Election News

Stan Loucks, Margot Garant, Kathianne Snaden, Barbara Ransome and Suzanne Velazquez at Tuesday’s debate. Photo by Julianne Mosher

For two hours on Tuesday night, dozens of people sat inside the Port Jefferson Village Center to watch the highly anticipated election debate, hosted by the League of Women Voters. 

Incumbents trustee Kathianne Snaden, trustee Stan Loucks and Mayor Margot Garant sat alongside Barbara Ransome and Suzanne Velazquez to answer questions from the audience surrounding village issues and how they will work toward them if elected.

Two trustee seats are up, with the two incumbents and Velazquez vying for the spots. Ransome, the director of operations with the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and a past village trustee, is looking to take over Garant’s seat as mayor.

After opening remarks, the first question up was regarding uptown revitalization. Garant said, “Everyone knows uptown is a very challenged business improvement district.” With a master plan in place, she and her team have helped initiate the start of building mixed-use spaces as of three months ago — bulldozing the vacant Bada Bing location to start construction with the Conifer Realty apartments. More plans are being implemented to continue the growth and revitalization of Upper Port, which will continue to take time and planning.

Ransome added that during her tenure with the chamber, membership has increased by 50%. By working with landowners, landlords and closely with Stony Brook University, she said the village is a vital place to conduct business.

“There has always been a line of communication to try to encourage businesses to come down into the village as well in Upper Port,” she said. 

The topic of cannabis became heated when all five participants had different views on smoking or ingesting the plant within the village. Garant noted that under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) legislation, cannabis can be ingested or smoked and for dispensaries to operate, but the village has until the end of the year to opt out. As of right now, Garant has not made a decision because she said it is a “tough decision.”

“Cannabis dispensaries are clean and safe,” she said. “People will want to go to other places and purchase it and come back, but I think it might be an incentive for uptown redevelopment. So, I’ve not closed the door on this. I’d like to hear from my community before I make that kind of decision.”

The village currently has a code which prohibits the use or smoking of tobacco or cannabis products on any village-owned property, which includes village parks but excludes the golf course at the country club. 

“We know when we’re on a golf course in the open space, some of the ladies and gentlemen like to enjoy a smoke,” she said. “If we cannot enforce one type of tobacco, it’s difficult to enforce another type of tobacco. So, we’re looking to make it the policy of membership — when you join the country club to prohibit the use of cannabis as a policy when you become a member.”

Ransome said that is called “privilege.” 

“It should be an even-lane regulation,” she added. 

Loucks believes there should be absolutely no use of cannabis anywhere within the village, while Snaden looked at the issue from both a financial and public safety point of view. 

“It could be an opportunity for our town,” she said. “There are tax implications there where we would receive tax revenue but, as the commissioner of public safety, I have a lot of concerns.”

Velazquez, too, was concerned about the close vicinity of the middle and high schools, but also as a health care professional who acknowledges the positives medicinal marijuana could have on a person. 

Things got heated again when the discussion of bus shelters and the future of transportation came up. Garant said previously there were issues with graffiti and homeless people using the shelters as a home, along with the loss of the Stony Brook shuttle during COVID. However, she said the shuttle is coming back with the university sporting 50 percent of the bill. 

Snaden, who is also the liaison to the village parking and transportation departments, said that the bus will help continue to bring business back.

“I think it’s very important for businesses to have students and staff and anybody else on that shuttle route come into the village to patronize the businesses and the restaurants without their vehicles,” she said. 

Velazquez agreed, but was upset by the lack of places for people to sit while they waited for their buses, and that Port Jefferson is the only train station on Long Island that has removed its benches.

“I think that we should make sure that we have places for people to sit,” she said. “Seniors, the disabled or just people wanting to enjoy. I think we should have bus shelters and benches at the train station for everybody to use — not just select who should be allowed to rest.”

Snaden rebutted, noting the reason benches were removed at the train station was because of the multitude of complaints that they received of criminal activity going on around the benches. 

“It’s not about selectivity,” she argued. “We do not discriminate as to who can sit and who can rest. We welcome everyone to this village, and we help them in any way that we can. We cannot have crime, we cannot have drug deals, we cannot have what was going on at the train station.”

For public safety concerns, Loucks started off with how proud he was that the Suffolk County Police Department Whiskey Tour would be patrolling the village at night, afterhours. 

“They have a little bit more clout than our code officers,” he said. “Our code officers are somewhat restricted with what they can do but are always the first ones there.”

Snaden, who throughout her two years as trustee has implemented several different policies for public safety including the “See Something — Say Something” campaign, as well as a new kiosk for code enforcement to be readily available during their tour. 

Ransome argued that when the officers are off duty is when trouble arrives, especially when the bars are let out. She said she would prefer officers to be touring during later hours. 

“I think that we need to change our shifts on our codes so that they are working in conjunction with Suffolk County,” she said. 

Snaden responded that she is working on making the now part-time officers full time. 

“So that would help with those hours, and for them to work closer with Suffolk County later hours into the evening,” she said.

The LIPA power plant and water quality in the harbor were also discussed, with everyone equally acknowledging the importance fiscally of the plant and of renewable green energy. Loud music was asked about, and what the village can do to better control noise after dark, as well as political signs outside of businesses in the village.

When the conversation about the Port Jefferson Country Club came up again, Loucks noted that as of that day, the club had 700 new members. 

“I believe the country club is the crown jewel,” he said. “If you’ve not gone up to the country club and walked around the facilities, you really don’t know what you’re missing.”

Ransome agreed, but argued about the senior citizen discount that was taken away, as well as allowing more walkers on the property.

“I think we need to do a better job with our contract we have with our current vendor there, which is The Crest Group, because right now we’re only getting $20,000 a month from the rental of that facility, which is extraordinarily less than what happened when Lombardi’s was there,” she said. 

Loucks argued back that when the Lombardi Group left, the space was empty. 

“No one wanted to go up there,” he said. “$20,000 per month goes directly to the village — the village residents pay absolutely no tax money to support the club. Zero. It is a self-sustaining country club.”

