2020 Elections

State Sen. John Flanagan (R). Photo by Kyle Barr

In a press release March 25, state. Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), Republican minority leader, announced he will not seek reelection this election year.
“For almost 34 years I have enjoyed the privilege, honor and distinction of serving as an elected official in the New York State Legislature,” Flanagan said in the release. “The opportunity to serve the public for virtually all of my adult life has enriched every aspect of my life, and so it is a with a heavy but extremely proud heart that I announce today that I will not be seeking re-election to the New York State Senate. The wide array of emotions I am experiencing in making this decision are balanced by knowing that I am making the best decision for me and for my family.”

Flanagan’s career has spanned over three decades. The senator has spent 16 years, eight terms, in the New York State Assembly, and 18 years, nine terms, in the senate.

“I have met some of the finest and most dedicated people in my life throughout this time, and it reminds me of why New York State is so special — because of its people, both in and out of government,” he said. “It is still my fervent belief that New York is the Empire State and will continue to be so for many, many years to come.

In the press release, Flanagan added that he realized the timing of the announcing was not ideal. He said he was making it now though due to“the constraints of the political calendar that guides our elections.”

“Our great state is clearly in a time of crisis and now more than ever we need leaders to guide our public policy as true representatives of our taxpayers and constituents,” he said. “I fully intend to apply the same diligence and work ethic as the Leader of our Republican conference as I have since I was first elected leader in 2015.”

Flanagan said top-tier candidates have been recruited in races across the state which will mean the party’s conference “has the right message to succeed.”

“I look forward to continuing to be part of that process as our conference navigates delicate and challenging budget issues and finishing our legislative session,” he said. “Our residents and my constituents deserve no less.”
The senator said he never envisioned the opportunities that have come his way in the last 34 years.
“The gift and privilege of being elected by my colleagues to be the Senate Majority Leader is an honor I will always cherish, and I recognize that with that position comes an immense responsibility to work for the betterment of all New Yorkers,” he said. “It is a fact that continues to be the cornerstone of all my thinking and actions as the Leader of the Republican Conference in the Senate today. Working closely with my Republican Colleagues, we have advocated for vital local issues and passionately distinguished ourselves as principled lawmakers who care very deeply about public service and the people we represent.”

Flanagan ended the statement by thanking his family, friends, colleagues and the people of New York for their support.

SD1 Democratic candidate Tommy John Schiavoni has recently made efforts to court voters on the North Shore in Brookhaven end of the district. Photo from campaign

By Leah Chiappino

A third-generation Sag Harbor resident and Democrat, Tommy John Schiavoni spent his career as an educator and school board member before being elected to the Southampton town board in 2017. Looking to expand his impact, he is now running to secure the Democratic nomination for New York State Senate District 1, a seat vacated when 44-year Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) announced in January he would not be seeking reelection. 

Last month, the candidate officially established a campaign office in Port Jefferson. 

Schiavoni applauded LaValle’s long tenure in public service and pledged to continue his legacy if elected. 

“We need to have a critical mass of Long Island senators in the majority so Long Islanders can have more of a say in state government.”

— Tommy John Schiavoni

“His legacy, particularly when it comes to the environment, is going to be felt in the 1st Senate district for years to come,’ he said. “I didn’t agree with him on everything, but he served his community. He was a friend and a supporter of education and I certainly would work with Senator LaValle in the future transition.” 

Schiavoni comes from a large family that has owned a plumbing business for three generations. He began working alongside them during summers at age 12, an experience he said taught him strong work ethic, respect for community service and problem-solving skills. Ultimately, he decided the plumbing business was not for him and was fueled by his passion for history and government to go into teaching. 

“I was the kid that would sit and watch the conventions in the summertime and route for particular candidates,” he said.

Schiavoni worked his way through college, earning a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Cortland, before securing a position as a social studies teacher at Center Moriches High School, which he held until his retirement in 2018. While teaching, Schiavoni went on to earn his master’s degree at Stony Brook University. He served on Sag Harbor school board from 2014 to 2017, and a legislative liaison to the board as Southampton town board member. These positions sent him to Albany to lobby for funding to East End schools. 

