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Carl Marcellino

Democrat challenger Jim Gaughran upset incumbent Carl Marcellino by winning the race for New York state's 5th Senate District. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Democratic Party found Election Day success at both the national and local levels, winning enough Congressional races to flip the U.S. House of Representatives away from Republican control in addition to grabbing the majority in the state Senate.

Incumbent 3rd Congressional District U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) secured 57 percent of the vote against Republican challenger Dan DeBono for another term. He will begin his next term as part of the new House majority.

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!” Suozzi posted on his campaign’s Facebook page. “It is an honor to serve.”

In New York, the long-billed “blue wave” also hit the state Senate where five Democratic challengers successfully unseated incumbents and three more won open seats, to create a new Democratic majority. The flip will put all three houses of the state government in the hands of the same party beginning in January 2019.

“I’m so grateful to the people of Nassau and Suffolk counties for giving me the opportunity to represent them.”

— Jim Gaughran

Democratic challenger Jim Gaughran, of Northport, was among the five party successes by unseating incumbent state Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) in the 5th Senate District. Gaughran won by approximately 14,000 votes, receiving 53 percent of the total ballots cast.

“I’m just overwhelmed with the number of volunteers that came in and worked to help my campaign, it really made the difference” he said. “I’m so grateful to the people of Nassau and Suffolk counties for giving me the opportunity to represent them.”

The victory shows a significant change since the 2016 election, in which Gaughran had previously run unsuccessfully against Marcellino for the seat, losing by a narrow margin of roughly 2,000 votes. The Democrat said he believed increased political awareness of the issues on a statewide level and media coverage contributed to his 2018 midterm success.

“I think this year people focused more on the state Senate,” Gaughran said. “The Republican majority not allowing votes on measures such as Red Flag Bill for gun safety, saw the need for change. They wanted to start to move forward.”

Marcellino could not be reached for comment by press time Nov. 7. The Democrat did offer kind words to his opponent.

I think Sen. Marcellino should be congratulated for his 23 years of dedicated service to the people of his district,” he said.

“I strongly believe that I continue to have the ongoing support of my community because I continue to deliver results.”

— Steve Stern

New York state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) won re-election to the 2nd District and will continue his more than 30-year tenure, defeating challenger Kathleen Cleary by about 11 percentage points. Flanagan will relinquish his spot as Senate Majority Leader with the Democrats seizing control. He could not be reached for comment by press time Nov. 7.

“I did not win, but we made sure that the issues important to us: women’s reproductive health, the Child Victims Act, ERPO, [the New York Health Act] were discussed and now that the [state] Senate has flipped to blue these bills will be passed,” Cleary posted on her campaign’s Facebook page.

In the state Assembly, Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) has been elected to his first full-term in office representing the 10th District receiving 57 percent of the vote against first-time Republican challenger Jeremy Williams, of Huntington Station. His win puts the seat solidly in Democratic Party control, as the district was previously a Republican stronghold for more than 30 years until Stern’s historic win in the April special election against candidate Janet Smitelli.

“I strongly believe that I continue to have the ongoing support of my community because I continue to deliver results,” Stern said.

The Democrat said he does believe that the flip in the state Senate could open up new doors and avenues for legislation.

“There’s certainly an opportunity that did not exist before to have important legislative initiatives that I would be able to pass in the Assembly to now have a parter in the Senate,” he said. “It does provide the opportunity to have a working majority in the Senate.”

Thank you, Huntington voters, for showing your faith in me and electing me as your councilwoman. “

—Joan Cergol

State Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) has been re-elected to his ninth term representing the constituents of the 12th Assembly District over Democratic challenger Avrum Rosen, of Centerport. Raia previously told TBR News Media, if re-elected, he planned to reintroduce state legislation he co-sponsored this year relating to the Long Island Power Authority’s tax certiorari case against the Town of Huntington. The bill would have allowed the town to spread out any tax rate changes over a 15-year period and granted access to state funds to stabilize taxes, but never made it to the floor for a vote.

In the Town of Huntington, Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) was elected to serve as a town council member over Republican challenger James Leonick as she received approximately 53 percent of the vote.

“Thank you, Huntington voters, for showing your faith in me and electing me as your councilwoman,” Cergol posted on her Facebook page Wednesday morning. “It was thrilling to watch your votes come in. Together, we did this!”

Leonick could not be reached for comment prior to press time.