Other topics included the marrying of Upper Port and downtown, planning committee critiques, the Gap store vacancy and its parking, also the continuous Lawrence Aviation impact and its future. 

To watch the whole debate online, visit the Village of Port Jefferson’s YouTube page. 

Residents can vote on Tuesday, June 15, at the Village Center at 101A E. Broadway between the hours of 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. 

Stock photo by Kyle Barr

On Tuesday, June 15, Village of Belle Terre residents can vote in the election for two trustee positions. 

This year’s candidates are incumbent Richard Musto on the Citizens Party ballot, with newcomer Richard Harris. Incumbent Caroline Engelhardt is on the Residents Party ballot.

Musto has been a resident of Belle Terre for over 30 years. Running for his third term, Musto said he brings 70-plus years of life experience to the table. 

“I have a strong interest in the village,” he said. “I want to keep it going — I enjoy living here.”

Before his retirement, he spent two years of service in the Navy, with one year of sea duty and a second year at the Naval Air Station in San Diego, with a rank of lieutenant commander.  

After his residency at Downstate Medical Center, he joined a urology group in Port Jefferson in 1977 and remained there until 2014. 

Since then, he has been president of the medical staff at St. Charles Hospital and Peconic Bay Medical Center. Musto has been chief of urology at Mather Hospital, and a member of the board of trustees at Peconic Bay Medical Center for the last 15 years.

Richard Harris is running for his first term as trustee and said he can bring 20 years of professional experience. 

“I’ve always wanted to make a difference in the village where I live,” he said. 

After moving to Belle Terre with his wife seven years ago, “We could not think of a better place to raise our family,” he said. He is the father of two school-aged boys.

Photo from Richard Harris

Harris said he  has served as counsel to town and village boards, planning and zoning boards, conservation boards, public safety commissions, code enforcement and emergency management departments and agencies conducting internal affairs. Currently, he serves as Port Jefferson deputy village attorney and Belle Terre special prosecutor. 

Since moving to Belle Terre, he has served on the traffic safety committee, where he recommended traffic calming measures on Cliff Road, helped build a second kayak rack at Knapp Beach and served on the recently reconvened Marina Committee. If elected, he has a list of goals he plans to accomplish.

“I know how to make government work for all residents,” he said. “I will use my expertise and my municipal and law enforcement contacts to improve traffic safety in the village, to address erosion and water runoff issues, add amenities to our village beaches, and examine options to fund and build a village marina.”

Caroline Engelhardt has lived in her home in Belle Terre for the last 23 years. After from New York College of Osteopathic Medical School in 1988, she did her first two years of residency in anesthesiology at Beth Israel Medical Center/Mt. Sinai in New York City, followed by a third year at the University Medical Center of Pittsburgh and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. After residency, she became a partner with Long Island Anesthesia Physicians in Port Jefferson and has been a senior partner for over 25 years serving patients at St. Charles Hospital, Mather Hospital, Peconic Bay Medical Center and Mercy Hospital. 

Engelhardt has served on several boards and volunteered with Doctors Without Borders. She is a teaching faculty member at Northwell/Hofstra Medical School.

Engelhardt did not respond to TBR News prior to press time. 

Residents can vote for two of these three candidates from 12 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the Community Center in Belle Terre. 

File photo by Heidi Sutton

The candidates are offically on the ballot. 

Last month, local resident and nonprofit owner Melissa Paulson announced she would be running against incumbent Margot Garant.

Village clerk Barbara Sakovich confirmed that as of Wednesday, May 12, Paulson officially dropped out of the race. 

However, Barbara Ransome, director of operations with the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, announced this week she would be running on the mayor ticket, with fellow chamber president, Suzanne Velazquez.

For the village’s election on June 15, the candidates are now as follows: 

Margot Garant and Barbara Ransome for mayor; incumbents Kathianne Snaden, Stanley Loucks and newcomer Suzanne Velazquez are running for two trustee positions.

Former Three Village Civic Association president and school district board trustee Jonathan Kornreich announced earlier this year he was running for Brookhaven Town Council in a special election March 23. Photo from candidate

TBR News Media strongly endorses Democrat candidate Jonathan Kornreich in Town of Brookhaven’s special election March 23. He and Republican Theresa Laucella are vying for the town board seat left vacant by former Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), who won her run as a judge for the Supreme Court of the State of New York in November.

Kornreich has a proven record of working for the public with the Three Village Civic Association and school district. He is bright, articulate, hard working and committed to whatever task he takes on. Kornreich wants to make a difference in the community.

If elected, he will be the only Democrat on the Brookhaven Town Board, which is important to maintain a two-party system, but at the same time, through his work with the civic association, Kornreich has no trouble working with all political parties on all levels of government.

The candidate is always willing to help out in the community whether it’s bringing meals to homebound seniors or finding resources for business. He listens to residents concerns and carefully contemplates the best way to help.  

He understands the importance of smart development and land preservation. Most of all, since he announced his run for town council earlier this year, he has taken the time to talk to residents and participated in Meet the Candidates nights organized by local community organizations.

We were deeply disappointed that his opponent Laucella could not be reached for interviews or participate in Meet the Candidates events. However, this criticism is not toward Laucella but the Brookhaven Republican Committee. We suggest the committee take every election seriously and produce a candidate who will actively campaign instead of being a placeholder on the ballot.

Laucella, who was described as an active volunteer in an email from the committee, would most likely have a lot to say about life in District 1 and how she would make it an even better place to live. It’s a shame she wasn’t given the opportunity to do so.

Unfortunately this isn’t the first time the committee has nominated Laucella for a position, and we were left disappointed. In 2013, she ran against Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and didn’t participate in a TBR News Media debate with Hahn.

One of the most important things an elected official can do is show up. Kornreich proves again and again that he shows up.

We urge a vote for Jonathan Kornreich for Brookhaven Town Board March 23.

The line to vote at Joseph A. Edgar Intermediate School in Rocky Point was about 30 minutes, but other voters reported much longer lines the early morning of Nov. 3. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr, Rita J. Egan and Julianne Mosher

Capping off months of anticipation, the 2020 election came to a head Tuesday night, though New Yorkers will still need to wait weeks before they know the true outcomes of state and federal races.

