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Keith Barrett

But county Legislator Sarah Anker has just one-vote lead; longtime Smithtown board member ousted; and all local boards maintain huge majorities

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Legislator Sarah Anker are all smiles on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The incumbents won big on Suffolk County’s North Shore this Election Day, with only a couple real upsets at the county and town levels.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) handily won a second term at the helm against his Republican challenger, lawyer Jim O’Connor, with 57 percent of the vote.

Bellone thanked many people for his victory and also thanked his opponent for a “good race.”

Steve Bellone gives a speech after being re-elected Suffolk County executive. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Steve Bellone gives a speech after being re-elected Suffolk County executive. Photo by Rohma Abbas

“Tonight the people of Suffolk County delivered a mandate: to advance the issues we talked about in this campaign,” he said, at the Democratic Election Night headquarters in Hauppauge. “To continue the reform government so that we can protect taxpayers, make government more efficient and effective. To reverse the decades of decline that we have seen in water quality so that we can protect this precious natural resource for ourselves and future generations.”

He vowed that he would work hard for the voters.

“To the people of Suffolk County: I want to thank you for the confidence you placed in me and this incredible team of legislators. I can guarantee you we will repay that confidence by working hard every single day to make progress on the issues that matter to you and to you families. We may celebrate a little bit tonight but that work begins tomorrow.”

Though Bellone was the clear winner early on, O’Connor said he was proud of his campaign.

“I think we talked about the issues that need to be talked about here on Long Island,” he said.

Despite the results, the challenger enjoyed himself: “I love this. … In America we run for office, we put our ideas forward and we let the people decide.”

Steve Tricarico, Legislator Sarah Anker's Republican challenger, feels confident about a win on Election Day. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Steve Tricarico, Legislator Sarah Anker’s Republican challenger, feels confident about a win on Election Day. Photo by Giselle Barkley

In the Suffolk County Legislature, incumbents from Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington towns won re-election, one of them by a razor-thin margin: Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who represents the 6th District, was leading her challenger by just one vote after the polls closed. It was not immediately clear if absentee ballots would tilt the scales in the favor of Republican candidate Steve Tricarico, a Brookhaven Town deputy highway superintendent. But Anker said Tuesday night that she felt “cautiously optimistic.”

Tricarico felt the same way.

“I’m feeling very confident,” he said before results were in. “This shows … that people are looking for a change. That’s what I’ve been offering.”

According to Tricarico, Republican absentee ballots outnumbered those of the Democrats, which he said boosts his confidence.

But Suffolk County Democratic Party Chairman Rich Schaffer was calling it in the other direction: “Sarah Anker — mark my words — in about two weeks will be a newly re-elected legislator.”

Anker said her election demonstrates that each vote counts. Asked what could have led to such a close race, the legislator said she’s got the political cards stacked against her as a Democrat representing a largely Republican district.

Legislator Kara Hahn and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone embrace after both are re-elected. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Legislator Kara Hahn and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone embrace after both are re-elected. Photo by Rohma Abbas

“Most political strategists have never understood how I won it the past three times, much less this fourth time,” she said. “But I feel it’s because the people appreciate what I do. They’re looking for leadership.”

From there, it was smooth sailing. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), the 5th District legislator, beat Republican challenger Donna Cumella, of Port Jefferson Station, with 63 percent of the vote. In the 13th, Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) beat Kings Park Democrat Rich Macellaro with more than 70 percent of the total.

In Huntington, Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) won his final term in the 16th District against Republican attorney Tom McNally with 60 percent of the vote.

“We understand what’s on the minds of our constituents, we listen to our constituents, and we deliver for our constituents,” Stern said.

Also, Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) took the 18th District against his challenger from the right, Grant Lally, after garnering 56 percent of the votes.

“It’s exhilarating,” a joyous Spencer said. “It’s really is. After two years of hard work and six-month campaign, to really have the people recognize I’m giving my heart and soul to try to support us means a lot to me.”

Doc Spencer celebrates a win on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Doc Spencer celebrates a win on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Despite her loss, Cumella stayed positive and said she wouldn’t let this year’s election deter her from running for the same position in the future. She said she is now “a little bit more educated with the political arena.”