Reporting contributed by Kyle Barr and Rita J. Egan.

Carl Marcellino. Photo by Alex Petroski

The 5th Senate District is one of the key battlegrounds where incumbent Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) is facing a challenge from Democrat, Northport attorney Jim Gaughran for the second time as the Republican Party tries to hold on to its razor-thin, one-vote majority in the state Senate. We endorse Sen. Carl Marcellino for his record and experience.

Two years ago, Marcellino clung onto his seat by edging out Gaughran by a mere 1,761 votes, or roughly 1.2 percent of the more than 145,000 ballots cast.

Since 2016, there have been extreme changes to the political landscape. President Donald Trump (R) took office. The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, put gun control back at the center of our attention. The parties have major differences in how to go about providing affordable access to health care insurance. Key legal decisions in Long Island Power Authority’s tax certiorari lawsuit against the Town of Huntington and Northport-East Northport school district have raised concerns about its potential impact if the utility company wins.

Keeping the 5th Senate District’s seat in the hands of Marcellino would be one step toward hopefully
ensuring the state government’s branches are balanced between the parties. We remember the lopsided policies, fraud and corruption that tend to occur when one party dominates.

However, doubts have been raised about Marcellino’s personal health. If you favor a younger representative with less experience but more spark, Gaughran offered intelligent ideas as to legislation he would pursue. 

New York State sen. Carl Marcellino will face a challenge from Democrat Jim Gaughran Nov. 6. Photos by Alex Petroski

It’s a political rematch two years in the making for New York State’s 5th Senate District.

Incumbent Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset), who was first elected to office in a 1995 special election, currently represents the mixed district consisting of Nassau and Suffolk residents. He claims to have successfully gotten 275 laws passed and serves as chairman of the Senate
Education Committee.

Democrat Jim Gaughran, of Northport, is a sole-practitioner attorney of nearly 30 years experience and current chairman of Suffolk County Water Authority. He’s previously served as a councilman for the Town of
Huntington and a Suffolk County legislator. In the 2016 race, he came up short against Marcellino by a slim margin of 
1,761 votes, or roughly 1.2 percent of the roughly 145,000 ballots cast.s. Now, he eyes an office in the state Senate.

“One of the primary differences is the senator is very happy with the way things are going, the way Albany works,” Gaughran said. “I think there’s a lot we need to do in Albany that hasn’t been done.”

Both candidates sat down for an exclusive interview with TBR News Media on state and local issues.

Education

The challenger recognizes that the federal government’s action to cap state and local tax deductions at $10,000 will pose a financial challenge to homeowners. If elected, he’d like to use it as a reason to increase state funding of public schools, while gradually cutting property taxes.

“To me, public education should be the No. 1 funding priority for the State of New York, period,” he said.

Gaughran said he believes there are too many unfunded mandates on schools, the state needs to provide funds for projects, and would like to decouple state testing scores from teacher evaluations.

Marcellino claimed he has increased state aid to school districts by approximately $1,500 per pupil while serving as state education chair. He supports the 2 percent state-mandated tax cap to keep taxes under control. Marcello said he also believes the state needs to study and review efficiency of school programs it sponsors and pays for. The incumbent said part of that burden also falls on school districts to be careful with what programs they introduce, ensure they are needed and all districts should consider consolidation.

Infrastructure

One area Gaughran said he’d like to see Long Island receive more funding is for infrastructure, particularly relating to improving water quality. He will fight for more state funding to upgrade sewer treatment facilities to state-of-the-art  technology and expand sewers. The Democrat said the biggest issue faced in Suffolk is to improve the water quality by replacing current cesspools with microsewers. He believed the state should provide tax incentives and grants.

Marcellino said he’s a strong proponent of environmental protection, citing his work requiring notification prior to pesticide application and a bill written to reform the state’s cleanup of brownfield and superfund sites in the early 2000s.

“Preserving of our open space and our clean air, preserving green fields is a key element here. It’s important we move forward with that and we do more of it,” he said. “Frankly, not enough is being done and we need to do more.”

The incumbent said the state needs to do more to partner with lower levels of government, help out financially where possible and supports offering state tax incentives.

LIPA’s lawsuit over Northport power plant

Town of Huntington and Northport-East Northport school district residents have been calling on elected officials for their help and assistance this year in mitigating any impact Long Island Power Authority’s tax certiorari case could have on local property owners as it moves toward a trial.