As it stands, Republicans have taken an early lead based on unofficial counts of in-person polling numbers by the Suffolk County Board of Elections. Nick LaLota, Republican BOE commissioner, said absentee ballots will start to be tabulated Nov. 10 after the board has had the opportunity to remove the absentee ballots of those voters who also cast a ballot on a machine, and have bipartisan teams compare the signatures on the oath envelopes to the voters signatures on file.

There have been well over 100,000 absentee ballots received in Suffolk County for the three congressional districts alone, and there will likely be more incoming as ballots are received as long as they were postmarked by Election Day. Election experts have also said those absentee ballots are more likely to favor Democrats.

In one of the most contested races for the NY1 Congressional seat, Lee Zeldin has already moved to declare victory. Zeldin is sitting at 61% of in-person votes while Goroff holds a little under 39%. The Zeldin campaign released a statement declaring victory at 11 p.m. Election Day.

“I am deeply honored and humbled that the families of Long Island have entrusted me to continue representing our great Congressional District,” Zeldin said in a statement.

Democratic contender Nancy Goroff’s campaign manager, Jacob Sarkozi, responded at 1:30 a.m. that, “With tens of thousands of ballots left to be opened, we owe it to voters that every single one be counted.”

There are currently 75,091 absentee ballots for CD1 uncounted as of Nov. 4.

Speaking to Goroff the evening of Nov. 3, before polls closed, she said the huge turnout in the district has been “amazing,” adding there has been a good deal of excitement about the coming results.

While in-person votes were still to be counted as of Election Day, with the thousands of absentee ballots still to be counted, she stressed it’s still too early to tell winners with any degree of certainty, but added the turnout is a good sign.

With an energized electorate not seen in many years, polling places across Long Island saw a huge rush early in the morning Nov. 3, with residents across the North Shore reporting hour or more wait times in chilling temperatures. Lines got progressively shorter over the day, and by 8:30 a.m. people were reporting between 20- to 40-minute lines.

The night of Nov. 3, both Suffolk County party committees held online livestream events, rather than the usual election parties held at Stereo Garden in Patchogue for the Republicans and IBEW Local 25 in Hauppauge for the Democrats. The Dems palled around in a short hour-long Zoom call before signing off. The Republicans spent the night taking calls from candidates and committee members, relishing the early polling numbers.

Other congressional races have similarly stalled at a Republican lead. U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY3) is currently sitting at 47% to Republican challenger George Santos at 53%.

Kim Devlin, a senior adviser to Suozzi’s campaign, said in a statement they believe Suozzi is guaranteed to win.

“It is clear that Tom will win reelection by a substantial margin,” Devlin said. “Democrats hold a 3-1 advantage in the nearly 90 thousand absentee votes yet to be counted and we expect Tom’s margin of victory to be over 20 thousand votes.”

For state Senate, the race between Democrat Laura Ahearn and current Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) in District 1 is locked at 43% to 57%, respectively.

Palumbo said in a statement he is “really excited about our position today and [I] feel good about our likelihood of success,” adding he is honored to be close to representing the district occupied by state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson).

Ahearn said in a statement that “while the early vote and Election Day in-person vote was not as close as we had hoped,” with more 31,000 mail-in ballots still to be counted, there is a need to be patient and ensure all ballots are counted. She also thanked her supporters, as well as her campaign staff, interns and volunteers “for their dedication and commitment.”

In SD2, Republican Mario Mattera holds a near-30 point lead over his Democratic opponent Mike Siderakis at 64%-36% Wednesday morning. Mattera said he was grateful for all the volunteers who assisted in the campaign.

“I’m so excited for my community,” he said. “I’m so excited for our families.”

Once in Albany, Mattera, who describes himself as “a middle-of-the-road guy,” said he will work to repeal the bail reform act and ensure funding for law enforcement. Continuing to educate the public about precautions to take during the pandemic and helping businesses to open up fully is also on the forefront of his mind. He added he will continue to work on improving the infrastructure in the district. Mattera worked with elected officials and community leaders on the revitalization of Lake Avenue in St. James. He said it’s important to secure a sewage treatment plant that will allow for growth in the area and at the same time will protect local waterways.

Siderakis did not respond to request for comment.

Republican Ed Smyth, who is currently a Town of Huntington councilman, was leading Wednesday morning in the race for state Senate in SD5 with more than 55% of the votes. Sitting state Sen. Jim Gaughran (D) at 43% is vying for his second term.

“I’m not ready to hang a mission-accomplished banner over my office,” Smyth said.

The councilman said he will be watching the results closely as he knows thousands of absentee ballots still need to be counted, and from what he has heard, more Democrats than Republicans requested absentee ballots.

“There’s nothing normal about this election year,” he said.

Gaughran’s spokesperson Marissa Espinoza also said it was too early for anyone to declare victory.

“There are nearly 30,000 absentee votes, the majority of which appear to be from Democrats,” she said. “It is vital that every vote be counted. I’m confident that this full count will favor Senator Gaughran.”

For state Assembly, there are some tight and other not-so-tight races. Republican Jodi Giglio is standing at 62% to her Democratic opponent Laura Jens-Smith’s 36% in District 2.

Jens-Smith said during a phone interview Nov. 4 though there are still ballots to count, it’s likely her opponent has the ball. She said the day’s results show that Democrats need to focus on “rebuilding our base here to make sure that the issues we campaigned on are getting out to the voters better.”

She said she will continue to stay involved in the area, especially to make sure “we continue to have working and middle class here on Long Island.”

Giglio said she was holding on any declarations until all absentee votes are counted, but she thanked GOP leadership, her volunteers and her support from law enforcement and labor.

“Every vote means something to me and I am humbled by the confidence in me from the voters and the vote count thus far,” she said.

28-year incumbent Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) is behind his Republican opponent Michael Ross by close to five points in Assembly District 4 at 47%-52%. There are well over 15,000 absentee ballots to be counted, as of Nov. 4.

Englebright said he is not too concerned at the current polling numbers, as because of the pandemic and so many people voting differently, “I think we’ll be OK … a very substantial number of people who voted absentee ballot — a majority are my vote.”

