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Democrat

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As the primary season in New York comes to a close, with real estate mogul Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton winning the night for the Republicans and the Democrats, respectively, one of the more lingering questions is whether to have open or closed primaries.

New York has a closed primary system, meaning only voters who are registered with a certain political party may vote in that party’s primary. That left millions of independent voters out of the race entirely, making many call instead for an open primary, in which voters are not required to declare an affiliation before casting a vote in a single party’s primary race.

If they had gotten involved earlier, those independents did have methods to participate in Tuesday’s primary, if they so desired. Their deadlines to register with the Board of Elections passed in October.

Our editorial board does not support an open primary. People not affiliated with an institution should not have equal rights to its members to decide how that institution should run and who should lead it.

An open primary also leaves room for abuse. The voting system in New York — and nationwide — has already seen its fair share of that, with issues like dead people somehow casting ballots in presidential races. In an open primary, less honest people would vote for the weakest candidate in one party just so the nominee they support in the opposite party has a better shot at winning. That’s not fair and it’s not the way our system should work.

New York’s primary voting system is best in its current form. Let’s leave the party votes in the hands of its actual members.

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.”

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By Phil Corso

A difference in philosophy underscored the race between an incumbent Republican legislator and his Democratic challenger.

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) was first elected to the Suffolk County Legislature in 2013 and said his first term in office opened his eyes to the county’s financial woes. But to keep working at it, he must first win re-election against Kings Park resident Richard Macellaro.

The two sat down in the Times Beacon Record Newspapers newsroom last week to discuss their campaigns and demonstrate why they deserved to represent the county’s 13th District, which encompasses Smithtown, Fort Salonga, Kings Park, Nissequogue, St. James, Commack, Head of the Harbor and East Northport. Trotta kicked it off with strong rhetoric.

“It’s been an eye-opening experience over the past two years. I am shocked and saddened at how bad the county is fiscally,” Trotta said, highlighting the crux of his concerns looking ahead in the Legislature. “I’ve seen serious, serious problems. Worse than anybody even knows.”

The legislator said the looming threat of the county’s bond rating being reduced coupled with the growing sentiment that it’s too expensive to live in Suffolk have made his job all the more challenging. The blame, Trotta said, rests on out-of-control spending, too much union involvement in politics, and too much money being tossed around in campaign contributions.

A mismanagement of funding was at the heart of almost everything Trotta discussed as key campaign concerns. He cited recent development — part of a downtown revitalization plan — in Wyandanch as “overkill” and cautioned that communities like Kings Park would benefit from his voice of concern as the community looks toward a similar revitalization.

Democrat Richard Macellaro. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Democrat Richard Macellaro. Photo by Rohma Abbas

“Kings Park is a diamond in the rough, and we have a plan there when it comes to sewers,” he said. “But we don’t want it to be another Patchogue.”

Macellaro — who identified himself as a “new kid on the block” when it comes to seeking political office, despite unsuccessful bids for the state Assembly in 2010 and Smithtown’s Town Board in 2013 — said he wanted to put his experience as a civic member of the Kings Park community to work. With the campaign slogan “A different voice, a different choice,” the Kings Park resident said he hoped to use the office to prevent an increase in property taxes by consolidating all the county’s school districts, allocating just one per town. While a move like that does not rest in the hands of a Suffolk County legislator, Macellaro said he would use his office as a bully pulpit to enact the change.

“It can be done,” he said. “Someone has to begin to force the school districts to lessen property taxes for our residents.”

Another important issue he said he planned on addressing, if elected, was working to construct an all-encompassing master plan for the county. Doing so, he said, would revitalize downtowns throughout the county, enhance transportation and ultimately help entice young families to stay in Suffolk.

Beyond finances, Trotta said he was not a proponent of the county’s Red Light Safety Program, which utilizes cameras at traffic signals to catch and ticket cars that run red lights. He argued that some of its regulations, including the right-on-red violations, are nothing more than a money grab on innocent residents. But Macellaro, who has worked for the county’s traffic and parking violations agency in the red light division, said he disagreed.

“I think the government is functioning very well,” he said. “Taxes are what we pay for the lifestyle we choose.”

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Kara Hahn photo by Desirée Keegan

By Elana Glowatz

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn said she wants a third term in office to continue working on protecting public health, while Republican challenger Donna Cumella said she wants to focus on Suffolk County’s finances.

