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New York State Senate

U.S. State Sen. Ken LaValle announced he would not be running for re-election Jan. 10. File photo by Kevin Redding

Why have you decided this term would be your last?

I don’t know, it just feels right. If I can put in place something at [Stony Brook University], then I can retire knowing we’re in a good place. 

I look forward to spending more time with my wife and family, and less time driving on the Thruway.

I would like to do something academic — it’s a way of looking at things through a different lens.

Would you look to work at Stony Brook University?

That would be my choice. I would like to do something that’s always been on my radar — some kind of think tank, look at it in an academic way. My thoughts on generations, what is the difference between one generation to another. We know the events of WWII shaped what was called the greatest generation. But then there are millennials — who are millennials? You’re a millennial [he said, talking to me, a 25-year-old.] How are your thoughts shaped by your generation?

Some have said the climate of partisanship up in Albany has factored into your decision.

My personality has been to not get involved in that kind of stuff, I try to be kind and productive — there’s no doubt things have changed in the Legislature. I think you’ll see more people say it’s not a positive place — that’s how you start to lose good people. People will say, “Who the hell needs this?”

What are your plans for your last year in office?

I want to make sure all the preservation stuff is in place. That’s the kind of thing most near and dear to me. I want to leave things with the university and Brookhaven National Lab in a good place … I’m very focused, it’s always been 1st District first.

Does the preservation you’re talking about include the hundreds of acres over by the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant?

Yes, absolutely.

What other things are you working with on preservation, what about the university are you currently engaged with?

I want to make sure that work we have started over at the Gyrodyne site keeps moving forward, it’s linked to the economic vitality of the area. I’m meeting with union representatives, talking about the sewage treatment plant, talking about the 8-acre parcel that would go on there. We got to have further discussions about that project.

Do you have any misgivings about the Gyrodyne plans?

I’ve got to have further discussions. I want to make sure I have the opportunity to talk to people at the university, I want to make sure where the sewage treatment plant is going is going to be accepted in the community.

Do you have any advice for whoever ends up taking over the district? What qualities do you feel like the new senator will require?

I will work with that person, whoever it is in November, whatever party. I will try to help them, work with them. No. 1, they’ve got to have an understanding of who they’re representing. There is a large group that thinks the environment is very important. Whoever is going to replace me will have to have that mindset or have a background in it. 

It’s a big district, and there have been very few things I have missed. Whoever comes in will have to be very much involved in local events. Just look at Fishers Island, it’s closer to Connecticut, but it’s in the Town of Southold. There are 300 people living there, but you know, those people are just as important as any other part of the 1st District. They need to have an interaction with the people of the district.

I think right now the Senate majority, the Democrats, tend to represent New York City and New York City issues. We need someone who is going to fight for suburban and rural interests.

Though you still have a year left in office, how do you feel the shape of the district is in?

My personality has always been one to get things done. The district will be left in as good of a shape as can be.

 

Ken LaValle officially announced he would not be running for reelection Jan 10. Photo by Kyle Barr

State. Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), 80, has been a fixture in New York’s 1st District for more than four decades. At an event held for him at the Village Center in Port Jefferson Jan. 10, the crowd of gathered officials and friends said goodbye to the elder statesman the only way they knew how — in a standing ovation that lasted well over a minute.

Sen. Ken LaValle joined with his wife and daughter Jan. 10 in announcing he would not be seeking reelection. Photo by Kyle Barr

“The best part of the job is the people, those who come into your office looking for help,” the 44-year statesman said in a speech that saw him choked up at several points. “What a thing — to be able to
help people.”

The news broke Wednesday, Jan. 8, that LaValle would not be seeking reelection.

A common refrain of “1st District first,” was shared continuously throughout the Friday gathering, joined by a real “who’s who” of public officials on the East End, including reps from town, county and state, as well as local community and party leaders.

Jesse Garcia, the Suffolk County Republican chairman, said LaValle represented his district so well he will be a hard man to replace. Garcia knew of the senator from the age of 14, he said, and had knocked on doors for the senator along with his father.

“Nobody can really fill LaValle’s shoes,” he said.

Some begged the senator, half-jokingly, to reconsider.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said the senior senate member had been one of the hardest workers for his district. LaValle was at the forefront of preserving over 100,000 acres of land in the Pine Barrens, and Englebright has worked with the senator on many projects since then. At that time, Democratic Assembly member Tom DiNapoli, who is now state comptroller, worked with LaValle in establishing the Pine Barrens Protection Act back in 1993.