Ross said he remains cautiously optimistic.

I think that across the board on the Island, the middle class spoke loudly for the Democrats to hear that they’re tired of the Albany agenda, and they’re tired of being ignored and their voices not being heard,” he said.

The day’s vote disparity is most drastically seen in Assembly District 8, with incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) holding more than 70% of the vote compared to Democratic challenger Dylan Rice’s 29%.

Fitzpatrick said while “the dust still has to settle,” he feels good about where he’s at.

“It was just an unusual campaign,” he said. “I’m used to being out and about in front of people. We did a couple of events, but certainly not like past campaigns.”

Rice did not respond to a request for comment.

In the 12th Assembly District, Republican Keith Brown had more than 57% of the vote, while Democrat Michael Marcantonio had more than 42% of the votes Wednesday morning.

Brown said while he feels good about the lead but he’s not ready to claim victory yet.

“Every vote is important and has to be counted,” he said.

The candidate said his campaign was one based on character and his experience with getting things done, and he was humbled by the support he received from family, friends, the Republican, Conservative and Independent parties as well as law enforcement organizations.

Marcantonio said he was being patient with results and optimistic for him and other Democrats who are currently trailing.

“This is going to look like a very different race in two weeks when all these votes are counted,” he said.

The Democrat said as of Wednesday morning four polling places in the district were not yet counted, and based on conversations his campaign has had with the board of elections and based on other data they have received, there are a little under 13,000 absentee votes that still need to be counted. Marcantonio is down by 8,000 votes.

“The race is far from over,” he said.

The candidate said he knew the race would be a close one, and he congratulated Brown on the strong showing and appreciated the Republican for not declaring victory just yet.

Republican Jamie Silvestri and incumbent Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) are close to a tie at about 50% each in Assembly District 10, with over 15,000 absentee ballots still to be counted.

“I’m very grateful for all the incredible people who stood by me and supported me throughout the year,” Silvestri said in a phone interview Nov. 4. “I’m optimistic for what’s ahead.”

Stern said that while the numbers are close, there are ballots to be counted over the next week. “It’s a very close race,” he said. “However, there still is a long way to go over the course of the next week in making sure every vote is counted, and when that process is complete I have every confidence that I will have the privilege to represent my community.”

Thousands line up to vote Oct. 24 at Brookhaven Town Hall. Photo by Kyle Barr

The following results are not the final election tallies, as the Suffolk County Board of Elections still has to count all absentee ballots starting later this week. All current results will change in the next few weeks, and those finding themselves in even moderately close races could see a shift.

 

Congress

NY1

Lee Zeldin (R): 176317 Votes – 61.31%

Nancy Goroff (D): 111188 Votes – 38.66%

NY3

Tom Suozzi (D): 45981 Votes – 46.61%

George Santos (R): 52045 Votes – 52.76%

 

New York State Senate
SD1

Laura Ahearn (D): 55554 Votes – 42.78%

Anthony Palumbo (R): 74289 Votes – 57.20%

SD2

Mario Mattera (R): 79750 Votes – 64.11%

Mike Siderakis (D): 44622 Votes – 35.87%

SD5

Jim Gaughran (D): 27030 Votes – 43.46%

Ed Smyth (R): 34512 Votes – 55.49%

 

New York State Assembly

AD2

Jodi Giglio (R): 34289 Votes – 62.39% 

Jens Smith (D): 19935 Votes – 36.27%

AD4

Michael Ross (R): 22966 Votes – 51.88%

Steve Englebright (D): 20999 Votes – 47.44%

AD8

Mike Fitzpatrick (R): 39933 Votes – 70.74%

Dylan Rice (D): 16514 Votes – 29.25%

AD10

Steve Stern (D): 23991 Votes – 49.85%

Jamie Silvestri (R): 24126 Votes – 50.13%

AD12

Keith Brown (R): 30554 Votes – 57.30%

Michael Marcantonio (D): 22754 Votes – 42.67%

 

Stock photo

TBR News Media published its endorsements in the Oct. 29 editions of our papers, which run from Wading River in the Town of Brookhaven to Cold Spring Harbor in Huntington along the North Shore. As always, these are only our opinions, and we urge you to learn about the candidates and make your own decisions as to whom you will give your vote. We merely share our impressions with you, feeling it our duty since we have personally interviewed them.

Click here for our full 2020 election coverage.

Congress
Nancy Goroff. Photo from campaign

Goroff The Right Choice for NY1

Knowing what’s at stake in this year’s election, TBR News Media endorses Nancy Goroff (D) for the NY1 House seat.

Goroff has a strong understanding of the issues, especially regarding climate change and the ongoing pandemic. In this time, it’s especially important to have experts not just in advisory roles but in the driver’s seat. We only need to look at places like New Zealand or Germany, both with leaders who have science backgrounds, who have handled the pandemic far better than the U.S. has just in terms of the numbers of new or past infected, and how their economies have also already reopened.

We appreciate Goroff’s answers especially regarding health care and think her concept for Medicare could be a good middle ground amongst all the partisanship surrounding the issue. Also knowing just how cutthroat working as an official in a place like Stony Brook University can be, we feel she has cultivated good interpersonal and administrative skills that will be useful in Washington.

The two instruments of U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin’s public life strike a discordant note. At home, he comes off as a soft-spoken team player willing to work together with both Democrats and Republicans in local office. On the national stage, he has supported the president without question, and has only helped broaden the political divide and partisanship overall through his misleading conversations, both on Fox television network and in his Twitter page.

One can support a candidate while not kowtowing to their every whim, but Zeldin has volunteered to defend President Donald Trump (R) during the impeachment. He attended a Trump rally back in June, with a pandemic raging across the country, without wearing a mask. He went in front of the Republican National Convention to proclaim how great the president’s handling of the pandemic has been, despite experts’ assertions that if the president had acted earlier, hundreds of thousands of lives could have been saved. Zeldin claims he disagrees with the president on such things as the tax bill, on several cabinet nominations and offshore drilling, but when do those disagreements turn into action? 