 “This background for me in school governance is an important part of my commitment to education and why I believe I am now ready to serve as senator,” he said. I went to public schools and I taught in public schools. I believe in public education as the great equalizer of our society.”

The Southampton Town Board member began his political career in 2008, serving on various land-use broads and as a Village of North Haven trustee, an experience that he believes he can take with him in dealing with the politics of Albany. 

Aside from local education, Schiavoni said he feels as though environmental issues, specifically regulating tick-borne illnesses, are of great importance. 

 “New York State really needs to be putting resources into researching why they are happening and the human effects of tick-borne illnesses,” he said. “It affects everyone, it’s affecting our health care, and last year the state still dropped funding to $9 million. That number needs to be a lot bigger.” 

When it comes to education at the college level, Schiavoni believes that the SUNY system is providing an “excellent education” to its students and is for expanding the income qualifications for the Excelsior program, which provides free college tuition to families making less than $125,000 a year, if students agree to work in New York for the same amount of time in which they were receiving the scholarship.  

“I like the idea of incentivizing people to stay in New York,” he said. “If you get your education in New York and your education is arguably paid for by the taxpayers of New York, staying here for five years is appropriate”

In terms of health care, Schiavoni sees the need to cut costs and supports the recent state Medicare expansion. He is eager to see what the governor has on the table from his recent task force to expand health care further. 

The candidate sees affordable housing as a multifaceted problem. In the Town of Southampton, he voted to provide low-cost housing in multiple locations and looks to expand those options. He is in favor of a 5 percent transfer tax to create shared equity programs, where people can split the cost of buying a house with a public fund and can choose to buy full ownership over time. When the house is sold, half of the profit goes to the seller and half will roll over back into the fund. 

He is also for expanding and electrifying the Long Island Rail Road, while placing affordable housing near the train stations so people can get from place to place without having to drive. He proposes placing additional siding on the tracks, so more trains can run.

Through all these policies, Schiavoni also stressed fiscal responsibility. As a liaison to the comptroller’s office in Southampton town, the candidate boasted about the AAA Bond rating the town recently earned. 

“That kind of fiscal responsibility is necessary in government,” he said. “We need to have big ideas, but we also need to pay for them in a manner that can be sustained in perpetuity.”

He is also in favor of reforming cash bail, citing that it is discriminatory to low-income people, but feels Class D and E felonies should have bail set by a judge. 

“We can get people back to court in other ways that are not cash bail,” he said. “When those who cannot afford bail are sitting in jail, the recidivism rate actually rises because they are not able to get ahead, spend time with their families, and it costs the states, county and towns, money.”

Schiavoni said that electing a Democrat from the East End of Long Island is even more vital since the party took the majority in both state Assembly and Senate. 

“As much as political parties are important in Albany, regions are important,” he said. “We need to have a critical mass of Long Island senators in the majority so Long Islanders can have more of a say in state government.”

Schiavoni’s path to the nomination is far from linear. Parents for Megan’s Law founder Laura Ahearn, Suffolk County Community College student Skyler Johnson and Valerie Cartright, a Brookhaven town councilwoman are all vying for the nomination. The Suffolk County Republican Party named state Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) as its front-runner.

“We have some really great qualified candidates,” Schiavoni said. “I think contested elections are good for democracy. This is a big district that spans 68 miles from Belle Terre to Montauk Point. I’m going to get out there and bring my message to the people. As an elected official in a number of different areas, I know that I have a lot to offer.”

The state and local primary elections are taking place June 23, and the winner of the Democratic primary will face Palumbo on election day, Nov. 3.

For more profiles of Democrats running for state SD1, visit TBRnewsmedia.com.

The Old Field Lighthouse. Photo by Huberto Pimental

When Old Field residents go to vote in the March village elections, there will be a familiar name missing from the ballot.

Michael Levine

Mayor Michael Levine has decided not to run again after 12 years in the position.

