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New York State Assembly

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin celebrates securing his third term in office Nov. 8 in Patchogue, joining hands with one of his daughters and Suffolk County Republican Party Chairman John Jay LaValle. Photo by Kyle Barr

Nationally the Democratic Party experienced a successful night, winning enough Congressional races to flip the House of Representatives from Republican control.

The long-billed blue wave petered out on the North Shore of Long Island however, as two-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) fended off a challenge from first-time candidate Democrat Perry Gershon, an East Hampton resident and commercial real estate lender, winning re-election by securing more than 52 percent of the vote.

“This was the clear contrast of results versus resistance, and results won today,” Zeldin said from the podium at Stereo Garden in Patchogue after results were in Nov. 6. “It’s important we get to people’s business and deliver results.”

As many — if not all — House races did across the country, Zeldin and Gershon’s battle took on a nasty tone, largely focused on their opinions of President Donald Trump (R) and his job performance thus far.

“Our country needs to do much better uniting,” Zeldin said. “We also need to make sure our scores are settled at the ballot box, and that next day we wake up to govern.”

He thanked his opponent for running a tough race.

Onlookers celebrate as results roll in Nov. 8 at Democratic Party campaign headquarters in Hauppauge. Photo by Alex Petroski

“It’s not the outcome we wanted but life goes on,” Gershon said when his fate appeared sealed from IBEW Local 25 Long Island Electricians union headquarters in Hauppauge. “We’re so much better off than we were two years ago. We showed the Democratic Party has a heart here in eastern Suffolk County.”

Both candidates’ respective Suffolk County party chairmen applauded their efforts.

“He worked very hard and developed a grassroots campaign,” Democratic Party Chairman Rich Schaffer said. “We have not heard the last of Perry Gershon.”

John Jay LaValle, Republican Party chairman for the county, dismissed the idea Election Day 2018 was something to be celebrated by Democrats locally.

“There was no blue wave in Suffolk County tonight, in fact the only thing blue tonight was my tie,” he said.

Incumbent 3rd District U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) secured 58 percent of the vote against Republican challenger Dan DeBono to secure another term as well.

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

Despite LaValle’s assertion, the blue party scored major victories in several statewide battles, enough to flip the New York State Senate to Democratic control, meaning all three houses of the state government are controlled by the same party. Nearly all incumbent state legislators from both parties held serve on the North Shore though.

The 2nd District state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) won re-election to continue his more than 30 years in the Senate, 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 said in a post on her campaign Facebook page.

State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who has represented the 1st District since the 1970s, easily won another term, besting Democrat Greg Fischer for a second consecutive cycle, this time by 17 percentage points. LaValle could not be reached for comment Nov. 7 either.

“It’s very difficult to unseat a long-term incumbent,” Fischer said. “Like it or not, the system is filled with or based on lots of favors, so there’s always that tendency to reward people for their past performance.”

Democrats Jim Gaughran and Monica Martinez won surprise upsets in nearby Long Island state Senate districts, defeating incumbent Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) and Assemblyman Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue) in their respective races, which were major contributors to the shift of power in New York’s legislative branch.

In the state Assembly, Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) was easily returned to his longtime post representing the 4th District, earning 60 percent of the vote to his challenger Christian Kalinowski’s 40 percent.

“I’m looking forward to getting back to the task at hand, protecting the environment, the quality of life of our community and enhancing it, making sure we have adequate funding for our schools and for the next generation,” Englebright said. “We have a lot to do.”

Englebright’s Assembly colleagues from across the aisle on the North Shore will all be returning to Albany as well.

The 2nd District Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) blew out first-time candidate Democrat Rona Smith to earn a third term, winning about 60 percent of the vote.

Democrat Perry Gershon thanks supporters Nov. 8 in Hauppauge after accepting defeat in his race to represent New York’s 1st Congressional District against incumbent Lee Zeldin. Photo by Alex Petroski

“It’s great to see we won by a nice margin — it validates we’re going on the right direction,” Palumbo said. “I will try to discuss some issues raised by my opponent, including the issue of health care with the 5 percent uninsured rate.”

Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Smithtown) will head to Albany for another term after beating Democrat and first-time candidate David Morrissey handily, 61 percent to 39 percent.

“I’m going to continue to pursue my objective of being a strong voice for mandate relief and strengthening the private sector to make people aware of the need to slow down the growth of taxes,” Fitzpatrick said. “We are losing too many people — too many retirees, too many young people. Too many people in the middle class are looking elsewhere as the cost of living is getting too high.”