Donna Cumella photo by Desirée Keegan
Donna Cumella photo by Desirée Keegan

Hahn (D-Setauket) has spent much of her two terms in the 5th Legislative District on environmental and public safety issues, crafting a bill that put Narcan, an antidote for opioid overdoses, into the hands of first responders and another that set the gears into motion to ban tiny plastic pellets called microbeads that pollute our water supply, among others. But in a recent debate at the Times Beacon Record Newspapers office, Cumella said while that work is important, the county’s fiscal state is a more pressing issue.

The challenger, a Port Jefferson Station resident, said county officials, in crafting budgets, habitually overstate county revenues and understate expenses, creating a serious deficit.

“Projections far exceeded what the reality was,” she said, referring specifically to county estimates on sales tax revenue.

She said borrowing is “out of control” and called for a smaller government.

But Hahn fought the idea that the county is spiraling.

“Our debt burden is manageable,” she said, adding that Suffolk tends to pay off its debt quickly and legislators always look for ways to decrease borrowing. About the size of government, she noted that the county has been reduced by about 1,200 positions in the last few years.

Kara Hahn photo by Desirée Keegan
Kara Hahn photo by Desirée Keegan

The incumbent also said that a certain amount of debt is unavoidable, because “you can’t pay cash for everything.”

Cumella and Hahn agreed that neighborhood revitalization is important. The Republican emphasized that the county could get help from state and federal grants to push along the projects. The Democrat stressed that the county needs to grow its number of high-paying jobs and said she has an idea to boost the economy by training workers for technology-based positions at Suffolk County Community College.

There were not many other similarities between the two women. One of the ways the candidates stood apart was on their methods for improving the county’s cash flow. Cumella said the county should be sharing more services with other municipalities, specifically local towns, and Hahn said she has been holding meetings on finding new revenue streams, such as penalizing polluters like those who use certain fertilizers on their lawns.

The legislator is looking for another term because she is “deeply committed to making a difference” and there is still work to be done. She has been working on initiatives to raise awareness of chemicals used in dry cleaning, affecting water quality and public health; to make it easier for people to safely get rid of leftover prescription medication; and to change the way the county addresses domestic violence and its victims.

Cumella, on the other hand, spoke against partisanship in the Legislature and said getting the county’s finances in order will help keep young people on Long Island.

“We need to keep our families together,” she said.

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Smithtown Councilman Bob Creighton. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Thursday’s Republican primary in Smithtown saw an incumbent fall to the bottom of the pack in the town board race, but only by a slim margin.

Councilman Bob Creighton (R) came in third out of three candidates seeking the Republican line in November’s general election. The other two, incumbent Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) and challenger Lisa M. Inzerillo came in first and second, respectively, all but assuring them Republican spots, according to unofficial Suffolk County Board of Elections results.

By Friday morning, Wehrheim had collected 40.49 percent of the vote — 1,673 total votes — and Inzerillo earned 31.27 percent, or 1,292 total votes. Creighton came in close behind Inzerillo with 27.81 percent — 1,149 votes.

Creighton had focused much of his primary bid on development in Smithtown that he said could attract new business to the community. He has served on the Smithtown Town Board since 2008 and has been a longtime ally of Wehrheim, often aligning with him in critical votes put before the board over recent years.

“There are still some 200-odd absentee ballots to count, but I have no illusions about that,” Creighton said. “I lost — period.”

Creighton said he attributed part of the loss to low voter turnout, with just about seven percent of Smithtown Republicans hitting the polls. The councilman also said he had full intentions of still running on the Independent, Conservative and Reform party lines come November, whether or not absentee ballots salvage his primary bid later next week.

Wehrheim has been on the board since 2003 and said in a previous interview that he would like to use another term to work on funding more projects to revitalize Smithtown’s downtown area. In a phone interview, the councilman said torrential downpours throughout the voting hours on Thursday may have had an impact on voter turnout, which was slightly lower than the average primary.

“I am very pleased with my position as number-one in the race, but I do believe the weather certainly had an affect on the voter turnout,” he said. “The board, as of late, is fairly divided, but I have a long tenure with the town and I will continue to do what I’ve always done. I will go in there, and work on behalf of the Smithtown resident.”

Inzerillo, a business owner from Kings Park, focused her campaign on making Smithtown’s downtown business district more vibrant. She declared victory following Thursday’s vote in a statement, looking forward to discussing the town’s most pressing issues.