About her victory over that Republican, Hahn said, “I’m really gratified by the confidence the community has shown in me and I very much appreciate it and I plan to work just as hard as I’ve worked in the last four years.”

Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma), the 4th District legislator, and the 12th District’s Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) were effectively unopposed for re-election and secured their next terms.

“I’m ecstatic,” Muratore said. “Maybe we can bring some of our ideas to the table … We’re about doing the right things to people.”

Supervisor Ed Romaine celebrates his re-election as the head of Brookhaven Town. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Supervisor Ed Romaine celebrates his re-election as the head of Brookhaven Town. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Kennedy said she did not spend time campaigning and was pleased with the outcome.

“I want to go home and go to bed so I can wake up tomorrow ready to vote on the Operating Budget Committee board,” she said.

Brookhaven Town saw its supervisor, Ed Romaine (R), and its highway superintendent, Dan Losquadro (R), re-elected easily — Romaine won 72 percent of the votes against Democratic challenger Douglas Dittko and Losquadro beat out his own Democratic opponent, Jason Kontzamanys, with 69 percent of the voters’ support.

Romaine called his landslide victory “encouraging” and Losquadro said, “I really feel that this is a validation of the work that we’ve been doing in the town.”

“It’s such a big department, and really, for the fundamental services that people expect from their tax dollars are that their roads are safe, cleared of snow and debris, and I’m very excited to be given the opportunity to continue to do that work.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright go in for a kiss after both win re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright go in for a kiss after both win re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The three incumbents running for re-election to the Brookhaven Town Board on the North Shore were returned to their seats. Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) beat Republican challenger Ed Garboski, the president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association. She had 56 percent of the vote to his 44 percent.

“I worked really hard,” she said Tuesday night. “The community came together.”

She has no small task ahead of her. If all of the election results stand, she will be the only Democrat on the Town Board next year, after her effectively unopposed North Shore colleagues Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) and Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) won re-election, as did South Shore Republican Councilmen Dan Panico and Neil Foley. But Cartright’s lone Democratic colleague, Councilwoman Connie Kepert, was ousted by Republican challenger Michael Loguercio Jr.

“I’m kind of speechless, which isn’t normally the case for me,” Bonner said about winning by a large margin. “I’m super, super excited to get started, move forward. I can’t wait to get to work tomorrow.”

LaValle called his own win an “honor.”

Over in Huntington, town board incumbents Gene Cook (I) and Susan Berland (D) were returned to the board after a four-way race with 27 percent and 24 percent of the vote, respectively. Democratic challenger Keith Barrett and Republican challenger Jennifer Thompson fell short, each garnering about 22 percent of the vote.

“I can’t wait until tomorrow,” Cook said Tuesday night. “I felt good throughout today because I’m always honest and I think I’ve shown that in the last four years.”

Councilmen Ed Wehrheim and Bob Creighton discuss the Smithtown board election results. Photo by Phil Corso
Councilmen Ed Wehrheim and Bob Creighton discuss the Smithtown board election results. Photo by Phil Corso

Berland said she was “proud and humbled” to be re-elected.

“I just want to keep doing good things for the people of the town and making the town the best place it can possibly be,” she said.

Smithtown Town Board experienced a bit of an upset. Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) was re-elected to one of two board seats, after receiving 31 percent of the vote, but his colleague Bob Creighton (R) was unable to battle back after losing a Republican primary to newcomer Lisa Inzerillo.

Inzerillo was elected Tuesday night with 28 percent of the vote, as compared to Creighton’s 20 percent. The latter total was even lower than that of the lone Democratic candidate for Town Board, who lost after garnering just 22 percent of the vote.

Inzerillo held a private gathering at her home Tuesday night and did not respond to requests seeking comment, but took to her Facebook page to thank her team.

Larry Vetter says the people have spoken in choosing not to elect him. Photo by Kevin Redding
Larry Vetter says the people have spoken in choosing not to elect him. Photo by Kevin Redding

“I am grateful beyond words for all of the support I received from residents,” she said. “It is very humbling to know my grassroots campaign was successful. I look forward to working with the new town board and working for the residents that elected me.”