Republican for the 12th Assembly District Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) will continue his tenure, as will Democrat Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills), who captured the 10th Assembly District seat in a special election in April.

Though members of Brookhaven Town’s board were not on the ballot this year, voters overwhelmingly passed a back-of-the-ballot proposition that extended officials terms in office from two years to four, and limited officeholders to three terms. A total of 58 percent voted in favor of that measure with 42 percent opposing.

“We felt that this was the right time to put out this proposition, especially with all the talk about the president stimulating turnout,” said Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point).

Reporting contributed by Sara-Megan Walsh, Rita J. Egan and Kyle Barr.

Mike Fitzpatrick. Photo by Kyle Barr

While the TBR News Media staff fully believes in Democratic candidate Dave Morrissey’s genuine desire to tackle the ongoing opioid crisis, incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Smithtown) gets our endorsement for the 8th District seat.

Although Morrissey has a number of good and far-reaching ideas to help those in the throes of addiction, the question of how the state will be able to enact those changes remains up in the air. While the goals of increasing access to medically assisted treatment and addiction shelters is something to strive for, the Democraticchallenger also lacks concrete ideas of what the state government should do when it comes to high taxes and keeping people on Long Island.

Fitzpatrick is right on the money when it comes to government employee benefits as those are changes that must be strived for if the state wishes to cut down on spending. While the Kings Park sewers have been held up by partisan wrangling, we do appreciate the assemblyman championing the effort in Albany.

Our endorsement comes with a caveat: During the TBR News Media debate the assemblyman startled us with his belief that the thousands of people currently heading to the U.S. in a caravan from Honduras are, in some way, funded by billionaire George Soros, who often funds left-leaning political campaigns and is a consistent target in conspiracy theories by far-right groups.

We strongly encourage Fitzpatrick — whom we have always thought of as sensible — not to believe this and other far-right wing narratives without unassailable proof, and he should continue to focus on championing real changes in state policy to benefit his constituents instead, as he always has.

Andrew Raia. Photo by Alex Petroski

Incumbent state Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) identifies himself as a moderate Republican. His Democraticchallenger, Avrum Rosen, agreed he’s “fairly moderate compared to the rest of the Republican Party,” and we do too after listening to his ideas.

It’s refreshing to hear Raia stick to his principles on local issues that strongly affect his constituents. He drafted legislation in attempts to help provide funds to the Town of Huntington to offset a possible negative impact of the LIPA tax certiorari lawsuit and supports consideration to levying a carbon tax against the Northport Power Station. He stands by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in suing the federal government over tax reforms that eliminated state and local deductions that will financially hurt Long Island homeowners.

Yet Raia hasn’t taken up some of the polarizing views of the national Republican Party. He’s suggesting ways to expand health care in New York and claims his viewpoint “has evolved” over time favoring more gun control.

We commend Rosen for being well-educated on the issues facing the 12th district, both at the local and state level. His background in bankruptcy and tax law has led him to voice worthwhile ideas including a carbon tax against the Northport Power Station and offering state tax credits to those with student loans, for those entering STEM professions and those paying childcare costs.

If Raia wins, we hope he takes up Rosen’s tax credit ideas to help Long Island become a more affordable place to win.

As for Rosen, he’s one of the strongest political challengers we’ve seen this election season and hope to see again — maybe next time for another political office.

Steve Stern. Photo by Kyle Barr

Steve Stern (D) may not have held his New York State Assembly seat for very long, but TBR News Media sees that Stern is willing to give it his all, and in doing so receives our endorsement for the 10th Assembly District seat.

While we appreciate Jeremy Williams running for office at such a young age, he did not show up to speak at our annual candidate debate that was hosted for him and his opponent. We did not have the opportunity to hear if he had concrete plans for dealing with issues pertaining to the district.

Stern’s already laid a good groundwork and track record by helping to sponsor and pass six bills in the six weeks he had available after his special election and before the end of the legislative session. We hope that kind of get-up-and-go attitude continues into a full term, and that he makes good on his word to bring more funds to aid downtown revitalization efforts.

Stern describes himself a conservative Democrat, and we hope that can translate into bridging the gap between Democrats and Republicans in these politically dividing times.

Candidate Rona Smith debates her opponent for a New York State Assembly seat Anthony Palumbo at TBR News Media. Photo by Alex Petroski

People across the United States have been motivated to enter into politics and pursue government office for the first time in their lives during the current election cycle and the prior one in 2017. When asked, many of those candidates tend to cite the current state of things in national politics.

