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12th Assembly District

From left, New York State Assemblyman Andrew Raia and Democratic challenger Michael Marcantonio. File photo, photo from Facebook

New York 12th Assembly District Democratic candidate is facing allegations that he has not lived in the state long enough to run for office.

District residents Ralph Notaristefano, Paul D’Alessio and Kathleen Barnhart filed a lawsuit July 25 in New York State Supreme Court contending Democratic challenger Michael Marcantonio does not meet New York’s residency requirements.

When you change your car registration and open up a new voting registration in another state and that state says you must be resident of that state to vote, that’s pretty clear cut for me.”

— Andrew Raia

Under state law, any candidate for state office must show he or she has resided within the state for a minimum of five years and in the assembly district for one year.

Current state Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) said the more contentious issue in the lawsuit is whether Marcantonio, 31, has been a resident for the mandatory five years.

Marcantonio attended law school at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, where he registered to vote in the 2012 presidential election as an enrolled student from 2012 to 2015.

“When you change your car registration and open up a new voting registration in another state and that state says you must be resident of that state to vote, that’s pretty clear cut for me,” Raia said.

In a July 30 press conference at Cow Harbor Park in Northport, Marcantonio said he believes his right to run is protected under the U.S. Supreme Court decision Symm v. United States (1979), which he said allows for students right to vote without losing their residency.

“Merely registering to vote as a student out of state is not enough to eviscerate your residency in this state as a New Yorker,” he said.

Marcantonio remained on North Carolina’s voter lists until he graduated with his legal degree in 2015, He changed his registration to New York for the 2016 presidential primary, and cast a ballot in the last Northport school board election.

The Democratic candidate said if he loses the lawsuit, he fears it could bar young people from voting while attending out-of-state school and then coming back to run for office.

“What we’re seeing today is an assault on young people,” Marcantonio said. “If we lose this lawsuit every single New Yorker who goes out of state for school and [vote,] they would be barred from running for office for five years after they graduate school.”

Merely registering to vote as a student out of state is not enough to eviscerate your residency in this state as a New Yorker.”

— Michael Marcantonio

Raia said that if anyone wants to run for office after they attend school out of state that they should send absentee ballots. Marcantonio countered that filing absentee ballots is too difficult for young people because they have to get it notarized. One has to get a absentee ballot notarized in South Dakota and North Carolina, according to Vote.org.

Raia said Marcantonio does not primarily reside in Northport, but rather lives in a New York City apartment closer to where he works at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis. Marcantonio has taken an unpaid leave of absence from his job to campaign, saying his main residence is his Northport family home, Marcantonio said he keeps a city apartment to use when he’s too tired to travel after work.

Raia also argued that Marcantonio is not well connected to the district. Marcantonio had raised more than $100,000 by July, more than double Raia’s campaign, according to financial disclosures filed with the state Board of Elections. Yet, only approximately $1,500 of the Democrat’s war chest came from nonfamily members in the voting area. Marcantonio said he expects his campaign to acquire more local donations in the months before the election.

Judge Richard Horowitz of the New York State Supreme Court is presiding over the case. The date was postponed but both parties are now due in court Aug. 17.

Marcantonio said he expects to win the lawsuit. “Northport is a great place to grow up — it made me who I am today,” he said. “I want to spend the rest of my life here, raise kids and send them to the same great schools I went to.”

Michael Marcantonio speaks at his July 30 press conference. Photo by Kyle Barr

Northport native Michael Marcantonio said his life has been shaped by two major events of the 21st century, 9/11 and the Great Recession, that now define his first campaign for political office.

Marcantonio, 31, is running as the Democratic candidate for New York State’s 12th Assembly District against incumbent, Andrew Raia (R-Northport) in the upcoming Nov. 6 election. A self-identified millennial, he seeks to address theissues of high taxes, public transportation and LIPA lawsuit that he feels threaten Long Island’s future.

Born in Huntington Hospital, Marcantonio said growing up during 9/11 and the Iraq War colored his vision of the United States as a country while attending Northport High School. He said the 2008 financial crash and subsequent recession greatly affected his ability to get a job after graduating from Lafayette College in Pennsylvania in 2009.

There is a mass exodus on Long Island of young people who can no longer afford to live here.”

— Michael Marcantonio

“It was a disaster for many people in my generation, but it’s remained hard,” Marcantonio said. “I was fortunate that I had a family that was able to weather that storm, but your whole life can’t start when you’re still living at home without a job.”

In 2012, the first-time political candidate enrolled at Duke University in North Carolina to earn his doctorate in law. After returning to New York in 2015, he was hired by the Manhattan office of law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP as an associate, where he and many other young partners work close to 80 hours a week. He considers himself a part of the young generation who have had to struggle with the high cost of living on Long Island, which has been worse for youth than other areas, he said.

“We are working much harder, much longer with and much less job security than we ever have before,” Marcantonio said. “People our age would be getting involved more if it weren’t for these structural hurdles that have been holding us back. … There is a mass exodus on Long Island of young people who can no longer afford to live here.”