“This grassroots campaign, fueled by family and friends, has inspired and humbled me and I am ready to represent the Republican Party in November,” she said.

Both Creighton’s and Wehrheim’s seats on the board will be up for a vote come November, with the incumbents facing off against Inzerillo and Democrat Larry Vetter, who announced his candidacy earlier this year. The winners will join incumbents not up for re-election, Supervisor Pat Vecchio, Councilman Tom McCarthy and Councilwoman Lynne Nowick — all Republicans.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to include comments from Councilman Bob Creighton and Councilman Ed Wehrheim.

Susan Berland is seeking reelection to the Huntington Town Board. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) has made the Huntington Town Council her full time job since her inaugural election in 2001. She pledged, when she was first running for election, that she would stop practicing law and dedicate all her time to the board.

“I think the job really deserves that,” she said. “I’m the one who’s in the office, 95 percent of the time, when people come into the office to see a councilmember; I’m the one they get. I do a lot more events than anyone else does because I can and because I want to.”

On Monday, Berland sat down for an interview, at Book Revue in Huntington, to discuss her past achievements on the Huntington Town Board, and her campaign for re-election this November. She had just returned from a weekend away, helping her youngest son move into Yale University for his freshman year. Berland and her husband, Sandy Berland, live in Dix Hills and have four children: Stephanie, Alex, Schuyler and Grant.

“She is a person of action,” John Cooney, commander of Northport American Legion Post 694, said in a phone interview. “Susan has worked tirelessly on behalf of veterans in the community. We hold many different events, and in my 16 years, I have never seen Susan absent from one. I’m proud of what she’s done for this community; she follows through and listens.”

Berland was first elected to replace U.S. Rep. Steve Israel’s (D-Huntington) seat, when he won his seat in the House of Representatives in 2001. She previously worked on Israel’s Town Board campaign, and once he was re-elected, he asked her to work in the town attorney’s office to prosecute code violations.

When she first got into office, Berland moved to make government more transparent.

She said her first piece of legislation the board approved made parts of the town’s government more accessible. The Fair, Open and Accountable Government Act requires the zoning and planning boards to have their meetings in a public hearing room — the town board room at Huntington Town Hall. According to Berland, before she came into office that was not the case.

“I fought for 10 years to get the town’s television channel because I wanted town board meetings to be televised,” she said. “I’m really an advocate of open and accessible government.”

She thinks people need to have access to these meetings.

“If people have the opportunity to watch town board meetings in the comfort of their own homes, they’ll be more inclined to watch it.”

Huntington Town has its share of blighted homes — another issue Berland’s addressed with legislation.

“We don’t have rows and rows of houses that are blighted, we have one on each street,” she said. “They come as a patchwork, but it affects the street it’s on tremendously, and I think that’s important to people.”

In order to fight the blighted houses, Berland’s legislation created a new system that assesses if a house should be put on a townwide blight registry. If the property is added to the list, the owners are hit with a fine from the town and are allotted a certain amount of time to fix the problems with their property. If the owner doesn’t do so before the allotted deadline, the town pays for the cleanup of the property, and the money it costs the town to right all the problems is then added to that property owner’s tax bill.

When speaking to crime in Huntington Station, Berland said, “It’s always good to have cops on the beat.”

“The more they’re in the community and get to know the community, the better it is. For a lot of people, if you know the officer and have a relationship with the officer, I think you’re less likely to do something you shouldn’t do.”

Berland believes that large-scale projects that require a zone change, like The Seasons at Elwood, a 256-unit 55-and-older condo home community, and Benchmark Senior Living, a proposed 69-unit assisted living facility, are not issues of overdevelopment.

“I voted in favor of the Seasons,” she said. “Anytime we can create senior housing, where our seniors stay here and aren’t leaving, I think that’s a benefit. But you have to watch the density numbers.”

She originally voted no to Avalon Huntington Station, because of the number of units they wanted to fit in per acre. When Avalon compromised months later and reduced the number of units, Berland voted yes.

Berland has also been involved in legislation that benefits the youth of Huntington Town. According to Berland, the Huntington Youth Council, which is comprised of students from each of the town’s school districts, meet to discuss issues that affect students today.

When asked about her opponent’s support of term limits, as Berland is seeking her fifth term in office, she said, “the best manifestation of term limits is elections.”