In the race to represent New York State’s 2nd Assembly District, candidate Rona Smith, a 73-year-old first-time candidate who serves as the Housing Advisory Commission chairwoman for the Town of Southold, is making her first run for office. We admire that someone would be inspired to make an effort at fostering greater good despite having carved out a nice living for herself and having nothing personally to gain from pursuing the seat.

This is not to say incumbent Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) doesn’t have his heart in the right place and hasn’t helped accomplish tangible things for the district, like co-sponsoring legislation for the state to acquire and preserve about 900 acres of green space in Shoreham.

Still, with a Democrat majority in the Assembly that is unlikely to go away any time soon, we would like to see Smith given a chance to bring some of her fresh ideas and tenacity to Albany to join a conference with the political clout to get tangible results locally and statewide.

Smith is educated, hard-working, has government experience in a critical area to the future prosperity of Long Island — namely affordability of housing.

We appreciate the years of dedicated service Palumbo has given the district, but we’ll be voting for Smith Nov. 6.

Rona Smith is challenging Anthony Palumbo for his New York State Assembly seat. Photos by Alex Petroski

The North Shore’s easternmost New York State Assembly District — which juts as far west as Mount Sinai and portions of Port Jefferson — has been represented by an incumbent Republican since 2013, and a first-time candidate for political office is seeking to unseat him.

Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) was elected in a special election to represent the 2nd District in 2013 and won subsequent races in 2014 and 2016. The 48-year-old practicing lawyer will be challenged this Election Day by 73-year-old Democrat Rona Smith, a newcomer to politics from Greenport with government experience, as she currently serves as the chairwoman of the Housing Advisory Commission for Southold Town.

The candidates sat down for a debate at the TBR News Media in Setauket in October to discuss issues impacting the district.

Health care

The future of health care is at the top of minds for candidates in federal and state races alike this cycle, likely because it’s on the minds of their common constituents. State law can be used in conjunction with federal law regarding health care, meaning the legislative houses of New York’s government will have an opportunity to stabilize health care policy for its residents as the federal Affordable Care Act waits in limbo for a bipartisan solution in Congress.

Democrats in the Assembly have passed a single-payer health care bill — meaning essentially everyone in the state would pay into a pool and everyone would be covered — which has gotten no traction in the state Senate, controlled by Republicans, and appears unlikely ever to become the law.

As the ACA suffers, Palumbo said he would suggest some simple tweaks to improve the current system, rather than implementing a single-payer bill, which he said he believes will be too expensive.

“When you think about the numbers, we’re talking about 900,000 people in New York state are uninsured — they’re between the Medicaid gap and the private insurance gap — that’s 5 percent,” he said. “Not a lot I think, generally speaking.”

He suggested bringing back the Family Health Plus option, a subsidized plan for low-income individuals, which wasn’t available under the ACA, rather than “overhauling” state tax code to afford a single-payer scheme.

“Nothing comes off the shelf perfect,” Smith said of both the ACA and the single-payer bill passed by the Assembly. “They’re not perfect, they’re attempts to try to make sure that everybody — rich, poor, old, young — has health insurance they can depend upon for any health need that comes up. We have got to figure out how to do it.”

Affordability and opportunity

The candidates agreed there are obstacles for people — but especially recent college graduates — for being able to live and prosper both in the district and in the county as a whole. The problem will only be exaggerated going forward by the capping of state and local tax deductions, a component of the new federal tax code bill that will disproportionately impact homeowners in high-tax states like New York.

Smith said she would home in on reducing student loan debt as a means to foster more affordability, in addition to investment in more affordable housing projects for low-income individuals, a plan she said Democrats in the Assembly are already working on.

She said students need access to mandated, objective advice when it comes to borrowing and affording college, rather than just input from for-profit loan collection businesses.

Palumbo said New York’s susceptibility to outward migration can be traced to out-of-control budgeting and spending.

“It’s conservative fiscal values that we need to have,” he said.

He said the Assembly has been working on a solution to mitigate the capping of the SALT deduction at $10,000, though so far the IRS has not blessed any of the fixes.

Infrastructure investment

Investing in projects that could stimulate the local economy is seen as a solution by members of both parties. Currently legislators in New York are gathering funds to study the feasibility of electrifying the Long Island Rail Road east of Huntington on the North Shore line, an idea many have suggested to increase opportunities for people to live and work in the area.

