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10th Assembly District

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. 

 

Democrat, Republican parties to name their candidate for 10th District by Feb. 15.

File photo

A date has been set for a special election to fill the state Assembly seat formerly held by Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R).

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Feb. 5 that special elections would be held April 24 for the two Senate and nine state Assembly seats left vacant
after November’s general elections. Cuomo’s announcement came after weeks of speculation whether the governor would hold the special elections before or after the state budget deadline of March 31.

“The one good thing is they are not going to leave the seat unfilled until November,” Lupinacci said. “I’m glad it won’t be left unfilled as I think it’s important to get someone in there to represent the 10th Assembly District.”

Over the next week, the major political parties will hold candidate screenings and nominating conventions, according to Nick LaLota, Republican commissioner for Suffolk County Board of Elections. There are no primaries, and the candidates are directly chosen by the party’s political leaders. The selected candidate must be certified with the board of elections by Feb. 15.

Independent candidates may petition to get their name on the ballot. LaLota said “the signature amount is high, and the reward is low.”

Suffolk County Republican Committee Chair John Jay LaValle will be holding the party’s convention Feb. 12, according to Lupinacci, and he will be part of the process.

“We are looking at several candidates, and I will be there most likely at the screening,” he said. “If the party leaders seek my input, I will most certainly be very vocal.”

The former state Assemblyman said he’d like to see a candidate who demonstrates an understanding of the issues important to his district, is responsive to constituents’ concerns and is willing to work across the aisle. The Republican Party is in the minority in the state Assembly, and that balance cannot be tipped by the nine seats up for grabs.

While the 10th Assembly District has long been held by Republicans, the Democrats have a number of potential candidates as well.

“We have a couple of people who have expressed interest, as far as I know, but we have not screened anyone yet,” said Mary Collins, chairwoman of the Huntington Town Democratic Committee.

The next representative for the 10th district will serve approximately 130,000 residents, according to the 2010 census data, and includes all or parts of Cold Spring Harbor, East Northport, Greenlawn, Lloyd Harbor, Lloyd Neck, Melville, Huntington and Huntington Station.

State Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Truth be told, this was the most difficult endorsement decision we had to come to during this election cycle.

New York State Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station) is looking for his fourth term in office, and challenger Ed Perez (D) is a formidable opponent. In the end, we stand by Lupinacci. He has supported water quality legislation, heroin legislation and worked to increase financial aid opportunities for SUNY students. He is also still acutely aware of the local problems facing his area, like the rash of violent incidents Huntington Station has seen in the past few years. We believe Lupinacci will continue to have a positive impact on his district and will both draft and support bills that will improve the quality of life for his constituents.

We were almost swayed by Perez. He is exactly what a voter should want of a candidate: a resident who has lived in the area for many years, is deeply involved in local organizations and has a record of working to improve his community. Perez was also up to date on the issues facing the 10th district. We believe he has a very strong chance of winning another race — if he chooses to run again. In fact, we hope he does.

Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, left, and Ed Perez, right, speak on the many issues facing Huntington Station and other areas of the 10th Assembly District. Photos by Donna Newman

Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station) was first elected to represent New York’s 10th Assembly District in 2012, and Nov. 8 he’ll try for a third term against Democrat Ed Perez, a Huntington resident and a current member of the Suffolk County Board of Elections.

The two were interviewed at the TBR News Media main office ahead of Election Day to discuss the state of the 10th district, which covers in large part Huntington Town.

In addition to his duties with the board of elections, Perez is also the president of Diversity Resource Network, a marketing consulting organization. He identifies himself as a “social entrepreneur” because of his 25 years of experience in the nonprofit sector.

Lupinacci served on the school board of the South Huntington School district for eight years prior to his election in 2012. He’s a real estate attorney and an adjunct professor at Farmingdale State College, Hofstra University and St. Joseph’s College.

In his four years in the Assembly, Lupinacci has fought to cut taxes, make college more affordable and address the growing problem of addiction in the district. Perez has lived in the Huntington community for 23 years, and he said that has played a role in his desire to run.

“I care deeply about New York State and I care deeply about the Huntington community,” Perez said. He described some of the efforts he’d like to see to stimulate the district’s economy by upgrading the infrastructure in the community.

“We have a problem from Pulaski Road to Jericho Turnpike,” he said. “We have a strip there that has no sewers so that impedes development from investors to come in.”

Perez serves on the town’s zoning board of appeals.

“If we get the infrastructure of sewers going in, and it can be done in phases, we could get other types of businesses coming in,” he said. “Investors are not going to come in and invest in your community unless you have the sewers there.”

Lupinacci’s approach to stimulating the local economy focuses on higher education.

“A few years back we instituted a program that if you graduate in the top 20 percent of your high school class majoring in a STEM program, you can go to a SUNY or CUNY school for free as long as you’re staying five years in New York state afterwards,” the incumbent said. He said he’d like to see something similar done to funnel students toward community colleges. “We wanted to make sure that we would allow better tax credits for the students who are graduating and staying in New York afterwards because we want to give them an incentive to stay here.”

A central component of Lupinacci’s platform is to root out political corruption in the Assembly and across New York’s government. He helped to pass legislation to stop politicians found guilty of corruption from receiving taxpayer-funded pensions and said he plans to keep fighting in that direction.

“We need to make the Assembly more transparent in the coming years, and also limit outside income in terms of what legislators make,” Lupinacci said. He added he’d like to see Assembly committee meetings televised and term limits for all members.

The common ground in election oversight, and the claims of a “rigged” election made by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump were addressed by both candidates.

“It is not a rigged system,” Perez said. “Nobody wants to go to jail because they’re not doing the appropriate thing at the board of elections.”

Lupinacci wouldn’t support his party’s nominee’s claims of an unfair system.

“I think our board of elections workers are great people and they’re very good on Long Island, but there are problems some times when the elections are very close,” he said. “We do have recounts and such [when elections are close]. Do I think the election is rigged? No.”

Violence has become an issue at the forefront of daily life in the district. The incumbent discussed some of what he’s done to combat the issue and some of his future plans.

“We’ve been working along with [New York State Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosett)] and people in the community to increase cameras in the area, so not only in terms of actual police officers but more surveillance in the area to see what’s going on,” Lupinacci said. He added that community outreach programs and a stimulated economy could also help.

Perez commended Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) for increasing patrols by park rangers in town parks as a means to improve security in the community. He added that economic development and improvement of infrastructure could also help to reduce crime in the area.

“It’s about economic development and socioeconomic issues which makes kids sell drugs and get involved with gangs,” he said. “I think that looking at infrastructure is very important.”

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