrees with more public-private partnerships with businesses, especially if they are located in areas of Huntington,  like stretches of the Melville business corridor that have degraded in both looks and number of storefronts. The Republican challenger added if he is elected he would be both willing and able to work with the Democrats in the state legislature.

“Lupinacci and other people in the district seat were in the minority seat for years, and they still got a lot done,” Williams said. “The only people I am beholden to are the people in my community.”

Overall, Stern said he is more than willing to work across the aisle with Republican colleagues.

“I don’t care what letter you have after your name. The most important thing is putting points up on the board and delivering to my community,” he said. “If nobody has a sit down with each other or a working relationship with each other, then top priorities don’t get done.”

Jeremy Williams. Photo from Williams

At 22 years old, Republican candidate for New York State’s 10th Assembly District Jeremy Williams said he sees things from the millennial generation’s perspective, especially the issue of young people finding jobs and housing to stay on Long Island.

“I saw a lot of my friends move out of state,” Williams said. “They went down to the Carolinas, to Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, and when you ask them why — it’s not that they don’t like New York, or they don’t like their family — it’s a simple matter of there’s better jobs.”

Williams grew up in Huntington Station, his family longtime town residents, and now he currently lives just a block away from the house his great-great-grandparents built. He went through the South Huntington school district and graduated from Walt Whitman High School in 2014. After that he worked part time jobs before attending Stony Brook University and transferring to Binghamton University. While finishing his English rhetoric degree, Williams joined up with the local Habitat for Humanity chapter where he became the organization’s treasurer.

They went down to the Carolinas, to Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, and when you ask them why — it’s not that they don’t like New York, or they don’t like their family — it’s a simple matter of there’s better jobs.”

— Jeremy Williams

After returning home from college, Williams got a job in New York City working as a public relations representative for financial technology, cryptocurrency and blockchain companies. One thing he quickly realized from working in the city while living in Huntington was just how hard it was to save money and find a house to live on his own.

“When you’re not saving for the first down payment on your house, when you’re just worried about being able to fill up your car, it’s kind of an unworkable situation,” Williams said. “It’s very expensive to buy a first home, and there are a lot of barriers to first home ownership on Long Island.”

Williams said he has long been interested in politics, and in his adult life he has become involved in local Republican Party politics. He said he has worked on campaigns for several Suffolk County Legislature and state Assembly races. Now he is challenging Assemblyman Steve Stern’s (D-Dix Hills) seat. Stern won the seat in a special election earlier this year after it was vacated by now Town of Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R).

The young candidate said the problems that his district, and by extension all of Long Island, faces are a combination of high tax rates, “outrageous” county fees, an unfriendly business climate and environmental issues, especially those in coastal waters.

Williams blamed the state of Suffolk County’s current finances on excessive spending and that county officials have been upping fees to make up for excessive spending. He specifically pointed to fees for filing mortgage tax ID maps and the red light camera program, which he argued has not been doing the job of making intersections safer.

“With every $3 we send to the state, we get $1 back,” Williams said. “It’s not an act of the universe that it’s becoming more unaffordable for people to live here. It’s regulation and legislation.”

On the environment, he said current issues with nitrogen pollution and recent algal blooms in Huntington and Northport harbors have him worried for the future of local waters.

It’s not an act of the universe that it’s becoming more unaffordable for people to live here. It’s regulation and legislation.”

— Jeremy Williams

“We have really beautiful waterways, and the sheer life in the harbors is staggering,” he said. “Waste leakage dumping is killing our [shellfish and other marine life] en masse.”

While he said he would support harsher punishments for anybody found dumping waste, and for increased funding for household nitrogen filtering technology, he said he is hesitant to support sewer projects if that means more overdevelopment. He said he vehemently opposed the recent Villadom mall project, which once planned to build a large-scale mall complex in Elwood but has since been stalled by local opposition. He said he fears such developments could drastically impact local water, especially that from the Greenlawn Water District.

Williams said he is very concerned about the legal battle between Long Island Power Authority and the Town of Huntington. The town is currently in the midst of ongoing litigation with LIPA over the property tax assessment of Northport Power Station, as the utility claims it has been overtaxed. LIPA is seeking a massive reduction of its property taxes, which could lead to lost revenue for the town and expose it to back taxes should the battle go LIPA’s way. Recent judicial rulings have allowed LIPA to go ahead and take the town to court over these assessments.

“We have to be prepared for the worst,” he said. “We need to have legislation that provides 15 years of relief so that it won’t come down on the taxpayers.”

Steve Stern. Photo from Stern's office

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She could not be reached immediately for further comment.

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

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

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

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

By Sara-Megan Walsh

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

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

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

Janet Smitelli

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

Janet Smitelli. Photo from Smitelli’s campaign

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

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

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

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

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

— Janet Smitelli

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

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

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

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

Steve Stern

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

Steve Stern. Photo from Stern’s office

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

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

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

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

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

— Steve Stern

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

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

Go vote

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

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

Voters have the opportunity to ask questions of candidates Janet Smitelli and Steve Stern at April 11 event

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

Huntington residents are invited to come meet the candidates competing for Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci’s former state assembly seat.