“I think investments in infrastructure always come back in salaries and benefits for people,” Smith said. “It might make housing more accessible.”

She said electrification might be the answer, but the state’s economy could be better served by using the LIRR to ship freight, an idea that would allow farmers and vineyards on the East End to ship fresh products beyond the direct vicinity.

Palumbo said he would go in another direction instead of committing major funds to electrify the LIRR line. He said he would like to see the results of a study examining LIRR ridership to the East End before going down that road and would prefer to see smarter leadership from the Metropolitan Transit Authority when it comes to train schedules and usage.

He also called on school districts to examine ways to scale down spending, which is the largest driver of increasing property taxes.

Incumbent state Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick will be challenged by Democrat Dave Morrissey at the polls. Photos by Kyle Barr

The two candidates running for New York’s 8th Assembly District, incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Smithtown) and Democratic challenger Dave Morrissey, agree on the area’s problems of high taxes and shrinking youth population. However, they disagree heavily on how the state should work to change it.

Fitzpatrick and Morrissey stepped into the TBR News Media offices where they discussed their varying stances on state and local issues.

Fitzpatrick is running again for his long-held seat on a number of fiscal issues, including
taxes, young people leaving Long Island and cutting back on government employee’s benefits.

“Unfortunately, when you look at the numbers, we continue to be a state in decline. We’re losing 100,000 people a year,” he said.

Morrissey, a local software engineer and project manager from Smithtown, is running heavily on reforming New York’s response to the opioid crisis. This comes after a personal tragedy where Morrissey’s son William died of complications due to opioid addiction in 2016.

“He wasn’t one of the statistics because he didn’t die over an overdose death, and there are many more deaths than most often reported because of this,” the Democratic challenger said. “All levels of government need to do more.”

Taxes/Cost of Living

Fitzpatrick sees a need to deal with union contracts and government employee pension programs, which he said is sapping the strength out of the economy. The assemblyman has campaigned to change automatic pay increases while employers and employees are in between labor contracts as well as pushing for a transition from pensions for 401(k)s for government employees.

“The tax burden is too high,” the assemblyman said. “You have to get every elected official out of the defined benefit retention system. That particular benefit and how we are compensated encourages fiscal irresponsibility.”

The Democratic challenger said that while his campaign has received union support, he would still push for school consolidation of resources. He opined best way to affect the school district’s taxes was to expand Long Island’s commuter infrastructure to appeal to young people and, hopefully, encourage new business growth.

“We need to have smart strategic investments that will have a real cost benefit,” Morrissey said. “If the only thing you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail, and you can’t cut your way into prosperity.”

Health care/Opioid crisis

On the opioid treatment and health care, the challenger said there needs to be much more done on the state level. He supports medically assisted treatment for all drug or alcohol users who need it, opening up an addiction high school through the BOCES system, and opening up at least 11 more recovery centers, for which he suggests the state should get pharmaceutical companies to pay.

The incumbent said he feels it would be near impossible to get the pharmaceutical companies to pay for these programs, while agreeing it would help, he said funding from state government is never guaranteed.

Morrissey said he also believes in health care for all and supports the New York Health Act, which passed through the state Assembly but did not reach the floor of the state Senate. He said he would look to give the state more negotiatinpower with pharmaceutical companies.

“I think it’s a great system that needs improvements — something rolled out gradually,”
Morrissey said. “Big pharma has so much wealth, we should be able to negotiate on the process.”

Fitzpatrick said he disagrees with a health care for all program, and especially the New York Health Act. He would instead advocate for use of Health Savings Account programs, one where people can save money for health-related emergencies only.

“The system is not broken — it needs to be repaired and modified,” he said. “You want a system that attracts the best and the brightest doctors.”

From left, incumbent Assemblyman Steve Stern will run off against Republican Jeremy Williams Nov. 6. Photo by Kyle Barr, photo from Jeremy Williams

The New York State Assembly’s 10th District seat is up for grabs. Come Nov. 6, residents have the choice between age and experience, or a youth with enthusiasm.

TBR News Media was prepared  to host a debate with state Assemblyman Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) and his Republican challenger Jeremy Williams, but the latter candidate did not show.

Stern, a prior Suffolk County legislator for 12 years, won a special election to the state Assembly after Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) vacated the seat in January. Now, the incumbent said he has a great track record in government, sponsoring and helping to pass six separate bills in six weeks on a number of state and local issues.

“I was dropped into session and not even told where the bathroom was,” Stern said. “I’m proud in being able to accomplish so much in such a short period of time.”