“Most of his work has been achieved,” DiNapoli said. “Your example we will all continue to point to, which was beyond partisanship.”

Englebright stressed his colleague’s term is not yet over, and he hopes he can work with LaValle on preserving several hundred acres of woodland currently surrounding the defunct Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant, land, he said, that is so pristine and ancient it “has never been touched by a steel plow.”

For his past and present role in preservation, the senior assemblyman said it went beyond a partnership.

“I would use the word ‘indispensable,’ but it’s not adequate,” Englebright said.

When speaking on his legacy, local officials mainly pointed to two things: His support of the environment and preservation efforts, and his support of schools, including growing the SUNY system and particularly noting Stony Brook University has been built up over the past several decades under his watch and support. His name adorns the sports stadium.

State Sen. John Flanagan and Ken LaValle Jan. 10. Photo by Kyle Barr

Englebright shared the sentiment that LaValle’s support went down to the most unsuspected, including the building of the Suffolk County Volunteer Firefighters Burn Center. Other members of the SBU community said they were both congratulatory and sad that the senior senator was set to retire within a year.

“He has been a tireless champion for Stony Brook University and a staunch advocate for higher education support,” said SBU Interim President Michael Bernstein in a statement. “Stony Brook has advanced significantly thanks to his leadership and deep commitment to our students, our patients and our region.”

Port Jefferson Village mayor, Margot Garant, said LaValle has been in office since she was young, and was a consistent aid to Port Jeff. She added that it was with LaValle’s eventual support that the Village Center, which was built under then-mayor and Garant’s mother, Jeanne Garant. The center was also where the senator hosted his official retirement announcement.

“He listened to everyone,” she said. “He shows that things get accomplished with time.”

Other local legislators knew him for his general support of their districts. Brookhaven Town supervisor, Ed Romaine (R), said the senator had gone out of his way to bridge divides and work for the people of the district. He said he hopes the next person to secure the district will “be one who will advocates for the people of [state Senate District 1].”   

“It’s not the barbs or criticism, it’s not the tweets, it’s reaching out to both parties to get things done,” he said.

Guardianship Corp and RSVP volunteers include members of Stony Brook University’s nursing program, interns and compassionate individuals from Long Island’s senior population. Photo by Robert Heppenheimer

By Laura Johnson

Guardianship Corp is a pilot program created to serve as a safety net for impoverished, incapacitated adults who are wards of the court. There is no hard data on the number of people in Suffolk who need the not-for-profit’s services, but most authorities agree the number is rising due to the aging population. Consequently, more help and additional funding has been sorely needed.

Thankfully, Guardianship Corp’s model of operation “has accomplished what the court system could not,” said Pegi Orsino, executive director of RSVP Suffolk. Her organization recruits and places senior volunteers with the people in need of assistance. “It’s a cost-effective solution that’s making a difference,” she added.

Richard Horowitz is a New York State Court of Claims judge and acting justice of Suffolk County Supreme Court who has also helped launch the new program.

“Judge Horowitz asked RSVP to meet with him in early 2018 to discuss the difficulties in guardianship,” Orsino said. “I brought along one of our board members, Bob Heppenheimer, who had hands on experience with the population the judge was concerned with.” Orsino said. Heppenheimer is a recently retired owner and operator of two local nursing homes and has years of experience as an advocate for seniors and others in long-term nursing care.

“I was wondering what to do next, and God dropped on my lap an opportunity to contribute to the good of society.”

– Bob Heppenheimer

Horowitz explained that New York State does not have a guardianship system in place for disabled adults with no family support and who cannot afford to hire their own attorney. Without the services, these vulnerable individuals are at risk of not only getting lost in the system but may also be deprived of needed medical care. So, the courts have been forced to seek out attorneys willing to do the work pro bono. Horowitz explained that he personally handled more than 150 new applications for guardianship each year.

“And the need was growing,” Orsino said. “Typically, when there is no fee, there are no takers. That is where Judge Horowitz was hoping RSVP could step in.”

Unfortunately, Orsino feared the burden was too great. “Guardianship is a huge responsibility … too much for a volunteer,” Orsino said. “I left the meeting feeling rather at a loss … but Bob was enthusiastic and had the idea of creating a not-for-profit that would serve as guardian, freeing volunteers of that responsibility and instead have them serve as care monitors,” she said. Essentially volunteers would be the eyes and ears for the guardian, enabling the organization to take on many wards.

