N.Y. State Assemblyman Andy Raia (R-East Northport) is seeking his ninth term in office, but Northport resident and senior editor at the Long Island Press Spencer Rumsey is looking to change the Assembly’s 12th district.
In an interview at TBR News Media’s main office, Rumsey said he is running because he believes his constituents need a change in leadership.
“I’m not a career politician, but I’ve always loved politics,” Rumsey said. “As a journalist, I’ve been covering these issues for years on the outside and now I want to try and fight them on the inside, because I decided words aren’t enough.”
Rumsey has worked at Newsday, the New York Post and the Long Island Jewish World. He said he believes he can do more in the majority as a Democrat than Raia can achieve in the minority.
Raia has been serving the district for the past 16 years, and said he has focused on improving the drinking water in the area, slowing the rising heroin crisis facing the North Shore, and cleaning up corruption in Albany.
“This year we did a lot for water quality up in Albany,” Raia said. “Northport Village is one of the few local governments that’s actually getting a million dollar grant. … I was very happy to help deliver on that.” The grant will go towards water and sewer improvements.
Raia also sponsored legislation requiring schools to periodically test their water supplies for lead contamination and provide funding for remediation, which would otherwise be costly to school districts. Lead in drinking water has become a national concern since the residents in Flint, Michigan, suffered from health problems after they discovered their drinking water was contaminated with lead.
Rumsey agreed Long Island should be looking to cut back the amount of nitrogen in the water supply with more sewer use.
“On Long Island, most homeowners don’t have sewers, they have cesspools,” he said, adding he would like to see an effort to increase the amount of sewers on Long Island.
Northport Village has been no stranger to the growing heroin problem, and Raia and Rumsey both had ideas on how to curb this issue.
Rumsey said he has been writing about this issue since he was at Newsday 30 years ago.
“It’s a medical problem and a criminal problem,” he said. “I’m more focused on treatment for addiction.” He said he finds a problem with clean needle exchange programs because they rely too much on trusting addicts to make safe choices, and would rather look towards increasing the amount of treatment programs available for North Shore residents.
Raia said he thinks heroin is one of the most pressing issues in his district.
“As the ranking member on the health committee, this is an issue that I take extremely serious,” he said. Raia said he has held classes to train residents how to use Narcan and worked with other members of the Assembly to pass a package of bills to increase the number of treatment beds and services in New York, as well as to reduce the prescription time frame from 30 days to two weeks.
The candidates also talked about problems with the New York State tax cap.
Raia said he believes the tax cap has worked well, but it is not “without its problems.” He said the behavior of large tax increases in towns and villages has been curbed thanks to the cap.
“The cap kind of suppresses the creativity that schools used to have,” Rumsey said, as part of the issues he said he has with the cap.