2016 Elections

Spencer Rumsey, left, and Andrew Raia, right, speak about why they would make the best choice for Assemblyman in the 12th district. Photos by Desirée Keegan

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.

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.

Anna Throne-Holst. Photo by Phil Corso
Anna Throne-Holst. Photo by Phil Corso

Freshman Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) has done some admirable things for constituents of the 1st district. A veteran himself, with four years of active duty — including a deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and nine years in the Army Reserves — he has done a lot for Long Island veterans. He was also instrumental in the signing into law of an amendment that bears his name, allowing states to opt out of Common Core without fear that there will be any loss of federal funding as a result. That’s a victory for the nearly unanimous animus we’ve heard candidates express for the program this fall.

Challenger Anna Throne-Holst (D) was elected four times to the Southampton Town Board and, as town supervisor, fixed financial problems, streamlined the budget and put the reallocated funds to use improving quality of life for Southampton residents. And she did this while in the minority, working with Republicans. Now she hopes to bring that skill set to Congress and we’d like to see her do it.

These are both hard-working, dedicated politicians, but one aligns with our values and ideals better. Only Throne-Holst believes in background checks for gun purchasers, revamping the existing Affordable Care Act, protecting a woman’s right to choose and overturning Citizen’s United.

We endorse Anna Throne-Holst to be our next congressperson.           

Jack Martins. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.
Jack Martins. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.

The congressional race between Tom Suozzi (D) and Jack Martins (R) in the 3rd district is an exciting one, with no incumbent and thus no clear front-runner.

After listening to both candidates, we were more impressed with Martins’ points of view and ideas to improve New York. While Martins is running on the Republican ticket, he was not afraid to stray from his party’s traditional ideologies, including his stance on the funding of Planned Parenthood, gun control reform and climate change. Martins described himself as a man in the middle, and we would agree. For example, while he is pro-life, Martins said he does not support defunding Planned Parenthood and believes intimate health decisions should not involve government officials. He has a proven record of bringing improvements to the area he served in the New York State Senate, and he also brought up some of the projects he was defeated on, showing that he understands the need to listen to a community when they don’t support ideas. We believe he would do the same for the 3rd Congressional District.

It’s also important to note Martins came into our office for an interview, and Suozzi was only able to speak on the phone, which is a less effective forum.

Suozzi also has a long record of public service, and he certainly understands the problems facing the district. He has some great ideas to improve New York, but when you can only chose one, we chose Martins.

Democrat Peter Magistrale and State Sen. John Flanagan battle each other, and Independent Stephen Ruth for the right to represent the 2nd district Nov. 8. Photos by Desirée Keegan

St. James resident Peter Magistrale, 24, is taking his first swing at elected office, challenging New York State Sen. and Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) to represent the 2nd district.

The candidates met and discussed why they think they could best represent their constituents at TBR News Media’s main office.

Magistrale (D) said he is running for office because he wants to tackle political corruption.

“I see government at all levels as a tool for powerful people to get what they want,” he said. Magistrale said he wants to focus on ways to reform campaign finance and laws to protect children in sexual abuse cases, among his other platform issues.

“I don’t believe in vigilantism. I don’t like red light cameras, and I voted against them.”

— John Flanagan

Flanagan said he’s proud to be the first majority leader from Suffolk County, and proud of the legislation he has helped pass, including a package of bills to combat the county’s opioid abuse problem and restoring funding taken from school districts by the Gap Elimination Adjustment. Flanagan has served in the New York Senate for 14 years, and before that served in the New York State Assembly for 16 years.

Part of Magistrale’s campaign has been dedicated to supporting the Child Victims Act, which is legislation that would eliminate both criminal and civil statutes of limitation for child sexual abuse, and provide a one-time, one-year window in the statute of limitations to enable victims whose claim was time-barred by the current arbitrary limitations to revive their claim.

“A child who’s sexually abused cannot come forward after they’ve turned 23,” Magistrale said. “That’s not protection. That’s protecting financial interests who do not want the law changed. To say that the current law protects children — it does not.”

Flanagan agreed this is a serious issue, but did not agree with how Magistrale wants to approach the issue.

“There are significant protections in the law right now,” he said. “This is a one-year opener that could bring cases going back 40, 50, 60 years. We have statutes of limitations for very cogent reasons and no matter how emotional a subject may be, witness availability, evidence, all those things have a salutary effect in terms of what happens.”

Stephen Ruth, referred to as the Red Light Robin Hood, is also running against the two candidates for the 2nd district seat, but did not respond to request for comment. Ruth is an outspoken critic against the red light camera program on Long Island and has been arrested for tampering with red light cameras.