“I was wondering what to do next,” Heppenheimer said, referring to his retirement as owner of nursing facilities. “And God dropped on my lap an opportunity to contribute to the good of society,” he added.

Heppenheimer drafted a proposal and in the fall of 2018 received start-up funding through a New York State Senate initiative. “Both Nassau and Suffolk counties were given $250,000 each for fiscal year 2019 to manage and make decisions for vulnerable wards,” he said. With the start-up funds, Heppenheimer created the not-for-profit Guardianship Corp. He hired an administrator and recruited and trained selected senior volunteers from RSVP to become care monitors. More recently, Heppenheimer has also reached out to Stony Brook University’s nursing program and interns to become care monitors.

“We currently have guardianship for 40 wards. Our senior volunteers, who include retired nurses, social workers and caretakers, visit 20 of those most vulnerable at least two times a month and report on each visit,” he said. “Attorneys who serve as guardians are only required by the court to visit a ward once every three months,” he added.

“The hope is that this pilot project will be made permanent, serve as a model for other communities and be adopted throughout the state.”

– Richard Horowitz

“Bob is very hands on,” Orsino said. “He makes visits to clients along with the volunteers. Twice a month is huge … a lot can change in 90 days,” she added.

“Over the past year, Guardianship Corp has intervened when an estranged daughter began stealing from her mother, one of our wards. We also stepped in to make sure another ward got the proper cancer treatment for a condition that might have gone unnoticed,” she added. “And sadly, over the past year we have also made several funeral arrangements for individuals who might not have gotten a proper burial otherwise.”

“Our greatest threat going forward is funding,” Heppenheimer said. “Somehow, our cause has worked itself out of the budget cycle. Our clients are elderly or disabled. Many are in nursing homes or institutionalized and do not vote. We serve a population that politicians are not forced to be accountable to.”

Horowitz endorses Heppenheimer’s efforts, “The creation of Guardianship Corp has filled a huge void and allowed the Court to appoint compassionate professionals, volunteers and students whose primary focus is the care, safety and comfort of incapacitated persons. The hope is that this pilot project will be made permanent, serve as a model for other communities and be adopted throughout the state.”

For more information or to volunteer contact Guardianship Corp at 631-650-2325.

 

2019 boys and girls participants in Boys and Girls State from Greenlawn American Legion.

The American Legion Greenlawn Post 1244 each year selects  high school juniors to send to a weeklong summer camp called Boys and Girls State. The educational program’s instruction on government is regarded as one of the best for U.S. high school students. 

Last week, the organization received a $5,000 grant from state Sen. Jim Gaughran’s (D-Northport) office and has become a significant source of funding that expects to help grow the local program. 

“We’ve been receiving typically $50 and $100 from people to sponsor kids,” said Legionnaire Charlie Armstrong, who organizes the program for the Greenlawn post on a volunteer basis. It cost about $500 to send each student.

The post funded 22 kids last year, 20 boys and 2 girls from local high schools. They are currently in the process of talking with principals and guidance counselors at 10 to 12 local school districts and expect to identify candidates for the 2020 season in the upcoming months. The additional revenue means the post can likely fund more students to attend. 

“The American Legion Greenlawn Post 1244 is committed to ensuring students are exposed to how government is supposed to function,” Gaughran said. “These are critical teachings which allow students real exposure to the fundamentals of government and encourage young adults to be active, engaged citizens. I am proud to provide funding to allow them to expand this great program and thank the Greenlawn American Legion for their unwavering commitment to creating meaningful opportunities for our youth.”

William Floyd student Damian O’Malley participated in the 2019 session, which he said taught him about leadership and the benefits of teamwork. He said it was by far one of the best experiences he’s ever had. He engaged in county, city and party caucuses, which, he said caused him to speak out for which position he wanted. 

“I also got to step out of my comfort zone, when I stood in front of everyone in my county and ran for county judge,” he said. “During the week, I met so many people who I would have never gotten the chance to meet, had it not been for this experience.” 

The program dates back to the 1930s, but the Greenlawn Post has been running its program since 2009. Each year more and more students from the area are participating, though more opportunities are available for Boys State than Girls State, which is organized through the American Legion Women’s Auxiliary. 