Gaughran said he was a member of Huntington Town Board when the original agreement was made for LIPA taking over the Northport Power Station and believed that the town should be protected in the tax certiorari case.

“The state needs to support the Town of Huntington and its residents,” the Democratic challenger said.

Marcellino cited his efforts to aid the town and school district by drafting and co-sponsoring a bill that would have spread out the difference in taxes over a 15-year period and allowed access to state funds to offset any tax revenue difference. He said he would support possible LIPA reform and changes that he felt would benefit his constituents, but any action would need to be carefully thought through and studied in advance for potential ramifications.

His challenger said he would look to reform LIPA in two ways: First would be to make appointment to its board a process of government approval and confirmation by the state Senate; and, second, he would look to force the utility company go before the state’s Public Service Commission for approval of its consumer fees and rates.

Ethics reform

If elected, Gaughran said he would like to push for real ethic laws in New York State politics. As former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D) appeals a public corruption conviction, the Democratic challenger said he fears others may be using public office for private benefit. He proposes to force state elected officials to not have outside employment while serving in state Legislature and push for campaign financial reform to close existing loopholes.

“We are capable of policing ourselves,” Marcellino replied. “No one likes to see someone game the system.”

The incumbent said to force state elected officials to give up outside income would cause many talented individuals to leave office, and anticipates those remaining as full-time legislators to request an increase in pay. He said changes like those proposed by Gaughran would require a statewide public referendum.

“Their ability to make change happen is there, but it’s not that simple,” Marcellino said.

Huntington Town Councilwoman Susan Berland, Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone, John Ross, Senator Carl Marcellino, Asharoken Mayor Greg Letica, Congressman Steve Israel and Asharoken Deputy Mayor Pamela Pierce cut the ribbon at the new Asharoken Village Hall. Photo by Steve Silverman

The new Asharoken Village Hall officially opened its doors with a dedication ceremony on Nov. 24, ending a 10-year journey of replacing a battered building at the center of the village.

“So many people came to join in on the festivities,” Asharoken Trustee and Police Commissioner Mel Ettinger said, referring to the more than 100 residents who gathered with Mayor Greg Letica, the board of trustees, Congressman Steve Israel (D-Huntington) and New York State Senator Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset). “It made it a fantastic event and a phenomenal success in every way possible.”

The new village hall opened for business last month and is a large expansion from the previous building — the ground floor alone is about 3,000 square feet. There is a larger, improved space for the police station, and the whole thing was built to be more environmentally friendly and energy efficient, with LED lighting and spray-foam insulation.

According to a statement, Letica said at the dedication that the process to get to the finish line has been long, and that Ettinger was a key player from the start.

“The project to build a new village hall was actually started almost 10 years ago … initially as an expansion to our old village hall,” Letica said. But funding either an expansion or a construction of a new building was always a major concern.

Ettinger said he started organizing the renovation project when he first became police commissioner, and was told he could go ahead with it as long as it didn’t increase taxes. That was when Ettinger decided to raise the money through donations.

Asharoken Mayor Greg Letica and Trustee and Police Commissioner Mel Ettinger at the front entrance of the new village hall. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Asharoken Mayor Greg Letica and Trustee and Police Commissioner Mel Ettinger at the front entrance of the new village hall. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

“Within the first 10 days of announcing that, I received a check for $10,000 from a resident,” Ettinger said. “Before you knew it, people were sending in checks and pledges left and right. And within the next year and half, we already had $175,000.”

But when Hurricane Sandy hit three years ago, irreparably damaging the structure, the village ditched all plans of renovating it. Letica said the storm forced everyone in village hall to abandon the building and start an “urgent project” to erect a new one.

Joan Ettinger, Mel’s wife, formed the Asharoken Fundraising Committee, which according to Letica, ended up raising $360,000 from more than 200 residents and “has enabled the village to fund the cost of this beautiful building.”

Letica said funding was also made possible with help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which reimburses municipalities for repair work following natural disasters.

“Congressman Israel was extremely helpful with … processing our claim with FEMA and I am certain that if not for his personal support and efforts we would have not be able to receive the grant of $538,855,” Letica said.

He also said Marcellino helped the village obtain an additional $50,000 grant.

The total project cost about $950,000.

The new village trustee meeting room on the building’s first floor will soon have a donor board, where the names of people who have donated will be showcased.