These two sides to Zeldin do sometimes combine, such as when he attended a rally in Port Jefferson where he lambasted the mayor for a controversy over a pro-Trump sign. Why he didn’t first try to communicate with a local government in his home district to get the issue resolved attests to the purpose of such an appearance: To drum up even more division in an already divided time.

While we appreciate Zeldin’s work bringing masks and other PPE to us at home during the height of the pandemic, doing the expected is no longer enough. We need someone to actively work to bring back the state and local tax deductions instead of putting forward bills that never get any traction. We need someone in Congress who does not split their attention between acting on behalf of the president and doing good by their constituents.

As we hope to come out of this pandemic, we will need a scientist’s expertise to help us get out of the social and economic hole we lay in. We hope whoever takes up the seat can help move both the country and New York’s 1st Congressional District forward.

State Senate
Laura Ahearn. Photo from campaign

Ahearn to Keep 1st District First

Knowing we are losing such a strong voice for SD1 in Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) we believe we need a strong and independent voice in the Senate. We believe Laura Ahearn (D) is the right person to do that.

We appreciate her work locally and know she has built connections with both local and state officials that will be critical in the coming months. We like her answers to questions about getting more funding to deal with our aging septic systems and agree with her that bail reform needs to be reformed,  not repealed.

Palumbo is a strong candidate, having worked in public office for years alongside both parties, though there can be no question that being in the controlling party has real benefit. As evidenced by both LaValle’s and John Flanagan’s departure from the state Senate, lacking that control, even with their seniority, can be a real drag. Palumbo has helped in acquiring land in Shoreham for protection, but he does not have as firm a grasp of happenings in our local area as he does on the North Fork.

We believe Ahearn is the right pick to keep 1st District first.

Mario Mattera, left, and Mike Siderakis, right, are both political newcomers running for State Senate District 2.
Photos from campaigns

2nd Senate District Too Close to Call

We feel the race for the state Senate in the 2nd District, between Republican Mario Mattera and Democrat Michael Siderakis, is going to be a close one. Based on our virtual debate, we are not endorsing a candidate in this race.

We feel both candidates have their fingers on the pulse of the area, recognizing the importance of providing local students with the same excellent education they have received in the past and keeping residents on Long Island.

Most importantly, during the pandemic, both understand the importance of strictly following public health guidelines while also assisting businesses to fully operate once again. 

Siderakis’ background as a state trooper and representative for the troopers’ PBA would be an asset during the current conflicting views regarding law enforcement, while Mattera’s work with the Town of Smithtown on its advisory board is a plus regarding bringing new businesses to an area while not overwhelming its infrastructure.

Either will be a freshman senator if they win, and we urge them to partner with their colleagues to learn the intricacies of the office. Republican former Sen. John Flanagan held the seat for 18 years, and either candidate will have big shoes to fill.

Gaughran Has District in Mind

In the race for state senator in the 5th District, TBR News Media endorses incumbent Jim Gaughran (D). His record during his first term has been impressive, and we would like to see him continue his work. He will have more seniority which is needed in the district to get more accomplished.

Even as a freshman senator, after the bail reform act was passed, he and other legislators worked to amend it. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has also endorsed Gaughran.

We encourage challenger Ed Smyth to continue pursuing public office beyond the Town of Huntington. He has good ideas, and as a self-proclaimed “debt hawk,” he can lend an important, practical voice to any budget talks.

Knowing the complicated and challenging time ahead for New York State as we move through the ongoing pandemic, TBR News Media endorses Steve Stern (D) for Assembly District 10.

State Assembly
Jodi Giglio. Photo from campaign

Giglio the Best Choice for AD2

We feel that filling Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo’s seat for the 2nd District is going to be tough and both Laura Jens-Smith and Jodi Giglio (R) are great candidates. And while they both made good arguments, we have decided to go with Giglio for Assembly District 2. 

Jens-Smith’s experience as Riverhead Town supervisor is impressive and we appreciate the efforts she made during her time there, but we think that Giglio will bring a different perspective and continue the work she has done for the town as a councilwoman. A woman with tough skin and many different skills, we think that she will continue to bring more work and people to the East End, while balancing her other roles as well.  

For our areas of Wading River through Mount Sinai, we ask that whoever wins this election gives extra attention to our communities not out on the North Fork. As our communities deal with issues ranging from nitrogen pollution to development concerns, we would like to see somebody listening to the problems of folks a little farther west.

Steve Englebright

Keep Englebright in the Assembly

We feel that, although Michael Ross is knowledgeable in what he stands for and his excitement is honorable, we believe Steve Englebright (D) should continue to lead Assembly District 4 as he has for over two decades. Based on talking to both candidates, we will be endorsing Englebright for
this campaign.

Ross is young and enthusiastic, with life experience that could definitely bring a pair of fresh eyes to the area. However, Englebright has brought many policies that have benefited Long Island’s environment and he continues to strive to do better. 

As we head into a future that will likely involve more severe weather events, and as Long Island’s water ecology remains in jeopardy from nitrogen pollution, it’s imperative that we have scientists at the decision-making table. Englebright has a long history of supporting environmental causes, from the Pine Barrens to the Shoreham woods to Stony Brook Harbor. As we lose environmental stalwarts in the state Senate like Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), voices like Englebright’s will be in even greater need.

Mike Fitzpatrick. Photo by Kyle Barr

Fitzpatrick a Strong Choice for AD8

In the race for Assembly District 8, TBR News Media is looking for somebody with a history of bipartisan activity and deep knowledge of Smithtown’s issues, and that somebody is Republican Mike Fitzpatrick.

He has a good depth of knowledge of issues such as Gyrodyne, and seems to be working toward some kind of compromise that could make both environmentalists and proponents of downtown revitalization happy. The Kings Park state park issue is something Fitzpatrick has a deep knowledge on, in particular, and we hope he may be able to move forward with some kind of funding source to finally remediate that property.

Rice has a good head on his shoulders and his enthusiasm and comprehension of the issues makes him a strong future candidate for public office once he gets a few years’ experience under his belt. We hope he continues in public service in some way, shape or form.