“When we saw the positive effect this program had on the students we sent, it became our goal to give as many more young people as possible the opportunity to have this experience,” Armstrong said. “After all, they are the future of our country.”

The program aims to objectively expose students to the rights, privileges, duties and responsibilities of a franchised citizen and includes practical training with fictitious local city, county and state governments created by students who are elected and appointed to various offices.  Some of the program’s more prominent graduates includes U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, astronaut Neil Armstrong and television reporter Jane Pauley. Locally New York State Supreme Court Justice Jerry Asher and Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) are graduates of the program. Former President Bill Clinton, who famously shook the hand of then President John F. Kennedy as a Boys State/Nation candidate, is memorialized in an iconic photo that reveals the aspiring glance of a future world leader. 

In a telephone interview Asher said that the program for him was formidable and a very positive experience. Asher attended in 1958 and met two college friends during the training, one that became his college roommate and a lifelong friend. 

“It was a very structured environment, a bit like the military,” he said. “We learned about local governments and the issues of the day and held elections for town, county and state governments and had time for sports competition and music.”

He said the lesson to be learned is:  Be involved in your community and public service. 

The funding will allow 11 Long Island high school students to attend the program. It is the first year Greenlawn is receiving money from the New York State Senate for the program. 

Students interested in applying must be in their junior year of high school and should contact either their guidance counselor or Charlie Armstrong at 917-337-2234 or by email at kiitos@verizon.net.  

People at the June 7 rally held signs supporting Green Light NY bill. Photo by David Luces

After a contentious back and forth between state Democrats and Republicans, the green light bill, a measure that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license in New York State, passed the New York State Senate June 17 and was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). 

The vote makes New York the 13th state in the nation to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. In the past, undocumented immigrants in New York were allowed to have driver’s licenses if they passed the required tests and proved their residency. In 2001, former governor George Pataki reversed the measure via executive order.

“Driving in New York State is a privilege, not a guaranteed right.”

— John Kennedy Jr.

Proponents of the bill say that the bill would improve public safety and the economy.

“Today is a historic day for New York’s hard working immigrant community,” said Steven Choi, the executive director at the New York Immigration Coalition. “We are glad to see that Governor Cuomo did the right thing by signing the Green Light NY bill into law.” 

In the lead up to the vote there was some hesitation of support from some Democrats, which critics attributed to being wary of backlash to the bill and its impact on the 2020 election year.

Jay Jacobs, The Nassau County Democratic chairman, warned the six senators who represent Long Island about the potential political backlash of supporting the bill, according to an article in Gothamist.  

Jacobs told Gothamist that he personally supports the legislation but believes the bill is too polarizing to pursue in the current legislative session.

The legislation moved forward without the support of the six Long Island Democratic senators, who all voted no, as well as three other Republican senators. 

“I am disappointed that the state lawmakers in Albany voted to approve this terrible piece of legislation,” John Kennedy, Suffolk County comptroller and county executive candidate, said in a statement. “Driving in New York State is a privilege, not a guaranteed right, and we should not be extending privileges to those who do not follow the law. I strongly urge the Governor to do the right thing and veto this legislation.”

Other Republicans in the state Legislature shared opposition to the green light bill.  

“This legislation is an outrage to law-abiding New Yorkers, as well as to new Americans that have taken the appropriate steps to become citizens legally,” New York State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) said in a letter. “The overwhelming majority of New Yorkers oppose issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. And yet, that is exactly what Senate Democrats did.”

The Long Island Democratic Senate Delegation said in a statement that they value the important contributions made by immigrants to the local economy and communities. 

“Following countless meetings with stakeholders, residents, and advocates on the implications of this bill, our vote is based on the continued existence of serious concerns raised by stakeholders and law enforcement,” the statement read. “We will continue to stand together in the best interest of Long Islanders.”

Some lawmakers shared concerns that the  Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency could possibly obtain driver’s information and use it for deporting individuals.

Cuomo also raised similar concerns before the vote, stating that he would veto the bill if the federal government would be able to access driver’s information that could be used for deportation. He then asked the state attorney general to review the bill and would sign the bill if it didn’t give federal authorities access to DMV databases. 

State Attorney General Letitia James (D) wrote a statement the night of vote. 

“The legislation is well crafted and contains ample protections for those who apply for driver’s licenses,” James said in a statement. “If this bill is enacted and challenged in court, we will vigorously defend it.”