Wehrheim, who frequently works with Creighton on town projects, called Inzerillo’s win “a loss for Smithtown” and called his own victory “bittersweet” as he prepared to work with the newcomer. Creighton apologized to his room of supporters Tuesday night, adding that he was “sorry things didn’t work out.”

About his defeat, Vetter said, “The message is clear: The town didn’t want me. … Apparently the town is satisfied with what they have.”

Earlier in the night he had said, “If I lose and it’s tight, I might try again. If I get clobbered, I’m not gonna do it again.”

Rohma Abbas, Giselle Barkley, Phil Corso, Victoria Espinoza, Desirée Keegan, Kevin Redding and Eric Santiago contributed reporting.

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Keith Barrett. Photo by Elana Glowatz

By Victoria Espinoza

Parking in Huntington village, accessory apartments and town finances were just a few of the hot topics Huntington Town Board candidates tackled at a debate hosted by this newspaper on Oct. 23.

Councilwoman Susan Berland. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Councilwoman Susan Berland. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) and Councilman Gene Cook (I) are seeking re-election, and challengers Keith Barrett, a Democrat and Jennifer Thompson, a Republican, are in the running for two open seats.

Berland has been in office since 2001 and is seeking a fifth term, and Cook has been in office since 2011 and is seeking his second term.

Barrett is currently deputy director of general services for Huntington Town and president of the Huntington Station Business Improvement District. Thompson is a trustee on the Northport-East Northport school board.

The candidates first discussed issues Huntington businesses face.

“Upgrades take too long,” Barrett said, referring to planning applications. “It can be done faster if the building department was streamlined.”

Councilman Gene Cook. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Councilman Gene Cook. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Berland and Thompson echoed Barrett’s sentiments. Thompson said this slow process deters people from making changes to their businesses.

“I am consistently hearing it’s a tedious process,” Thompson said. “When people take that risk to open a business they should be rewarded. Town hall shouldn’t be a roadblock.”

Berland said she welcomes business owners to come into her office and meet with department heads to go through their plans. “I have various department heads come in,” Berland said. “We sit down and look at their plans and we have every department say what’s good and bad about the plan and what you need to change.”

Cook said the biggest challenge facing business owners is high taxes. He said he has never voted for Supervisor Frank Petrone’s budget because “there is mismanagement of money and misappropriations of funds.”

Candidates agreed accessory apartments are important but need much supervision and regulation.

Cook said that he likes the idea of accessory apartments, but they are “going a little bit crazy,” because people aren’t adhering to town guidelines. Cook said every accessory apartment resident should have a spot for a car in his or her driveway and not park on the street.

Keith Barrett. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Keith Barrett. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Thompson agreed that with the right exceptions and variances, the units are beneficial.

“I’m interested in looking case-to-case to see what makes sense for that particular area,” Thompson said. She also said the town should be looking at other models to see how they are handling issues like this.

Young people and seniors can both benefit from such housing, Barrett said.

“I think we need to be regulating these apartments,” Barrett said. ‘I drive around and see 10 cars on a driveway.”

Berland said she is an advocate of accessory apartments, and that she spearheaded legislation to ensure they are owner-occupied. “The big problem was when investors were coming in and buying these single-family houses and turning [them] into a multiple-resident, hotel kind of thing,” Berland said. “Which I think is inappropriate and ruins communities.”

Parking in Huntington village has been an issue many residents have sounded off on.

Jennifer Thompson. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Jennifer Thompson. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Thompson and Cook both backed an idea for a parking garage that they say wouldn’t cost taxpayers, Cook, the owner of a construction company, said developers come to him all the time looking for jobs, and that there are companies out there that would take on this project as a public-private partnership.

“At least let’s open the door to the conversation,” Cook said.

Barrett was not in favor of the idea.

“I’m not a big fan of the three-story parking garage,” Barrett said. “I would like to explore some other alternatives first.”

Barrett said he sees these parking garages as being very costly. He thinks the biggest reason parking is an issue is because the village’s employees take up all the spots. Barrett said he’s interested in following Atlantic City’s structure, where employees park remotely and are bussed into the downtown.