“I don’t believe in vigilantism,” Flanagan said of Ruth’s actions. “I don’t like red light cameras, and I voted against them.” The state senator said that while this program was first suggested as a safety issue, it now seems like more of a measure to increase revenue.

Magistrale said he agreed with most of Flanagan’s sentiments.

“I think there is a good enough reason to look at if the red lights were shortened,” Magistrale said. “Shortening a yellow light is just as dangerous, and I think we ought to have an investigation to find out if they really were shorted or not.”

“A child who’s sexually abused cannot come forward after they’ve turned 23. That’s not protection. That’s protecting financial interests who do not want the law changed.”

— Peter Magistrale

The candidates found some common ground on education, and agreed the system is in need of improvement.

Magistrale said he believes Common Core has lost the consent of the citizens.

“We’ve had opt out rates, from grades three through eight, over 50 percent …what does that say?” Magistrale said. “Having standardized exams that reinforce memorization is not a way to create free thinkers. In a time in our history where crimes are being committed in the highest places of government, we need people who will ask questions, not be obedient.”

Flanagan said he’s had many hearings and meetings on the subject throughout the state.

“This is one subject area where I know more than frankly anybody in the Legislature,” he said. “I don’t like the exams … but all those tests are overwhelmingly mandated by the federal government.” Flanagan said despite the problems with Common Core, changes on the federal level need to be put in place to improve the current system, rather than tearing it down and starting over.

Jack Martins, left, and Tom Suozzi, right, are both vying for the open congressional seat on the North Shore. Left photo by Victoria Espinoza; file photo right

By Rebecca Anzel

Both candidates running to succeed Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) in the 3rd Congressional District agree the winner needs to be an agent of change, but State Senator Jack Martins (R-Mineola) and former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) disagree about what that means.

Martins, a lawyer, spent eight years as mayor of Mineola and five years as the state senator from the 7th senate district. He said his record proves he is able to achieve meaningful change by working across party lines, making necessary decisions and leaving things more stable than he found them.

“You have to measure commitments by actions and results, and certainly my tenure speaks for itself and [Suozzi’s] tenure speaks for itself, and I think those are important distinctions,” Martins said. “Oftentimes, when it comes to my opponent, the problem is he’s more concerned with running for something else and taking that next step than he is about fixing the problems he was elected to fix.”

For Suozzi, an attorney and certified public accountant, it takes more than bipartisanship to solve issues the country has been struggling with for decades. He said during his seven years in office both as mayor of Glen Glove and Nassau County executive, he fought to “change the status quo” — even when that meant going against his party.

“I think that my experience has given me a skill set and a life experience that have trained me to actually get things done,” Suozzi said in a phone interview. “I’m the only candidate in this race that has a proven record of standing up to very powerful forces and fighting to get things done on behalf of the people I serve.”

Both candidates agree issues such as water quality and heroin use are concerns for Long Islanders.

Martins and Suozzi both said sewers would help curb the amount of harmful nitrogen leaching into Long Island’s water bodies from septic systems and cesspools. Martins prioritized Long Island’s drinking water and pushed the importance of a comprehensive study of its aquifer to be conducted and followed up with some regularity.

Suozzi focused on the Long Island Sound. He said the 3rd Congressional District is an important one in regard to the sound and to protect it, residents need to think about it differently.

“We need to try to promote the concept of the Long Island Sound as our national park, and we need to work on reducing the amount of nitrogen that goes into [the Long Island Sound] from stormwater runoff from everywhere,” he said.

Both candidates also agreed educating children early about the dangers of heroin and other drugs is important — but their plans differed. Martins said penalties need to be higher for sellers of heroin and addicts need to have a path to sobriety.

“It is a critical issue and we need to get our hands around it,” he said. “We have to increase penalties for the sale of these products while at the same time understanding we’re not going to incarcerate our way through this.”

Suozzi said the problem started with medical professionals prescribing too many opioids, and that needs to be tackled first, beyond the state registry.

The congressional hopefuls both commented that the national election should be more about issues and less about personal attacks and said they will be voting along party lines — Martins said he plans to vote for Donald Trump (R) and Suozzi for Hillary Clinton (D).

Congressman Lee Zeldin and challenger Anna Throne-Holst face off in the 1st Congressional District, which many have called a ‘surrogate race’ for the presidential election. Photos by Alex Petroski

By Kevin Redding

A clashing of opinions on almost every issue gave way to a tense debate between an incumbent Republican congressman and a former Southampton Town supervisor as the race for the 1st Congressional District seat enters its final stretch.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who graduated from Albany Law School before serving in the U.S. Army Reserve, was first elected into the House of Representatives in 2014 and seeks to maintain that position Nov. 8. He must first win re-election, however, against Democrat Anna Throne-Holst, whose work in local government has been guided by a “people over politics” platform in an effort to make government work for everyone.