A partner with Rappaport, Glass, Levine & Zulio, LLP, Levine and his wife have lived in the village since 1992. He has two grown children, a son, who is also a lawyer, and a daughter, who is completing her master’s at Stanford University and planning to start medical school in the fall.

Recently, Levine answered a few questions via email discussing his decision not to run for mayor and his experience in the role.

Why did you decide not to run?

I’ve been the mayor for 12 years. It has been an unbelievable honor and privilege, but I decided it was time to give another resident the opportunity to be the mayor. All good things must come to an end every now and then.

What made you decide to run for mayor 12 years ago?

Twelve years ago, I was approached by numerous residents and asked to consider running for mayor because there was some animosity between certain board of trustees members at that time, and it was believed that an outsider who had no specific agenda might be able to calm things down and move the village forward. I believe I did just that — earned the trust of my fellow board members and helped to get the village back on the right track.

What did you find to be the most challenging part of being mayor?

One of the most challenging aspects of the position has been trying to keep village expenses under control in light of increased costs associated with goods and services and the 2 percent tax cap law. Even though from an outsider’s perspective the village is associated with some degree of affluence, the village operates on an incredibly shoestring budget and any unforeseen expenses can have a very detrimental impact on the overall financial health of the village.

What did you find the most rewarding?

One of the most rewarding aspects of being mayor has been getting to know some incredible residents and assisting them by timely considering their building permit applications. The turnaround time for the submission of an application for a permit to the time that it gets before the board for consideration is sometimes no more than a month or two. Another very rewarding aspect of the position has been the ability of the board to avoid lawsuits against the village. As an attorney, I know how to commence a lawsuit, but I also know how to avoid one too. During my administration, we have been very successful in avoiding litigation against the village.

Any advice for the next mayor of Old Field?

One of the keys to being a good mayor is to be responsive to the residents. I was elected 12 years ago to help out the residents of the village, and one of the easiest ways to do that is to be accessible at all times, try to give them what they want and be very open to their suggestions. I believe I did that, and this is one of the most important pieces of advice I can pass along to the next mayor.

Do you think you will still be involved in the village in some way?

I will continue to be very involved in the village. It’s in my blood to be community minded. I would hope every resident would feel the same way. Right now, I am working with other residents on a complete renovation of the village lighthouse with the hope that we will be able to fully restore it to its initial beauty.

The Village of Old Field will hold its election March 18 at the Keeper’s Cottage, 207 Old Field Road. Trustee Bruce Feller will be running for mayor, and Thomas Pirro will be running for a second term as trustee.

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) with Irving Roth. Photo by Peter DiLauro

Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) has been a Brookhaven Town councilwoman for the past six years, but now she is looking a little higher, the New York State Senate District 1 seat. That position is now an open battleground since 44-year Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) announced earlier this month he would not be seeking reelection.

Cartright said she had been asked numerous times by people in and out of the Democratic Party to run for higher office but had not considered it until LaValle made his announcement.

“He had a significant impact on the region,” she said. “For the past 44 years he has worked hard to take care of District 1.”

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, right. File photo by Elana Glowatz

With the change two years ago of the Democrats taking control of both the Assembly and Senate, she said the person who comes into the seat should have the ability to deliver for the district. As someone who sees herself as having worked hard on community issues at a town level, taking that mentality up to Albany will allow her a greater access to resources to help people at home.

Cartright said there are several issues that she sees as very important which she’s worked on  with the Brookhaven board to attack at the Town level, including water quality and protecting a sole-source aquifer and improving the quality of state roads. 

Another is moving away from fossil fuels, for which she said electrification of the Long Island Rail Road’s Port Jefferson line is a must.

Having been a civil rights attorney before joining the Town board in 2013, she congratulated the legislature for working on a number of items to address equity, including health care, voting rights, education and criminal justice, though there is “more work to be done.” 

She cited the need for New York to crack down on prescription drug pricing, with some drugs costing a few hundred dollars in Canada but several thousand in the U.S. She said New York needs to hold drug companies to task and to set limits.