Berland said the idea with a parking garage is to have some sort of structure with businesses on the bottom that would help subsidize the costs of the spots. She also said that there is no such thing as a parking garage that doesn’t cost taxpayers.

Huntington Town Board candidates Gene Cook, Jennifer Thompson, Keith Barrett and Susan Berland talk issues at a debate in Elwood on Oct. 14. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Huntington Town Board candidates discussed development, term limits and more at a debate at the Elwood Public Library hosted by the Elwood Taxpayers Association on Wednesday, Oct. 14.

Two seats are up for grabs on the five-member board next month, and four contenders are in the running for the slots. Councilman Gene Cook (I) and Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) are both seeking re-election. Newcomers Jennifer Thompson, a Republican, and Keith Barrett, a Democrat, are looking for a first term.

In his opening statement, Cook said that he is such a strong believer in term limits that if he gets elected in November, he would “term-limit” himself voluntarily, pledging it would be his last run for the seat.

“It’s tough for those people to run that have never run before,” Cook said. “It’s an unfair advantage.”

Cook asked if every other candidate also believed in term limits and both Thompson and Barrett said they did.

“I think that most people come into office with the best of intentions, but the longer you’re there, the more susceptible you are to corruption,” Thompson said. “I do think that there also is benefit to having fresh perspectives and new ideas.” She also said that campaign funding is an uphill battle and incumbents make it a “David and Goliath situation” where it is very difficult for newcomers to raise matching amounts of funds.

Berland, however, said she does not believe in term limits.

“I believe elections are the best term limits,” she said. “If people want you to continue doing the job you’re doing, they’ll vote for you. If they’d rather have someone else do the job, they’ll vote for someone else.”

The most popular question of the night regarded the The Seasons at Elwood, and what each candidate’s opinion was of the project. The Seasons is a planned 256-unit condominium housing community geared towards residents 55 and older.

Cook said his opinion is on the town’s records, because he was the only town council member to vote against the project, which required a change of zone.

“When 5,500 residents who signed a petition against it and said ‘We don’t want it,’ I was right there behind you,” Cook said.

Barrett asked if it really matters what he thinks of the Seasons at Elwood. “How many of you don’t want it?” Barrett asked and the audience responded overwhelmingly that they did not. “Well then you got my answer.” Barrett also said he would have liked to see more community involvement before the project gained approval.

“I’d like to see somebody from the community and the development being involved,” Barrett said. “There is compromise for everything. We have to work on this more as a community and not ramming it down peoples’ throats.”

Thompson countered that she does think it matters what she thinks of this issue. “I will stand with this community and vote against it,” Thompson said.

Berland voted in favor of the project.

“It was a project that I supported because it’s senior housing and there are a lot of seniors who want to continue to live here,” Berland said. “They ended up with a high density number significantly lower than when they started. I think that [the Greens at Half Hollows] has been an amazing economic boom and I’m hoping that the Seasons will end up being the same.”

Some audience members continued to grill her on why she’d vote the project when many residents were against it.

“There were petitions in favor and in opposition,” Berland said. “They were a large number of people in and outside the Elwood community who welcome senior housing. I vote what I think is best for the people of the town and I don’t think this will hurt the people of the town.”

When asked for three items each candidate would prioritize if elected, Thompson started with safety in Huntington Station.

“We deserve the opportunity to walk our streets and feel safe.” Her other two priorities are making sure water quality remains clean and keeping taxes low. Barrett said he’d prioritize cleaning up criminal activities in Huntington Station. He also said parking in Huntington village is a big problem.

“Parking is a big issue because you can’t go down there and buy a slice of pizza without spending a couple bucks on parking,” Barrett said. His third issue is spending. He said he would like to broaden the scope of certain town department to get Huntington taxpayers the best bang for their bucks.

Cook brought up the shock he felt when he learned the news of Maggie Rosales, an 18-year old who died after she was stabbed in Huntington Station last year. Cook said he went to Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) with a plan to put public safety cars on the road, and link them up with 2nd Precinct to help cut crime. He also said he would like to challenge the some of the numbers in the supervisor’s budget. “I never once voted for Frank Petrone’s budget.”