We are getting gouged in taxes on Long Island — we are getting absolutely soaked.”

— Michael Marcantonio

Marcantonio said he is running in support of the youth on Long Island, and he is currently battling a lawsuit that contends he does not meet the five-year requirement for living in the 12th Assembly District because he registered to vote in North Carolina where he went to school. Marcantonio considers the lawsuit an assault on young people’s ability to run for office.

One of Marcantonio’s main campaign promises is to upgrade Long Island’s infrastructure, starting with investing in rebuilding Long Island Rail Road. He also called for an expansion of Suffolk County sewers to replace cesspools he said are affecting the water supply. He added that Albany should foot the bill to pay for those upgrades.

This is not a Suffolk County specific problem, this is a New York problem,” Marcantonio said. “Suffolk County should not have to borrow at higher interest rates because we have less borrowing power than the state.

He said he plans to advocate for strengthening unions in both the public and private sector, to make higher education more affordable and for more public sector job opportunities in areas such as health care, teaching and construction.

This lawsuit is a total fraud, an utter and total fraud, and we are going to fight this.”

— Michael Marcantonio

“The decks are stacked against us,” Marcantonio said. “You can’t even raise a family on a private sector job because you don’t have the job security, and you’re not getting the pay you would get to sustain a family. We don’t have as much access to credit if we would want to buy a home.”

He also said that there cannot be any further state tax increases on Long Island, in order to lower the area’s high cost of living.

“We are getting gouged in taxes on Long Island — we are getting absolutely soaked,” he said.

The Town of Huntington is currently in the midst of an eight-year ongoing legal battle due to the Long Island Power Authority lawsuit over the value of Northport Power Station, as LIPA claims it has been overtaxed. LIPA is seeking a 90 percent reduction of its annual taxes, a difference of approximately $56 million and growing. Marcantonio said he believes the town should not have to pay a dime in back pay.

“This lawsuit is a total fraud, an utter and total fraud, and we are going to fight this,” Marcantonio said. “We need a legislative contingency plan.”

Spencer Rumsey, left, and Andrew Raia, right, speak about why they would make the best choice for Assemblyman in the 12th district. Photos by Desirée Keegan

N.Y. State Assemblyman Andy Raia (R-East Northport) is seeking his ninth term in office, but Northport resident and senior editor at the Long Island Press Spencer Rumsey is looking to change the Assembly’s 12th district.

In an interview at TBR News Media’s main office, Rumsey said he is running because he believes his constituents need a change in leadership.

“I’m not a career politician, but I’ve always loved politics,” Rumsey said. “As a journalist, I’ve been covering these issues for years on the outside and now I want to try and fight them on the inside, because I decided words aren’t enough.”

Rumsey has worked at Newsday, the New York Post and the Long Island Jewish World. He said he believes he can do more in the majority as a Democrat than Raia can achieve in the minority.

Raia has been serving the district for the past 16 years, and said he has focused on improving the drinking water in the area, slowing the rising heroin crisis facing the North Shore, and cleaning up corruption in Albany.

“This year we did a lot for water quality up in Albany,” Raia said. “Northport Village is one of the few local governments that’s actually getting a million dollar grant. … I was very happy to help deliver on that.” The grant will go towards water and sewer improvements.

Raia also sponsored legislation requiring schools to periodically test their water supplies for lead contamination and provide funding for remediation, which would otherwise be costly to school districts. Lead in drinking water has become a national concern since the residents in Flint, Michigan, suffered from health problems after they discovered their drinking water was contaminated with lead.

Rumsey agreed Long Island should be looking to cut back the amount of nitrogen in the water supply with more sewer use.

“On Long Island, most homeowners don’t have sewers, they have cesspools,” he said, adding he would like to see an effort to increase the amount of sewers on Long Island.

Northport Village has been no stranger to the growing heroin problem, and Raia and Rumsey both had ideas on how to curb this issue.

Rumsey said he has been writing about this issue since he was at Newsday 30 years ago.

“It’s a medical problem and a criminal problem,” he said. “I’m more focused on treatment for addiction.” He said he finds a problem with clean needle exchange programs because they rely too much on trusting addicts to make safe choices, and would rather look towards increasing the amount of treatment programs available for North Shore residents.

Raia said he thinks heroin is one of the most pressing issues in his district.

“As the ranking member on the health committee, this is an issue that I take extremely serious,” he said. Raia said he has held classes to train residents how to use Narcan and worked with other members of the Assembly to pass a package of bills to increase the number of treatment beds and services in New York, as well as to reduce the prescription time frame from 30 days to two weeks.

The candidates also talked about problems with the New York State tax cap.

Raia said he believes the tax cap has worked well, but it is not “without its problems.” He said the behavior of large tax increases in towns and villages has been curbed thanks to the cap.

“The cap kind of suppresses the creativity that schools used to have,” Rumsey said, as part of the issues he said he has with the cap.