The League of Women Voters of Huntington has scheduled a Meet the Candidates Night for April 11 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the South Huntington Public Library. Democrat Steve Stern, who previously represented the 16th District in the Suffolk County Legislature, will be running against Republican Party candidate Janet Smitelli in the April 24 special election.

Smitelli is a civil litigator who has lived in Huntington for more than 20 years. A member of the Republican committee for more than 10 years, she is active locally with the Boy Scouts and has served as an assistant Scoutmaster.

Stern left the county Legislature Dec. 31, term limited from office after 12 years representing the 16th District. He sat on the Suffolk County Veterans and Seniors Committee and previously touted his
accomplishments to include the Housing Our Homeless Heroes initiative, a package of bills that aimed to end veteran homelessness in Suffolk, and the creation of the Silver Alert system designed to locate missing senior citizens.

Any attendee who wants to ask a question of the candidates may submit it in writing on cards that will be supplied at the event. For more information, contact Colette Knuth at cstewardknuth@gmail.com.

Prior to the Meet the Candidates Night, the League of Women Voters will hold its first Take Action Workshop starting at 5 p.m. The workshop will offer a hands-on experience and expert advice in assisting citizens to register to vote and answering any questions regarding voting. Seating is limited, but registration is open to anyone who is interested.

Those interested can register by visiting the South Huntington Public Library’s website at www.shpl.info under the “Programs” tab or by calling 631-549-4411.

Republican Party candidate for 10th Assembly District talks about her experience, Huntington's issues

Above left, Janet Smitelli is the Republican candidate for the 10th state Assembly District. Photo from Janet Smitelli

Janet Smitelli says she has a reputation for getting things done. The longtime Huntington native has developed youth programs in Costa Rica; been a park ranger at the Grand Canyon; served as an assistant Scoutmaster for local Boy Scout Troops; taught Sunday school; and, for more than 30 years, fought to protect residents as a civil litigator. This April, she hopes to add to that list New York State Assemblywoman of the 10th District.

“This is kind of a leap for me, but in a way it isn’t because I’ve been progressing my whole life towards this,” Smitelli said.

She was recently chosen by the Suffolk County Republican Committee to run for the assembly seat Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) left vacant in the April 24  special election.

Janet Smitelli. File photo

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

Growing up in Oceanside, Smitelli said her parents, Bernard and Maria Heller, instilled in her the importance of serving the community, especially her mother, who was heavily involved in the chamber of commerce and local politics and was known as “Miss Oceanside.”

“From seeing that as my example from a very early age, I was involved in everything from day one,” Smitelli said.

A graduate of SUNY Plattsburgh with degrees in environmental science, late American studies and Spanish, Smitelli wound up taking her altruism to Central America for six months when she was 19. A few years later, after developing an interest in law, Smitelli went to law school at night and became a trial attorney in 1987. It was around this time that she married her husband and became a Huntington resident.

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

“Janet’s the kind of person you can call and say ‘I need your help’ and she’s there and ready to do what needs to be done,” Huntington resident Dennis Garetano said. “She’s there for the community, she gets things done and really cares about this neighborhood. She’s who we need to get elected.”

Patricia Wingfield, a resident whose son was a Cub Scout under Smitelli’s leadership, called her a natural leader.

“She led like a trooper — went on camping trips no other parent wanted to go on and was always such an advocate for all the kids to receive their badges,” Wingfield said. “She’s fair, she’s just, she’s effective. I aspire to be her.”

Lupinacci also voiced his support for her.

“I think she’s an excellent choice to fight for us in the state Legislature,” he said. “She’s very involved in the community and has a great background in terms of public service. She has the background, the fortitude and the skills needed to represent the 10th Assembly District.”

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

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

“If you look at my background, you’ll see I’m not doing this for any other reason than I really, really want to serve,” Smitelli said. “I think my talents, my experience and my life thus far, has been a pathway to this.

Former Suffolk County legislator running as Democratic candidate for 10th state Assembly district seat

Steve Stern (D). Photo by Kevin Redding.

By Kevin Redding

At 19, Steve Stern knocked on doors in the outskirts of Louisiana, urging folks not to let a former Ku Klux Klan leader become a state representative.

It was 1989. David Duke had entered the race for a Louisiana House of Representatives seat on the Republican ticket, despite party members’ denouncement of his candidacy and racist, anti-Semitic past. Stern, a junior at Tulane University in New Orleans at the time, took to the streets for the first time as a political advocate for Duke’s opponent.

“Talk about being in the deep end without a paddle,” Stern said, during an interview with TBR News Media at a Dix Hills diner Feb. 19. “I just tried to persuade the area residents to do what was right and stand up against hate and intolerance. It showed me the importance of meeting people on their doorstep, talking to them face-to-face.”

Duke won. But it didn’t dissuade Stern from later seeking political office himself.