All the candidates were unanimous on the issue of the ongoing litigation between Huntington Town and the Long Island Power Authority. The utility is suing the town to recover some $270 million in property taxes it paid since 2010, arguing the aging Northport power plant is grossly over-assessed.

Berland said she has been totally in favor of the litigation since day one.

“I think LIPA has to keep with the agreement that they made from the beginning that they would not ask for reassessment,” Berland said. She also said that Cook was the only vote against the litigation and that he wanted to settle instead, and that is something she strongly disagrees with.

Cook said he voted against initiating litigation because he was told if the town loses, Huntington could be on the hook for a large sum of money. He has since changed his stance — he said he believes at this point it is past negotiations and that they have to fight.

Barrett is in favor of fighting LIPA, and Thompson, who voted on the school board to put the district into the court battle, said she still strongly is for the litigation.

The next debate between the candidates will be sponsored by the League of Women Voters. It will take place at Harborfields Public Library on Oct. 26 at 6:30 p.m. at 31 Broadway in Greenlawn.

File photo by Rohma Abbas

Huntington members of the Working Families Party have spoken.

Keith Barrett is the town’s deputy director of general services. Photo from Barrett
Keith Barrett is the town’s deputy director of general services. Photo from Barrett

Huntington Town Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) and Democrat Keith Barrett swept a Working Families Party primary election on Sept. 10, earning the line in a race for the Huntington Town Board in November.

Barrett came in first place, receiving about 47 percent, or 205 votes, and Berland garnered nearly 31 percent of the votes, or 133 votes.

The two trumped contenders Charles Marino, who got about 21 percent, or 91 votes, and husband-wife duo Richard Hall and Valerie Stingfellow, who combined got fewer than 10 votes, though the two declared they were no longer actively campaigning and urged their supporters to throw their votes behind Marino.

The primary election upholds the Working Families Party endorsements of Barrett and Berland. Emily Abbott, the party’s Long Island political director, said in a previous email that Berland and Barrett both “share our values and support our key legislative issues like raising the minimum wage and passing paid family leave.”

When reached on Friday, Berland said she was happy with the results.

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

“It feels very gratifying,” Berland said in a phone interview. “My record proves I’ve always supported the Working Families Party and I will continue to do so.”

The councilwoman said she has received the party’s support every time she ran for office since her second campaign.

Barrett didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on Friday, but the Huntington resident said in a previous interview, “I come from a working family. I’m a union guy, a blue-collar worker. I’ve always been in the working guys shoes.”

Marino, Hall and Stringfellow did not immediately return requests seeking comment.

File photo by Rohma Abbas

Working Families Party voters of Huntington Town will get the chance to choose between five town board candidates in a primary election on Sept. 10.

Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) and candidate Keith Barrett are the two candidates backed by the Working Families party. Charles Marino, Richard Hall and Valerie Stringfellow are also running in the primary.

“The Working Families Party endorsed Keith Barrett and Councilwoman Susan Berland because they’ve demonstrated they share our values and support our key legislative issues like raising the minimum wage and passing paid family leave,” Emily Abbott, the WFP Long Island political director, said in an email. “We have no doubt they will be the best voice for Huntington’s working families.”

Since submitting their names to the Suffolk County Board of Elections, Hall and Stringfellow have both decided not to actively campaign. While their names will still technically be on the ballot, they said they have put their support behind Marino and Barrett, who they believe best support minorities in Huntington Town.

Marino said he is running to bring an end to the corrupt political system in Huntington. “As a registered Working Families Party member who believes in putting workers first, not in lining one’s pockets, I am challenging Ms. Berland in the primary,” Marino said in a statement. Attempts to reach Marino were unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, Barrett and Berland said they’re the best picks for the WFP line.

“I come from a working family,” Barrett said. “I’m a union guy, a blue-collar worker. I’ve always been in the working guys shoes.”

Barrett is a Huntington native. He went to Walt Whitman High School,and started his own business, Barrett Automotives, in 1997 in Huntington Station. He is currently the town’s deputy director of general services.