Steve Stern. Photo from Stern’s office

Stern a Man of Common Sense

Stern has the right approach when dealing with COVID-19, and his common sense mindset regarding bail reform is something to be appreciated amongst the constant calls for complete repeal.

The assemblyman’s talk about money for sewer infrastructure is also sorely needed, and we hope he can work with other members of the Long Island delegation in order to bring those funds home to Suffolk County. This is not something local municipalities can do on their own.

Silvestri has some straight answers but does not bring much new to the table. We hope with some years under her belt and some experience in local government she can come back later with a fresh new take on such a diverse area as the 10th assembly district.

Michael Marcantonio. Photo by Kyle Barr

Marcantonio Our Choice to Succeed Raia

In the 12th District race for the New York State Assembly, TBR News Media endorses Democrat Michael Marcantonio, but we do so with a bit of caution. We would agree with his Republican opponent Keith Brown that the Democrat can come across as aggressive at times, and we hope he can manage that trait a bit to ensure that he can work with those on both sides of the political aisle.

However, that passion shouldn’t be reeled in too much as it shows determination to get things done and bring new ideas to the floor. He mentioned many times that if elected he will be part of the Assembly’s majority. This would be a boon to a district that needs original ideas to help it over the hump the LIPA decision will have on the community’s tax base.

We hope that Brown will continue pursuing local office in the future as we feel he has a good grip on what local businesses need to survive. 

 

Democrat Assemblyman Steve Stern, left, and Republican Jamie Silvestri, right, are gunning for the Assembly District 10 seat. Left, file photo; right, photo from campaign

Voters have a choice this year between a longtime Democratic local legislator and a Republican newcomer for the Assembly District 10 seat.

State Assemblyman Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills), who is finishing up his first two-year term in the Assembly, is facing off against Republican Jamie Silvestri, an office manager at RSA Financial Group in Melville and current press secretary for the Huntington Young Republicans.

Silvesri, 30, said she has lived in Melville her entire life and has worked for several different small businesses over the years in the Town of Huntington. She said she was inspired to run after working on a campaign last year, but also the bail reform law passed last year.

“I just really appreciate learning from everyone’s experiences, and hearing from everybody what matters most to them,” she said.

An attorney with 25 years of experience, Stern, 51, had served as Suffolk County legislator from 2006 to 2017, and has previously primaried for the 3rd District Congressional seat in 2016 but lost to U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY3). He won his first term as assemblyman in 2018, and said he is running to protect taxpayers, protect the environment and protect “our suburban quality of life.”

“I’ve worked really hard since going up to Albany to help lead a coalition that reflects our suburban values and supports common-sense solutions,” he said.

Reaction to William Spencer’s Arrest

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) was arrested Oct. 20 for allegedly attempting to use opioids to solicit sex during a police sting operation. When the news broke, it devastated the local community, as he is a well-known doctor and community member who was thought to be a strong voice against the ongoing opioid crisis.

Stern, who served alongside Spencer for several years, called the news “deeply disturbing, if true.”

“He is extremely popular throughout our town and throughout our region, and has done an awful lot of good things for a lot of people,” he said.

Whether or not this sets back the area’s efforts in fighting opioid addiction, Stern said he has been working “diligently on the state level when it comes to law enforcement and cracking down on the opioid trade and, in our area, mixed with education and with treatment and rehabilitation.”

Silvestri said she is “praying for him and his family,” as she too was shocked to hear the news. 

As far as the opioid epidemic goes, she said she has had people in her life who have had problems with opioids, and the issue hits close to home. 

“Education is a very important aspect of it and making sure that we do have the treatment available for people who need these resources and that they are effectively being communicated,” she said. “So, when people are willing to seek help and actually go out and get the necessary help that they need, it can really do a lot to make a change.”

COVID-19 Response

Silvestri said the initial response to the pandemic from the community was great to see, especially in the way everyone pulled together to keep each other safe. 

As time has gone on, she said there has been “a little bit too much in restricting our small businesses at a time where they really do need to get back to operating as close to normal as possible.”

She said as New York has a relatively low infection rate, despite a few hotspots, the state needs to trust small business owners. “As places like Huntington village have a large restaurant industry, I think it’s very important that people can somewhat get back to normal, as close as possible while still being responsible,” she said. “It’s a matter of personal choice and responsibility.”

In the case of a second wave in New York, she said the state’s knowledge of the virus has come a long way in terms of looking out for symptoms, and that knowledge will help resist any kind of new shutdown.

‘Yes, we want to open as quickly as we can, but we’ll do it as safely as we can.’

—Steve Stern

Stern said that the response in New York and Suffolk County, despite some early setbacks, “the numbers speak for themselves.”

He said the philosophy from the outset has been to follow the science and trust the data and experts. 

“We acted quickly to provide protections on the economic side, on the housing side, on the quality of life side, to make sure that our neighbors were supported during some pretty dark days in the beginning,” he said. 

He said there is concern as time goes on that people are becoming less vigilant toward halting the spread of COVID-19. 

“Yes, we want to open as quickly as we can, but we’ll do it as safely as we can,” he said. “So, coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic or at least moving forward, it’s going to be critical that that we support particularly our local businesses.”

Some industries in particular have complained about restrictions, including the gym and catering industries. Restaurants have also made their voices heard over what they consider harsh and consistent State Liquor Authority inspections over COVID compliance.

Stern said he has heard from many of these businesses owners over restrictions and the inspections. However, he said there are some industries that are, by their nature, less safe than others, so reopening needs to be done “methodically.”

“There is a balance to strike here,” he said. “Certainly, [SLA wants] to make sure that we’re carrying out the protocol and keeping our people safe, but they also need to make sure that we’re giving our local businesses every opportunity to succeed and to show that they can keep our people safe.”

Silvestri said she would push for a $5,000 tax credit for small businesses to aid in their recovery. 

“I think that we should really be looking at ways that we can help empower business owners,” she said.

Regarding SLA inspections, she said some businesses have received inspections 20 out of 30 days, saying “it’s almost like they’re being babysat.”