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From unfunded mandates to grounds maintenance, school districts are burdened with many costs, but high energy bills don’t have to be one of them.

State Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) recently introduced legislation that would strengthen the state’s support of alternative energy systems in school districts. All types of alternative energy systems — whether solar, wind and/or geothermal  — would be eligible for state building aid. The legislation would also remove a requirement that has the systems meet an 18-year payback window in order to receive aid. These changes make sense, as they’ll empower school districts to go green while also saving taxpayers money.

A few school districts on the North Shore have discussed installing solar panels on their building roofs, while two — Miller Place and Three Village — are moving forward with plans to install the panels. In Miller Place, the panels are expected to save the district more than half its utility budget. In Three Village, by the time the project is paid off, the district could be saving hundreds of thousands of dollars.

While we encourage other school districts to investigate how alternative energy systems could help their districts reduce costs, we also hope they’ll continue searching for ways to reduce their energy consumption. Replacing an energy source with a clean alternative is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t do anything to address a greater energy consumption problem that pervades our communities, including in our schools.

Pol pitches bill to broaden alternative energy use

State Sen. Carl Marcellino is behind new legislation aimed at aiding schools to go green. File photo by Elana Glowatz

School districts looking to go green could see more green for it, if proposed state legislation to help school districts pay for alternative energy projects makes its way through Albany.

New York State Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) has sponsored legislation that would strengthen the state’s support for alternative energy in school districts. Currently, there’s state building aid available for the installation of wind and solar systems, but Marcellino’s legislation allows all types of alternative energy systems to be eligible for building aid.

Also, currently, only alternative energy systems that meet an 18-year payback window are eligible for aid, but Marcellino’s proposed law removes that requirement, according to Debbie Peck Kelleher, director of the state Senate Investigations and Government Operations Committee.

“It would allow all systems to get the building aid,” Kelleher said.

Most districts see an average reimbursement between 70 to 75 percent of the project cost, she said.
In an interview last week, Marcellino said school districts turning to alternative energies provide a boon to taxpayers, because of energy savings in utility costs over time.

“It’s a win-win all the way around.”

Marcellino’s legislation has been referred to the Senate’s education committee, and has support from assemblymen Chad Lupinacci (R-Melville) and Andy Raia (R-East Northport).

Long Island school officials have pondered solar panel installations, and some districts have embarked on projects of their own.

Last year, Miller Place school district green-lighted a $4.3 million project to install solar panels on the roofs of its four school buildings. The project qualified for $3.7 million in state aid, according to Danny Haffel, the executive director of energy solutions on Long Island of Johnson Controls, a Wisconsin-based technology and energy-savings solutions company that the district worked with. Haffel added that the project would save the district more than $243,000 — close to half of its utility budget — in annual energy costs.

Under the contract with Johnson Controls, the district, which would lease the panels for $362,528 a year over 15 years, would be guaranteed those savings, so that in case the savings are not realized through the solar panels, Johnson Controls would foot the bill.

“The Miller Place school district’s decision to pursue alternative energy projects including solar power will not only benefit the environment, but is anticipated to produce financial savings for the district,” Superintendent Marianne Higuera said in a statement. “If the use of alternative energy sources like solar can produce bottom-line cost savings for other school districts or municipalities like it is projected to do for our school district, then this option may be beneficial.”

Beefing up state aid to school districts for these kinds of systems is a good thing, Haffel said in an interview this week.

“What would be really cool and to me would make sense — which would in the long run help every school district and every taxpayer — is to make all renewable work 100 percent aidable and that the school district would receive 100 percent state aid,” he said. “Now you have no electric bill, and you just helped out the taxpayer for the rest of their lives.”

School administrators in Huntington and Northport-East Northport have considered going solar.

Julia Binger, president of the Northport-East Northport school board, said her district had discussions in the past about going solar, but found it to be too cost prohibitive. With this new legislation, combined with what officials have said is a drop in price for solar panels, going solar is “a question that would be worth reconsidering,” Binger said.

In Huntington, school board member Tom DiGiacomo noted that the district’s aging roofs could make solar costly for the district. But it’s still worth considering, he said.

“I think that we need to look at renewable energy as a way to saving money for school districts,” he said. “Quite honestly, the state should be empowering the school districts and the taxpayers ultimately to find ways to save money by using [renewable] energy.”

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