Berland, an incumbent who is seeking a fifth term, said she is the only town board member who has been a member of a union during high school and college.

“I’ve passed legislation that helps our town workers,” she said. “I’m very pro-workers and I’m very pro-military. I am a staunch labor and working families supporter.”

File photo by Rohma Abbas

Keith Barrett believes he can improve Huntington Town by running it more like a business.

“I bring commonsense solutions to everyday problems,” Barrett said in a phone interview. “It’s what I’ve done as deputy director of general services for Huntington Town.”

Keith Barrett is the town’s deputy director of general services. Photo from Barrett
Keith Barrett is the town’s deputy director of general services. Photo from Barrett

Barrett is a Democrat running for one of two seats up for grabs on the town board this November. He’s running alongside Councilwoman Susan Berland (D), and both are backed by the Huntington Town Democratic Committee.

Barrett is a Huntington native. He went to Walt Whitman High School, and started his own business, Barrett Automotive, in 1997 in Huntington Station. He’s been involved in multiple organizations in Suffolk County, including the Huntington Station Business Improvement District, or BID, and Suffolk County Downtown Revitalization Grant Program.

“I’ve seen the inner workings of town government, and it’s prepared me for the role of town councilman,” Barrett said.

Appointed deputy director of general services about a year ago, Barrett has learned how to maximize the work of the department to make it work better for the residents of Huntington Town.

Previously, state inspections for Huntington Town-owned cars were not done inhouse, which he said was costing much more than having Barrett’s department perform them.

“I had the business sense to see that if the inspections were done inhouse, it would save the taxpayers a significant amount of money. It saves approximately $450,000 annually.”    

Barrett also made sure all his employees were certified and earned their inspector licenses, so that he was not the only employee who could perform state inspections.

As president of the Huntington Station BID since its inception in 2004, Barrett has been able to continue to bring improvements to Huntington Station. Improvements include decorating the community with flower baskets, putting more garbage cans out on the streets and installing 43 security cameras that the Suffolk County Police Department has access to.

Brad Rosen, a member of the Huntington Station BID, said the reason he and Barrett get along so well is because they both come through on everything they commit to.

“All town government is a business, and one thing I know of Keith is that he’s a businessman,” Rosen said in a phone interview. “America is a business now and it needs to be run like one.”

He also praised Barrett’s ethics as being nothing but “perfect.”

The annual Huntington Station Awareness Parade, which Barrett co-chairs, is another project the BID is involved with.

“I try to make business propositions better in Huntington Station,” Barrett said. “I’ve always wanted to make Huntington Station a destination, not a drive-thru. My assumption of Huntington Station was that you drove through there to get to the village, or you drove through it to get on the expressway. We want people to stop there, shop there, live there, work there and play there.”

Barrett’s involvement spans further than just Huntington Station. As a member of the Suffolk County Downtown Revitalization Grant Program, Barrett said he has worked to get grants for Northport and East Northport to help better those areas as well.

Currently in the works, and a project that Barrett helped pushed through, is a grant for Northport to develop kiosks and an information center. This would help spread information about events going on in Northport to the many visitors the village gets during its busy summer season.

Grants to improve the intersection marking entrance to Northport Village and to revamp crosswalks in East Northport are other projects Barrett has fought for while a member of the grant program.

In terms of issues facing Huntington Town, Barrett said public safety is among the biggest. “It needs to be addressed.”

A committee for Huntington Station public safety is one idea Barrett is interested in pursuing if elected. He wants to hear insight from community members.

“I believe police presence makes a big difference,” he said. “I’d love to see more patrols,” Barrett said, when asked whether he agrees with recent outcries from residents for an increased police force after several incidents of violence this summer.

When asked his position on over-development, Barrett said, “as long as it’s regulated, I don’t see it as a terrible problem. To an extent, we need to do it. As long as it doesn’t end up looking like Queens.”

Overall, Barrett said he’s got a unique perspective to bring to the board.