I’m proud in being able to accomplish so much in such a short period of time.”

— Steve Stern

The 22-year-old Williams is a lifelong Huntington Station resident, and now lives in a house close to the one his great-great-grandparents built. The Republican challenger said previously that he decided to run for office after commuting to his job in Manhattan, working as a public relations representative for several technology companies, and seeing how expensive it was to live on Long Island.

Williams said he wants to focus on getting more funds to Suffolk and that he would work to end what he called an unfriendly business climate, especially in regard to high tax rates and fees.

“We have to fast track the application process for these businesses, maybe with a five-year property tax abatement,” Williams said in a phone interview after the debate.

Stern said he also believes that businesses need incentives to come to and grow on Long Island. Specifically, he would want to offer tax breaks for companies looking to set up shop on Long Island, and that he would use state funds to incentivize the county to reduce its business and development fees, specifically environmental fees. The incumbent  also said that he will focus on making sure Suffolk gets a higher percentage back from the $5 billion in taxes it pays out to the state annually.

“The $5 billion that we send up to Albany is enough to fund both Suffolk County and a good bit of Nassau county as well,” the Democratic candidate said. “If we receive some significant percentage of that back, our taxpayers would be able to have a better quality of life.”

In development, Stern, who was opposed to enterprises like Villadom that would have created a mall on vacant land in Elwood, said there should be more incentives from the state to build new projects on developed parcels rather than on open space. “Before anybody goes knocking down areas of pristine property there has to be an incentive for redevelopment,” he said.

Williams said he agreed with redevelopment over new developments, but he emphasized the problems with modern transit-oriented developments don’t aid in helping young people stay on Long Island.

“Transit-oriented developments are disingenuous — most of those affordable homes go to people 55 years or older,” he said.

Stern said if re-elected he would work with Republicans and Democrats to provide commuters or their employers access to funds for transportation purposes, and encourage programs for college students to work with local businesses or startups.

Transit-oriented developments are disingenuous — most of those affordable homes go to people 55 years or older.” 

— Jeremy Williams

“There has to be a public-private partnership that has real meaning for the development of this company, but as local taxpayers, if we are to make investments into this company and provide the intellectual capital, that this is going to be a company that will commit to its future growth on Long Island,” the incumbent said.

Williams said he agrees with more public-private partnerships with businesses, especially if they are located in areas of Huntington,  like stretches of the Melville business corridor that have degraded in both looks and number of storefronts. The Republican challenger added if he is elected he would be both willing and able to work with the Democrats in the state legislature.

“Lupinacci and other people in the district seat were in the minority seat for years, and they still got a lot done,” Williams said. “The only people I am beholden to are the people in my community.”

Overall, Stern said he is more than willing to work across the aisle with Republican colleagues.

“I don’t care what letter you have after your name. The most important thing is putting points up on the board and delivering to my community,” he said. “If nobody has a sit down with each other or a working relationship with each other, then top priorities don’t get done.”

Above left, Democratic challenger Avrum Rosen and on right, incumbent Andrew Raia

Both candidates seeking to represent New York State’s 12th Assembly District are aware of the challenges the area faces, but have key differences on the solutions they propose.

Incumbent Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) was elected to represent the 12th District in 2002 and seeks to return to Albany for his ninth term.

His Democrat challenger is Avrum Rosen, an attorney specializing in bankruptcy and tax law at his Huntington-based practice.

Rosen jumped into the race after New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division ruled Aug. 22 that Northport resident Michael Marcantonio, 31, Raia’s original challenger, did not meet the state’s minimum five-year residency requirements.

“When Michael Marcantonio got thrown out this race, I decided someone had to step up,” Rosen said. “While I like [Raia] very much, I don’t like his position on a lot of things. This is not a year when any Republican should go unchallenged in an election.”

LIPA/Northport power plant

Long Island Power Authority’s tax certiorari lawsuit against the Town of Huntington and Northport-East Northport school district over Northport Power Station is a top concern of district residents as mediation begins and possible court trial looms.

“There was never any pressure on [LIPA] to upgrade, do any of the things they needed to do to make it what it should have been,” Rosen said.

Rosen suggested the state should allow town officials to levy a carbon tax against the Northport power plant to encourage LIPA to upgrade it, ultimately raising the value of the plant.

Raia highlighted legislation he co-sponsored earlier this year that would allow the town to spread out any tax rate changes over a 15-year period and granted access to state funds to stabilize taxes. Raia said environmentalists rallied against it for proposing to take money from the greenhouse gas initiative funds.