She added she is an advocate for allowing paid gestational surrogates in New York, which is one of the few states that still bans the practice. As a survivor of breast cancer, she said she was once forced to consider a surrogate as an option, before she overcame the disease and had her first child.

In terms of housing and affordability, Long Island has suffered under sky-high housing prices and rents. Cartright said there is a need for “smart growth,” along with an increased acquisition of open space at multiple levels of government, to mitigate the impact to Long Island’s sole-source aquifer. She said there is a need for a complete restructure of property taxes and called for a study on the property tax structure.

Though the state is currently controlled by Democrats in both the Assembly and the Senate, things could always swing in the opposite direction, and like LaValle and his fellow Republicans found themselves in 2018, suddenly Democrats could become the minority. Cartright said that should the situation change, she has already proven she can work alongside Republicans being the only Democrat on the Town board.

She is not the only Democrat seeking the nomination. Other contenders for the seat include Parents for Megan’s Law founder and Port Jeff resident Laura Ahearn, Suffolk County Community College student and Mount Sinai resident Skyler Johnson and Tommy John Schiavoni, a Southampton Town board member. The Suffolk County Republican Party has named state Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) as its front-runner.

Though she said she has respect for all the other Democratic contenders, she feels she is in the best position to take her message to Albany, with the most legislative experience over her contemporaries.

“I know it’s a crowded race, with some formidable candidates,” she said. “But I’m putting my best foot forward … I look forward to serving my [area] and the whole of District 1 on the state level,” she said.

Incumbent New York State Assembly 2nd District Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo speaks at TBR News Media during the 2014 election cycle. File photo by Elana Glowatz

By David Luces and Kyle Barr

State Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) announced he would be looking for a step up in Albany, as he’s now seeking the hotly contested State Senate District 1 seat. 

The seat has opened up since 44-year incumbent Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) announced he was not seeking reelection
in November.

“It is apparent that the one party rule up in Albany is not working for those here on Long Island,” Palumbo said as to the reason he decided to run. “They have been instituting a progressive left agenda that is contrary to the way of the life here in SD1.”

Palumbo, 49, whose Assembly 2nd District runs along the North Shore from Fishers Island all the way to Mount Sinai, was first elected in 2013 with 57 percent of the vote and has easily retained that seat in the next three elections by large margins.

Suffolk County Republican Committee chairman, Jesse Garcia, was enthused to see Palumbo moving in as the Republican front-runner. 

“For the people of Senate District 1, this is great news,” Garcia said. “Anthony’s record is second to none.”

Though the seven-year legislator is moving from what has been considered a safe seat into what could be a fiercely contested race, Garcia said he wasn’t concerned.

“He is giving up a safe seat and is answering to a higher calling,” the Republican chairman said. “He will listen to the people and has the experience to lead SD1.”

Palumbo, a former prosecutor, will have to take on whoever comes out on top of a Democratic primary that sees well-known names like Laura Ahearn, Parents for Megan’s Law founder and Port Jeff resident, and Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station). Also running for the Democratic ticket is Skyler Johnson, Suffolk County Community College student and Mount Sinai resident, and Tommy John Schiavoni, a Southampton Town Board member.

In a prior interview with TBR News Media, Palumbo said he originally had reservations about seeking the higher office. One was the age of his children, one 12 and the other 15. The other was his current leadership position in the Assembly.

“It was a big decision for my family and I, but it is important that we hold onto Senate District 1,” the assemblyman said.

Garcia said this race is one of the big ones of the Republican Party trying to wrest back control of the State Senate from the Democrats.

Two items, he said, are at the highest importance in his run. One is bail reform, which Republicans across the island have called for the law’s removal.

“There was need for tweaking of criminal reform, but this goes beyond safe or smart,” he said. “The new discovery reform also went too far. It will cost millions of dollars in unfunded mandates.” 

Palumbo added he wants to focus on taxes and bringing in more jobs to the district. 

“The county is losing people in droves — I want to do what’s right for the district — I want my kids to be able to live here.”