“We have lawyers on the board. I am a businessperson. I’m going to take a business aspect. I want to best utilize our labor for the best use for the community,”

Recently, Barrett used his labor force to better the community by redoing a basketball court in Otsego Park in Dix Hills. He asked Highway Superintendent Peter Gunther to repave the court, which was full of cracks, instead of hiring an outside contractor, which would cost much more.

Barrett then had his team repair the backboards and, soon enough, a new and improved basketball court was ready for the kids. He said he hopes to continue this idea and repair two more basketball courts at Veterans Park in East Northport.

“I want to see more things like this being done in all departments,” Barrett said.

Election signatures deemed invalid by court, BOE

Town of Huntington will host a Organ Donor Enrollment Day Oct. 10. File photo by Rohma Abbas

A primary election for the Democratic Party line in the race for the Huntington Town Board has been squashed.

The campaigns of former Highway Superintendent William Naughton and Huntington Station resident Andrew Merola — who were vying for the line against incumbent Councilwoman Susan Berland and running mate Keith Barrett and hoping to win in a primary election — came to a halt earlier this week after a number of signatures on their candidate designating petitions were rendered invalid.

Naughton lost a challenge waged by two committee Democrats in state Supreme Court and the Suffolk County Board of Elections ruled a number of signatures on Merola’s petition invalid.

Signatures may be deemed insufficient for several reasons, including whether or not a person is a registered Democrat, or registered to vote and more. Candidates need 1,000 valid signatures to get on the ballot, and those petitions were due July 9.

Merola submitted 1,097 signatures, Naughton garnered 1,552, Berland and Barrett, who were on the same petition, collected and submitted 2,600 signatures, according to Anita Katz, the Democratic commissioner at the BOE.

William Naughton. File photo
William Naughton. File photo
Andrew Merola. Photo from Andrew Merola
Andrew Merola. Photo from Andrew Merola

Several Democrats filed objections to Naughton’s and Merola’s. The BOE reviewed Merola’s petition and ruled that a swath of signatures did not count, bringing his total count below 1,000. In Naughton’s case, two Democrats, Sherry Ann Pavone, a Northport resident, and Anne Berger, of Huntington, filed a lawsuit challenging the petition’s signatures under election law. Sandy Berland, Councilwoman Berland’s husband, represented the two pro bono, he said.

After the judge reduced Naughton’s signature count below 1,000, the former highway superintendent bowed out, Sandy Berland said.

“He made the judgment to end at that point,” the attorney said. “And of course we couldn’t end unless he agreed not to take an appeal.”

Naughton’s campaign declined to comment on Friday.

Merola didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on Friday, but he took to Facebook to air his frustrations.

“Unfortunately, both myself and Bill Naughton have been forced off the ballot, thanks to Susan Berland and her husband deciding that they know better then the citizens of the Town of Huntington,” he wrote. “Instead of giving the voters a choice on who they’d like to represent their interests, Susan Berland has made that decision for you. We should have had four choices on [Sept. 10], and now, we won’t even have a vote.”

Sandy Berland, however, pointed out that petitions require valid signatures on them that abide by election law. He noted there’s a legal process in place to pursue challenges to those signatures.

In an interview this week, Susan Berland said she was pleased with the results.

“Keith Barrett and I are the designated candidates from the Democratic party,” she said. “We went through the process. We screened. We appealed to the Democratic membership and we got the nomination. I am proud to continue to represent the Democrats, and thankful that the Democratic party fended off any challenges to their designations.”

Eight individuals submit petitions to run last week

File photo by Rohma Abbas

A primary election is brewing for the Democratic Party line in the Huntington Town Board race this November, but it won’t happen without a fight.

Last Thursday marked the deadline for candidates running for offices in Huntington Town to file necessary signature petitions with the Suffolk County Board of Elections. And already, the validity of some of those petitions has been challenged in the form of general objections. General objections reserve a candidate’s right to file specifications of objections at a later date — and this year, that date is July 20.

With two open seats on the board, and four Democrats seeking the ballot line, a primary is pending if the contenders whose petitions are being challenged emerge unscathed. Objections to signature petitions can include claims challenging the validity of the signatures, the validity of a person carrying the petition and other issues, according to Nick LaLota, the Republican Suffolk County Board of Elections commissioner.