Stern (D) has honed the art of canvassing in his 12 consecutive years as Suffolk County Legislator of the 16th District beginning in 2005, after building a career as a lawyer.

“Our local region doesn’t get our fair share from the state level of government and I know that firsthand.”
— Steve Stern

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

Touting this record and a self-proclaimed natural ability to connect with community members, no matter their party affiliations, the 49-year-old family man will run in the April 24 special election to fill Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci’s (R) vacant seat in the 10th District of the New York State Assembly. He recently won the Democratic nomination and will campaigni against Republican Party candidate and longtime Huntington resident Janet Smitelli.

“I think he’s an excellent candidate,” said Mary Collins, chairwoman of the Huntington Town Democratic Committee. “He was very attentive to constituents and he worked on many issues that were important to his district.”

Stern said he hopes to bring a “very strong, local voice” to Albany.

“Our local region doesn’t get our fair share from the state level of government and I know that firsthand,” he said. “Look at our school districts. Community leaders on our school boards have very little they can do because there are too many state mandates preventing them from making real progress.”

“[Stern] has the ability to turn a concern into an actionable item and achieve a successful healthy change.”
— Karen Miller 

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

“Because at the end of the day, I can tell you, people don’t care what the letter is after your name,” he said. “They want to know that you’re putting points up on the board for them and that you’re doing it in a way that’s going to make them proud.

Karen Miller, founder of the Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition, said Stern made her proud when she presented her group’s concerns about the dangers of the BPA chemical, a meeting that ultimately led him to his 2009 ban.

“Steve was an extremely good listener, he took time with me and wrote notes on his yellow pad,” she said. “He has the ability to turn a concern into an actionable item and achieve a successful healthy change. What a coup that would be for New Yorkers to have somebody like that up in Albany.”

Read TBR News Media to learn more about Republican party candidate Janet Smitelli soon.

Democrat Steve Stern, former Suffolk County legislator, and Republican hopeful Janet Smitelli to campaign

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

A former Suffolk County legislator and a longtime Huntington political hopeful will face off to fill Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci’s (R) former state Assembly seat.

Democrat Steve Stern, who previously represented the 16th District in the Suffolk County Legislature, will campaign against Republican Party candidate Janet Smitelli in the April 24 special election to fill the
vacancy in the 10th District of the New York State Assembly.

“It’s going to be a very condensed campaign, a campaign where every second counts,” said Toni Tepe, chairwoman of the Huntington Republican Committee.

Janet Smitelli 

Smitelli was selected by the Suffolk County Republican Committee Feb. 12 after several candidates were screened, according to Tepe, and Lupinacci was part of the screening committee.

“I think she’s an excellent choice to fight for us in the state Legislature,” Lupinacci said. “She’s very involved in the community and has a great background in terms of public service. She has the background, the fortitude and the skills needed to represent the 10th Assembly District.”

I think she’s an excellent choice to fight for us in the state Legislature.”
— Chad Lupinacci

Smitelli is a civil litigator who has lived in Huntington for more than 20 years. A member of the Republican committee for more than 10 years, she is active locally with the Boy Scouts and has served as an assistant Scoutmaster.

In 2015, Smitelli ran an unsuccessful campaign against incumbent Suffolk County Legislator Lou D’Amaro (D-North Babylon) in the hopes of representing the 17th Legislative District. If elected in April, it would be her first time holding a political office, according to Tepe.

“I believe she will run a strong campaign and she is certainly a supporter of the Republican initiatives and agenda,” the party chairwoman said. “She will be very conscientious of constituent services and saving money for the taxpayers she represents.”

Steve Stern

Rich Schaffer, chairman of the Suffolk County Democratic Committee, said Stern won his party’s nomination.

“I think he’s an excellent candidate,” said Mary Collins, chairwoman of the Huntington Town Democratic Committee, citing Stern’s record as a legislator. “He was very attentive to constituents and he worked on many issues that were important to his district.”

“[Stern] was very attentive to constituents and he worked on many issues that were important to his district.”— Mary Collins

Stern left the county Legislature Dec. 31, term limited from office after 12 years representing the 16th District. He sat on the Suffolk County Veterans and Seniors Committee and previously touted his accomplishments to include the Housing Our Homeless Heroes initiative, a package of bills that aimed to end veteran homelessness in Suffolk, and the creation of the Silver Alert system designed to locate missing senior citizens.

Stern called himself a leading proponent of sewer infrastructure development during his 2015 campaign. He co-sponsored legislation identifying what areas would be best served by sewers and choosing how to prioritize which neighborhoods get developed first, which he said was particularly crucial to Huntington.

The party whose candidate is elected April 24 to represent the 10th District will serve approximately 130,000 residents, according to 2010 census data, which includes all or part of Cold Spring Harbor, East Northport, Greenlawn, Lloyd Harbor, Lloyd Neck, Melville, Huntington and Huntington Station.

This story was last updated Feb. 16 @ 2:05 p.m. 

 

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