Moderator Dave Calone with candidates Perry Gershon, Nancy Goroff, Bridget Fleming and Three Village Democratic Club president, Virginia Capon. Photo from Three Village Democratic Club

By Donna Newman

Three candidates have announced their intention to seek the Democratic nomination for the House of Representatives for the 1st Congressional District in 2020. They were invited to a Dec.12 meet the candidates night held by the Three Village Democratic Club. Club president, Virginia Capon, welcomed the audience and introduced the evening’s moderator Dave Calone, who was a candidate for the seat in 2016. Capon was pleased by the size of the crowd, which was approximately 120 people.

Questions were solicited from club members prior to the event.

The candidates are Bridget Fleming, Perry Gershon and Nancy Goroff.

Bridget Fleming (D-Sag Harbor) is a three-term Suffolk County legislator representing District 2. She was first elected to the Town of Southampton Town Board in a special election and went on to win a full term a year later. Prior to that she served as a prosecutor in Manhattan for nearly a decade, eventually specializing in fraud in government programs. In her opening remarks she said she saw a clear path to victory next November.

“I have run and won, again and again,” Fleming said. She noted she has 10 years of experience delivering for this district — and her record speaks for itself.

Perry Gershon, of East Hampton, was a mortgage broker for commercial properties until he divested from his company in 2017 to run for office. In 2018 he won the local Democratic nomination for Congress by being the top vote-getter in a field of five. Gershon lost to incumbent Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) in the general election, garnering 47.4 percent of the vote to 51.5. Gershon thinks he stands the best chance to win this time because of his previous campaign.

“The hardest part of running for office is getting out the electorate,” Gershon said. “I’ve done it. We built up energy — we inspired volunteerism.” He believes his first experience will be invaluable.

To Nancy Goroff, Suffolk is home. She has lived and worked in the district for 22 years. She raised her children in the Three Village area. Her research and teaching at Stony Brook University have created lots of connections, both academic and governmental. Goroff feels she can bring a new perspective to Congress by offering innovative solutions. A scientist, she said constituents can have faith she’ll make decisions based on science and facts.

“We deserve better,” Goroff said. “[It would be good] to live in a world where government actually tries to solve people’s problems.”

The candidates fielded a question about the elimination of student loan debt.

Gershon said, “The system is broken. [There should be] a trade-off of public service for debt assistance.”

Fleming said, “If you can refinance a car or a home, why not student loan debt?” She created a program while in law school at the University of Virginia offering loan forgiveness in exchange for public service.

Goroff said, “Make education as accessible as possible. Where [students] go should not be limited by parents net worth.”

Another question asked if the candidates would trade a border wall for protection of the Dreamers.

Fleming wanted more details. “We do need firm rules at the border that must be fair and humane. We need a comprehensive solution to immigration issues,” she said.

Goroff said, “We need secure borders, [but] our country values immigrants. We need to give people hope in their home countries, so they don’t have to walk a thousand miles.”

Gershon replied, “Yes. I would do that trade to protect people in this country already. We do need comprehensive immigration reform, too.”

In answering a question on guns, there was consensus among the three that legislation is needed, that the assault weapons ban should be reinstated, that high capacity magazines should be banned and that, if the majority of Americans support universal background checks, the NRA ought not be allowed to prevent such legislation from being passed.

Regarding a question about health care, there was agreement that the Affordable Care Act needs to be improved, that health care is a human right and every American deserves affordable access to high quality care. Goroff and Gershon said they’d favor Medicare for All — as an option.

Should military spending be decreased? All three candidates expressed a desire to restore respect for the U.S. around the world. In light of a recent Washington Post exposé on the waste and corruption of military spending in Afghanistan, Gershon and Goroff called for the military to spend more wisely — with Goroff adding, “First, increase spending on diplomacy.”

What bill would they first introduce as a congressperson?

Gershon answered, “Election reform.”

Fleming responded, “We need to fully fund the EPA.”

Goroff seemed to concur, “Focus on climate-change research funding.”