The candidates sat down at the TBR News Media office Oct. 27 to square off on a variety of pressing local and national topics, like the environment, veterans issues, Planned Parenthood and the presidential election.

Zeldin has accomplished plenty in his 21 months representing the district, which encompasses most of central and eastern Suffolk County, and takes pride in his willingness to work with absolutely anyone, regardless of party.

“Everyone is entitled to and wants clean air and clean water, and whatever we can do to advance that is important.”

— Lee Zeldin

He has worked hard to help veterans suffering from PTSD, secured the repeal of the saltwater fishing license fee, and fought to block the federal government’s proposed sale of Plum Island.

Throne-Holst has built and run organizations mostly geared toward educational and essential services for families in need of support, worked at the U.N. Department of Peacemaking, and wants to utilize the work she’s done abroad to fix what she calls “thorny foreign policy decisions that we are dealing with.”

She’s committed to providing a service to families and young people in the community who she said have been sorely underserved. She said Congress is at an all-time low approval rating and has not done enough to deal with the critical issues the country is facing.

Before the candidates focused their discussion on the environment, there were accusations from both sides regarding the Environmental Protection Agency.

“All due respect, I think it’s important to note the things where funding has either been slashed or not put forward,” Throne-Holst said. “When I think about things, like the EPA, that he voted to decrease funding for … and the kind of funding that supports programs that are crucial to our residents here in district one New York, and that have been mired in partisan politics in Washington, that is part of what I think is troubling.”

Zeldin refuted Throne-Holst’s statements.

“My opponent repeatedly states that I voted multiple times to defund the EPA,” he said, demanding specific bill numbers from Throne-Holst. “That is not truthful. When there was a vote to cut EPA funding by 17 percent, I voted against the cut. My opponent didn’t read the bill. There are ways to improve the EPA and strengthen the relationship between the EPA and Congress and the American people.”

Zeldin introduced a Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act alongside Congressman Steve Israel, and said the health of the Sound would be an important issue if he secured another term.

He talked specifically about his involvement in raising money for the National Estuary Program, which provides grants to states threatened by pollution and overuse, and his proposals in relation to Plum Island.

“Everyone is entitled to and wants clean air and clean water, and whatever we can do to advance that is important,” Zeldin said.

Throne-Holst spoke more broadly about the hazards of climate change, an issue Zeldin has questioned the legitimacy of in the past, and sea-level rise. She said there isn’t a single homeowner or business owner in the region immune to climate change. She said the federal government has a responsibility to lead the way in putting together a climate change resiliency plan, district by district.

The debate turned even more contentious when the focus shifted to their respective stances on Planned Parenthood.

Zeldin, who voted for a bill that would halt funding for the organization for a year, was asked whether or not he believed it should be defunded.

“I believe in a woman’s right to choose. I don’t think it’s a question of a personal experience. I think it’s a question of respecting the civil rights of every American.”

— Anna Throne-Holst

“I respect the position amongst American taxpayers who do not want their dollars to go toward funding abortions,” he said. “I certainly have a sensitivity and respect for both sides of this issue … but the idea that it can be legal for someone to be able to decide to get an abortion in the eighth month or ninth month, that is something that I very strongly disagree with.”

When pressed for clarification on the organization’s funding, Zeldin said “as far as funding abortion services, yeah [it should be halted].”

Throne-Holst called their views on the issue a very clear line in the sand.

“I believe in a woman’s right to choose,” she said. “I don’t think it’s a question of a personal experience. I think it’s a question of respecting the civil rights of every American. The idea that government has any role to play in making that decision for anyone goes against any provision of humanity.”

Zeldin has publicly supported Republican nominee Donald Trump in the race for the White House in the past, though he said we have two flawed options for president, referring to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as well. He offered no defense for Trump’s well-documented controversial statements, including the Access Hollywood leak wherein Trump boasted about sexually assaulting women.

He said he sides with Trump on many issues, like improving foreign, tax and immigration policies and defeating “Islamic Extremism.” He said he agrees with Trump more than he agrees with Clinton.

Throne-Holst accused her opponent of going on CNN numerous times to defend Trump in the past. She said there is no excuse for overlooking the statements Trump has made and “allowing this man to be the supreme leader of this country and be the role model for our children.”