The bill would require undocumented immigrants to take a driver’s license exam and be able to buy car insurance. The measure would go into effect in 180 days and undocumented immigrants could get licenses starting
in December.

Northport resident Jim Gaughran celebrated two milestones in his hometown this past weekend.

Gaughran was sworn in as New York State senator representing the 5th District at the John W. Engeman Theater Jan. 6, the day after his birthday. He will be one of six Democrats who travel to Albany to represent Long Island’s interest in the state Senate as it kicks off its 2019 session.

“I am humble and honored to represent our district in the state Senate,” Gaughran said. “I am excited for the opportunity to help end the dysfunction in Albany and finally pass critical legislation that New Yorkers have been demanding.”

The newly elected senator upset longtime incumbent Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) in November winning by more than 12,000 votes, according to New York State Board of Elections. While this is Gaughran’s first state office, he is no stranger to politics.

“Jim has been a leader here in this town, county and on Long Island for decades now,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said. “He was a pioneer in Democratic politics when he was the youngest town board member elected in Huntington in 1983.”

The attorney has previous served terms as a Huntington Town councilman and in Suffolk County Legislature. He focused on ethic reforms, campaign finance, criminal justice and public safety issues while serving Suffolk, according to Bellone, in the 1980s and early ’90s. Gaughran has been serving as the chairman of the Suffolk County Water Authority.

“Jim has got the experience, he’s got the intelligence and he’s got the disposition to be a fantastic senator,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran (D) said.

‘You will see a state government that will deliver more for Long Island than New York City has ever delivered for Long Island.’

— Andrew Cuomo

As Gaughran takes office, he will serve as chair of the Senate Local Government Committee. As representative of the 5th District, he will have to juggle representing the interests of constituents in both Nassau and Suffolk counties, covering the North Shore from Glen Cove to Commack.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) administered the oath of office to Gaughran as he stood alongside his wife, Carol, and son, Michael.

Cuomo, who said he’s known Gaughran for more than 30 years, assured those attending the swearing-in ceremony that their new representative will stand strong and not be pushed around by his Democratic colleagues from New York City.

“You are going to have the strongest delegation you will ever have,” the governor said. “You will see a state government that will deliver more for Long Island than New York City has ever delivered for Long Island.”

As the Legislature convenes Jan. 9, Cuomo said top priorities on his agenda will including passing the Reproductive Health Act to ensure women’s health care rights, legislation to create early voting in New York, campaign finance reform, more funding for environmental protection, and increasing government transparency through the Freedom of Information Act for state government
and Legislature.

Gaughran said he supports the governor’s initiatives and hopes to focus on criminal justice reform, ensuring health care for all and improving the performance of the Long Island Rail Road.

He made a specific promise to Dix Hills residents Linda Beigel Schulman and Michael Schulman, whose son, Scott Beigel, was killed in the Parkland, Florida high school shooting.

“I want to tell Linda and Michael, in honor of Scott, if we get nothing else done, we’re going to pass the red flag law,” Gaughran said, drowned out by thunderous applause. “Never again, never again.”

The proposed red flag bill would increase gun control by permitting police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves.

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.

Carl Marcellino. Photo by Alex Petroski

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Education

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

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

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

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

Infrastructure

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

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

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

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

LIPA’s lawsuit over Northport power plant

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

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

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

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

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

Ethics reform

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

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

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

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

State Sen. John Flanagan. File photo

We admire Peter Magistrale (D) for running against a political institution like John Flanagan (R-East Northport) at such a young age. He is very passionate about statutes of limitation regarding sexual abuse claims, an issue we’d be glad to see him continue to fight for regardless of the outcome of this election. His idealism is an asset that could serve the community in the future. We also have heard enough from Stephen Ruth to consider his cause regarding red light cameras and yellow light times something worth looking into as a community.

However, we are endorsing John Flanagan to retain his seat as the state senator for New York’s 2nd Senate District. We support him both for what he has already accomplished in his 14 years in the position — like the fights he gladly took up against the Gap Elimination Adjustment and heroin abuse in his district and beyond — and for what we hope he can bring to the district in the future. He is constantly visible, available and receptive to his constituents and has helped along with State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) to make Stony Brook University what it is today, which is a tremendous asset to the community.

We certainly hope Magistrale continues to look to serve his community, but for this election and this seat, we enthusiastically stand by Flanagan.