“No matter who comes back, it’s something that should be reintroduced and maybe we get the money from another pot that the environmentalists are not so concerned about,” the incumbent said.

Taxes 

Raia said he believes the 2 percent state-mandated tax cap has been one the “best things” the state has done to control taxes and cost-of-living on Long Island. He wants to encourage consolidation of services among municipalities and school districts while supporting the lawsuit of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) against the federal government for placing a $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions. Raia said he has researched shifting from a property-based to income-based tax model, creating a commercial tax fund and other ways to ease the burden on Long Island homeowners.

Rosen agreed with his opponent that the SALT tax deduction cap needs to be addressed by the state. If elected to office, he proposes the state Legislature considers offering straight tax credits to those with student loans, those entering STEM professions and for parents paying childcare costs. The Democratic challenger said commercial taxes need to be addressed and he believes it needs to be done through a tristate regional approach that brings both New Jersey and Connecticut on board. Rosen questions if the 2 percent state-mandated tax cap can be kept in place in the future if the rate of inflation increases.

Gun Control

Since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, this February, gun control has become a larger national issue.

Rosen said he is in favor of microstamping guns, broader background checks and a red flag law that allows police or family to request firearms be removed from owners who might present a danger to themselves or others. He criticized Raia for voting down gun control measures in the past.

The incumbent said over time he has “evolved on the issue,” arguing against parts of various gun control bills for lacking due process. Raia cited that he voted in favor of taking firearms from those convicted of domestic violence once the language was tweaked to only include related crimes, and he wanted to enable investigators charged with researching the mental health backgrounds of those requesting gun permits to cross state lines.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D). Photo by Kyle Barr

In the race to represent New York State’s 4th Assembly District, incumbent Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) is up against Republican newcomer Christian Kalinowski, a 25-year-old who works as a trainer at an animal shelter and lives in Port Jefferson. Traditionally both candidates sit down for a debate at the TBR News Media office in Setauket, and while both were invited, Kalinowski declined to attend or answer questions about the race via phone or email.

“The way that the environment has been treated by this administration in Washington has been savage.”

— Steve Englebright

The assemblyman, as he does whenever he runs, cited the environment as a key issue for his candidacy.

“The way that the environment has been treated by this administration in Washington has been savage,” he said.

Earlier in the year Englebright, who is the chair of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation, held hearings in Hauppauge regarding the possibility of offshore oil and gas drilling along the Atlantic coast after the U.S. Department of the Interior proposed plans for expansion of natural gas and oil drilling along coastal waters.

He said he was disappointed legislation passed in the Assembly and supported by the governor to stop drilling off the Atlantic coast did not get passed in the state Senate.

The assemblyman is proud of the $2.5 billion he advocated for in last year’s state budget slated for water protection. He has also advocated for having waterways defined as infrastructure which can lead to increased protections of watersheds and reservoirs.

Safety is also on the assemblyman’s mind. When it comes to gun regulation, Englebright is a proponent of the microstamping of firing pins. A microscope is needed to see the
microstamp, but when it hits a shell casing while ejecting, it prints a number onto the shell, theoretically leaving a trace for investigators when necessary.

“We have the ability with lasers where we can cut little numbers into the firing pin, and then the firing pin — without changing the mechanism, without doing anything to take away gun rights — there is at least forensic evidence that if the gun is used in another crime, you can join the two crimes together through the forensic evidence,” Englebright said.

“I’m generally cautious about bringing hardware like that into public spaces of any kind.”

— Steve Englebright

He said some challengers say the cost for microstamping would be felt by the consumer in that it would cost several hundred dollars more for a handgun, which he said he believes is holding up the legislation, though he disputed the cost would be prohibitive.

The assemblyman said he doesn’t agree with teachers having guns on school campuses, but he would consider retired police officers working as guards if needed. He said it would be better to have more efficient lockdowns and safer designed entrances before bringing guns into schools.

“I’m generally cautious about bringing hardware like that into public spaces of any kind,” Englebright said.

The incumbent also reiterated his support to advance electrification of the Long Island Rail Road between Huntington and Port Jefferson, an idea he has supported for years and is now gaining momentum, as state funds have been put toward studying the possibility. The study will examine the possible benefits and ramifications of electrification for communities along the line. He said state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) succeeded in appropriating state funds toward the plan.

“I think it’s a game changer, and I think we’re at the moment when it can happen,”
Englebright said.

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