Stern argued the case for small businesses is “well beyond some nominal tax credits. … This just screams out for so many industries to receive meaningful support from the state government, and particularly our federal government.”

He said the job of a Long Island representative in Albany is to make sure the suburban environment brings home its fair share, adding the state needs to continue to lobby the federal government for more aid. 

Environment

Stern said a big part of the state’s job is trying to protect the drinking water in the county’s sole-source aquifer, adding that protecting the local water goes to protecting the quality of life and local economy.

He also cited his work with the environment with such things as banning 1,4-dioxane and cracking down on illegal dumping. 

He added there is a real possibility of pulling that “desperately needed” funding for sewer infrastructure on Long Island. Though with revenues down throughout the state, and with cuts of multiple state agencies looming, the assemblyman said that with budgets down, now is the time the state needs to invest in infrastructure “to make sure that we provide good paying jobs to make sure that putting people back to work, now is a better time than any.”

He said there could be a need to look at new revenue sources, including some kind of bond referendum, grants or low interest loans for the millions of dollars needed to build out sewer infrastructure.

‘I think that we should really be looking at ways that we can help empower business owners’

—Jamie Silvestri

Silvestri said a recent Long Island Sound report by the nonprofit Save the Sound was “concerning,” and though the open water of the Sound was relatively stable, 56% of the monitored bays received “C,” “D” or “F” ratings. 

“You have a whole ecosystem happening under the water that we need to make sure that we protect,” she said. “I just would fight as much as I could to make sure that we are exploring every possible option to make sure that we can continue upgrading the sewer systems we have
around here.”

Police Reform

The young Republican challenger said a big reason she got into this race was because of recent police reforms as well as bail reform.

She said certain new legislation like the repeal of section 50-a, which had shielded officers’ records and complaints against them from scrutiny, can now be used in court should an officer need to testify as a witness.

She also said her opponent voted for such reforms even though he could have voted “no,” and it would have passed anyway.

Stern said many reforms passed as part of the criminal justice reform package were such things like a ban on chokeholds, increase in body cameras for cops and establishing an office of special investigations to handle police complaints. 

He said section 50-a was about “transparency and accountability,” though he added he has also introduced legislation that presents new penalties for crimes against police officers, military personnel and other first responders.

The controversial bail reform law was something Stern said he was only made aware of a few weeks after coming to Albany after the special election in 2018, and that he voted against party for the original bail reform bill, “just a matter of weeks after I first got to Albany, which was not an easy position to take.”

Bail reform ultimately passed as part of the 2019 state budget, but he said the latest governor’s budget rolled back some of the elements of bail reform that went “too far,” such as robbery, child pornography, strangulation or lower degrees of manslaughter.

“So, what can be done? I’ve done it,” he said. “Because I’ve been doing it right after our bail reform was rolled into the governor’s budget and passed, working hard with like-minded suburban colleagues from all over the state to roll back some of the most dangerous elements that had passed initially.”

Silvestri called the new bail reform “catch and release,” even with recent changes to the law, and said she supported a full repeal of the law. She named laws that were still a part of bail reform, including possession of a weapon on a school ground, prostitution in a school zone, stalking and endangering an animal.

“A lot of these instances, after people are arrested, the officers are still filling out the paperwork, when these people are getting able to be able to walk out of jail, and that’s very, very frightening to me,” she said.

Republican George Santos, left, and Democratic Congressman Tom Suozzi, right, are asking for residents’ votes for the NY3 House seat. Left, photo from campaign; right, file photo

Longtime politician and two-term congressman Tom Suozzi (D-NY3) is in the race against newcomer Queens Republican George Santos over the 3rd Congressional District seat. TBR News Media spoke with Santos about why he is running and what he can bring to the table. Suozzi did not respond to several requests for either an online debate or a phone interview. 

The second-term Democrat from Glen Cove has been in politics for almost three decades. From 1994 through 2001 he served as mayor of Glen Cove and was elected Nassau County Executive from 2002 to 2009. 

Suozzi, 58, is battling Santos, 32 from Whitestone, on the race to be the Western Long Island voice in Washington. This is Santos’ first run at office and he said he wants to bring his experience in the finance world to congress. 

Santos is a first-generation born to immigrant parents. Born and raised in Queens, he said he comes from a humble beginning. He started off as an entry-level asset manager and an associate at Citi Group, as well as worked with several fortune 500 companies, including Goldman Sachs. He has worked in the private equity space for 11 years. 

“I’m very proud of the work I’ve accomplished in the private sector,” he said. “And I think it’s that kind of work ethic and knowledge that I want to bring into public service, especially now following a crisis, we’re going to need more people who understand business more so than lawyers.”

Santos said he wants to reduce unemployment numbers and bring them back to before the pandemic. 

“I’ve created north of 500 jobs myself, I know how to do it. I know the skills,” he said.

He added that he would work hard to change school funding to be derived from one’s income tax, not property tax. 

“That would solve a lot of the heartache for millions of Americans who are taxed with property taxes and feel unfair,” he said. Santos also noted that he does not support the Green New Deal and would look to restore respect for law enforcement while encouraging community cooperation to re-establish public safety. 

Suozzi’s record shows his investment in the environment. serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, is vice-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, co-chair of the bipartisan Long Island Sound Caucus, co-chair of the Quiet Skies Caucus, and this Congress and was appointed by the Speaker of the House to the Congressional Executive Commission on China.

He has spoken on veteran care and rights, affordable healthcare and fiscal responsibility during his 25-year political tenure. 

Because TBR News Media was unable to contact Suozzi for an interview, we cannot choose to endorse a candidate for the third congressional district. 

From left, Riverhead Town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio (R), and former Riverhead Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith (D). Photos from campaigns

Former Riverhead Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith, a Democrat, will be going against Riverhead Town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio (R) for the 2nd Assembly District. Currently held by incumbent Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), he is leaving his seat to run for New York State Senate against Laura Ahearn (D). 

Both Jens-Smith and Giglio have been active in the East End communities for years, with long-standing political careers. 