Incumbent Susan Berland (D) and her running mate Keith Barrett (D), who is the town’s deputy director of General Services and president of the Huntington Station Business Improvement District, are endorsed by the Huntington Town Democratic Committee to run for the board. Democrat contenders Andrew Merola, of Huntington Station, and former longtime Highway Superintendent William Naughton — who are not endorsed by the committee — face general objections by a number of individuals, according to a document provided by LaLota.

Earlier this week, Berland said the Democratic Party in Huntington is united, despite a potential four-way race for the line.

“The rank and file of the Democratic Party is clearly behind myself and Keith Barrett,” she said. “That can be [evident] from the collecting of signatures. All of mine and Keith’s signatures were collected by Democratic Committee people. The other two can’t say the same.”

When reached on Tuesday, Merola, a business account manager at Verizon, said he’s been notified of getting a general objection to his petition, he realizes it’s part of the standard protocol of election and he’s waiting on more specifics about the objection. He said he stands by his petition and won’t be challenging others on their petitions.

“I’m not interested in playing those kinds of political games,” he said. “It shouldn’t be about who has the best lawyers. It should be about who has the best ideas.”

Candidates for Town Board on other party lines are also facing objections. Incumbent Gene Cook (I) is being challenged by two objections and Charles Marino, an East Northport man, who is vying for the Working Families Party line, is facing a string of objections as well. Berland and Barrett are also vying for the line.

In total, eight individuals are attempting to run for the two open seats on the Town Board — Berland, Cook, Barrett, Merola, Naughton, Northport-East Northport school board Trustee Jennifer Thompson, Huntington Station resident Michael Helfer and Marino.

Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Victoria Espinoza contributed reporting.

File photo by Rohma Abbas

The political season is swinging into high gear in Huntington.

Last week, town Democrats and Republicans tapped their picks for two open seats on the town board. The Huntington Town Democrat Committee nominated incumbent Huntington Town Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) and town Deputy Director of General Services Keith Barrett for the spots, according to Mary Collins, chairwoman of the committee. The committee also nominated incumbents Ester Bivona for town receiver of taxes and Marian Tinari for district court judge.

The Democratic nominations took place last Wednesday, Collins said.

“We think they’re the best people we have,” Collins said. “They’ve shown an interest in good government and getting things done.”

The Huntington Town Republican Committee unanimously picked incumbent Councilman Gene Cook (I) and Northport-East Northport school board member Jennifer Thompson, according to Chairwoman Toni Tepe. The nominations took place last Friday.

“The screening committee recommended [them] to the full committee because they feel that Gene has been a stalwart supporter of the people and that he always has the interest of the people at heart,” Tepe said in a phone interview this week. “And Jennifer Thompson came in, screened very nicely, [was a] very personable, knowledgeable individual and would be an asset on the town board.”

Republicans also nominated Tom McNally, a Huntington Station-based attorney and a Republican committee member, for the Suffolk County Legislature 16th District seat, held by Democratic incumbent Steve Stern. The party also chose Jennifer Heller-Smitelli, a civil litigator from Huntington, to run for the 17th Legislative District seat, held by Democratic incumbent Lou D’Amaro.

At this point, the candidates need to collect signatures to get on the ballot. And it looks like there might be a contest for getting on the ballot — at least over on the Democratic side — with former Highway Superintendent William Naughton announcing this week that he wants to run for town board. In addition, newcomer Drew Merola, a business account manager at Verizon is vying for a seat.

Asked for her thoughts on primary elections, Collins said they could be good or bad.

“Sometimes they help solidify the party,” she said. “Sometimes they can cause rifts. It all depends on how people conduct themselves while the primary process is going on.”

Berland and Barrett, when reached this week, said they were excited to get the Democratic committee’s nomination. Cook and Thompson didn’t immediately return a call for comment on Wednesday morning, but Cook stated in a previous interview he’s running for a second four-year term because he’s taken issue with the way the Democratic majority has spent money.

Tepe and Barrett agreed that this year’s election would be about transparency and ethics.

“And also to maintain a community that is in the liking of people who live here,” Tepe said.