Elected the first woman supervisor in Riverhead Town’s 225-year history, Jens-Smith, 57, defeated longtime Republican-Conservative incumbent Sean Walter in 2017. During her tenure there, she said she helped revitalize downtown Riverhead and served one two-year term before losing to Yvette Aguiar (R) in November. But before that role, she served as a member and president of the Mattituck-Cutchogue school district board of education and had a long career as a nurse. She is the mom of two children. 

Giglio, 52, has served as Riverhead Town councilwoman since 2010. A small business owner, she owns Bennett Enterprises LLC., a construction management and land-use business based out of Riverhead and has been a member of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 138 since 2015. She co-founded Riverhead Business Alliance and is a mother of three. 

TBR News Media spoke to both candidates by phone to discuss COVID-19, the environment, agriculture, the brain drain and bail reform.

Environment

Jens-Smith noted that to address water quality and septic systems, a lot of things can be done, but they are attached to a dollar amount. 

“Having been a supervisor of a town, a lot of this, addressing this issue, is done at a small municipal level where it becomes cost prohibitive,” she said. “So, we really need to invest the money at the state level, to deal with this on Long Island as a whole.” 

She said the county needs to prioritize remodeling septic systems close to the water and that more research should be put into it. In order to upgrade a unit to a new, better system, it needs to become more cost effective for the general public. 

“We have to make it affordable, especially in moderate and low-income areas,” she said. 

As a Riverhead councilwoman, Giglio has put several initiatives into effect. She has worked with Suffolk County Department of Health Services, the town Conservation Advisory Council and the town board to adopt requiring sanitary systems to be upgraded.

“I think that getting sanitary systems out of groundwater and getting sewer systems or cluster sewer systems is very important,” she said. “I believe in starting small and making sure that it works and then going big. That’s why I started in the watershed areas and spoke at the Suffolk County legislative meeting, saying that they should focus on the watershed areas first and those systems that are actually sitting in groundwater.”

Agriculture

Jens-Smith has been working hard with the Long Island Farm Bureau to continue growing different crops that help the economy of the East End. “I think that we need to work together to find solutions to be able to keep the family farm here,” she said. “It’s a huge industry, and I think sometimes people overlook how big the farming industry is in the state of New York and on Long Island.” 

She said that preserving farmland is instrumental, and she wants to come up with more ways to keep preserving it. “Once it’s gone, we know it’s gone,” she added. 

Giglio agreed, saying that preserving farmland out east is a priority for her. So far, she said she has preserved over 2,000 acres of farmland and worked closely with farmers who are hurting from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Brain Drain 

Both candidates agree that Long Island is losing too many people because they cannot afford to stay here.

“We cannot continue to tax our middle class off of Long Island,” Jens-Smith said. “We need to take a hard look at every single line item to make sure that we’re not becoming a community where we have the very wealthy; people that are not in the middle class, that they’re living under the poverty level, or they’re very low income — and we’re squeezing out the middle class on Long Island.”She said Long Island is not what it used to be: affordable with a strong middle class and with good paying wages. The former supervisor said that when the middle class has money, they spend it on local businesses and give back to the economy. 

“We’ve lost that here on Long Island, and we need to get back to that,” she said. “We need to make sure that when we pass the laws, and we pass legislation, that we’re keeping the middle class and the working class in mind, so that we can continue to sustain ourselves here.” 

She added that there should be multiple levels of affordable housing, especially for educated young people that will change as salaries increase. 

“I also think we need to be able to work with some of the companies that are here on the Island — some of the major employers — and encourage them to provide housing, also for their workers when they start out,” she said. “We have talent here. Our kids are talented here. They’ve all had a great education provided via public schools. We have good community colleges here. We have good state universities here, and we need to be able to take all of that and harness all of that, and then attract the businesses to come and want to develop here.”

Giglio agreed. “We spend a fortune on Long Island, educating our kids only to see them leave the Island because it’s too expensive to live here,” she said.

Since the councilwoman came into office, she has been pushing to convert the former Grumman facility in Calverton into an industrial park that will bring high-tech jobs and “create the Silicon Valley of the West Coast here on the East Coast.”

“I think now’s the time to do it,” she said. “With technology changing every day, it’s getting great companies to keep our youth here and to create high paying jobs. I see Grumman as the nest for it.” She added that creating affordable housing around the site in the downtown areas with better busing situations would help. 

Bail Reform 

Jens-Smith believes that bail reform should have some judge discretion in it. “I obviously think that it’s unfair and unconstitutional that somebody with a minor crime sits in jail because they can’t pay bail,” she said. “But I think that if there is evidence that there is a harm to the community by somebody being not detained until their court date, I think there needs to be some judge discretion with that.” 

Giglio also agreed, saying it was bad that discretion was taken away from the judges. “Especially in a small court system like Riverhead has, where our judges know who the repeat [offenders] are,” she said. Giglio believes that nonviolent offenders should not have to sit in jail because they cannot afford bail, but she recognizes the stress it puts on local officers who see people walk out “an hour later.” 

“They’re there for hours after doing paperwork, missing their kids’ birthday parties and their anniversary dinners,” she said. “And the same crime is getting repeated over and over again.” 

Giglio said she has been working to convert the old armory into a YMCA to help keep kids out of trouble. 

“I think we need to create more facilities for our youth, and I think YMCAs are great,” she said. “I think we need to create more teen centers, and more availability and access isn’t going to be hard with the 20% cut in funding for the school districts.”

COVID-19

Jens-Smith thinks that as the pandemic continues throughout the remainder of the year and into next, communication with the state Legislature is important, especially communication with local legislatures that understand what Long Island is going through. 

“I think we’re all facing different challenges based on our populations and the amount of people living in an area,” she said. “I think that that input needs to be taken into account, and I think they need to speak up and make sure that that they are being heard a little bit louder than what’s going on right now.” 

Giglio had several first-hand accounts with the virus and worked throughout the pandemic to donate resources to hospitals when masks were unavailable. She is continuing to fight for businesses that are suffering post-pandemic, like the catering and restaurant industries on the Island. On Oct. 15, she held a rally outside the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to lift restrictions on catering hall capacity. 

“I had that press conference because those people’s lives are really on hold,” she said.