Election News

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. 

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

After former state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) decided to end his political career this summer, leaving his seat in the 2nd District empty for a job with Northwell Health, two contenders emerged for Election Day 2020.

Former state trooper Michael Siderakis, of Nesconset, is running on the Democratic ticket and plumber union official Mario Mattera, of St. James, received the Republican nomination. Siderakis spent nearly 30 years as a New York State Police trooper and was a second vice president for the New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association. Mattera is the business agent for Plumbers Local 200 and a board member of the Suffolk County Water Authority. He also sits on Smithtown’s advisory board for new construction projects where he has been active with the Lake Avenue Revitalization project. Both candidates are longtime residents and have raised their families in Smithtown hamlets, where their children have attended schools in the Smithtown Central School District.

In a Sept. 28 Zoom debate with TBR News Media, the two candidates discussed the state’s response to COVID-19, school budgets and more. While the two agreed on ways to resolve most issues, they differed regarding bail reform.

Bail Reform

While Siderakis feels the 2019 bail reform bill that limited the number of crimes judges could set bail for needs to be looked at again and revised, Mattera said it should be repealed. 

“Our bail system is not a fair system, where somebody who has $500 available to them for the same crime can go home, while somebody who may not have $500 in the bank for no other reason than the fact that he doesn’t have $500 has to go to jail,” Siderakis said.

‘We need to be safe and businesses need to enforce their own business.’

—Mario Mattera

The Democrat added bail reform should have been put in as a stand-alone bill and not included in the state budget vote. He said he also feels that legislators shouldn’t decide on what crimes require bail, and judges should be able to decide on a case-by-case basis.

Mattera said the bail system needs to go back to the way it was, especially with cases where people have been arrested for looting, robbing, selling drugs and then released only to commit the same crime again.

“It needs to go back to the way it was,” he said. “It’s not working now. I’m very frightened. We need to give the tools back to our law enforcement.”

Education

With talks of a projected 20 to 30 percent cut to state aid for schools, both candidates said they would fight to send money back to schools in the 2nd state Senate District. 

“We have to make sure we have someone up there fighting for our education system down here on Long Island,” Siderakis said, adding it’s important to keep good teachers on Long Island.

Mattera said with 70 percent of residents’ taxes going to education, it was important to make sure local school districts receive their fair share.

“Our children are our futures for all of us,” he said. “For Long Island, we need to make sure they’re part of the workforce and stay here.”

Mattera added that many local schools need updating and the state aid is desperately needed.

Siderakis said the state also needs to stop relying on local property taxes and receive more aid from the state to ensure everyone across New York has a fair and equal education. He said several districts don’t have the same income base, and the state should step up to provide the help needed for equal education.

Mattera said if elected he would take a good look at the budget to see why cutting state aid to education is on the table.

“It shouldn’t even be part of the conversation,” he said.

COVID Response

Both candidates said New York’s response was appropriate at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis but agreed that business needed to be opened up sooner. They said wearing masks, social distancing and handwashing are important to keep the virus at bay and businesses alive.

Mattera said that unused beds in field hospitals such as the ones at Stony Brook University, the Javits Center and the USNS Comfort should have been considered to decide when a region was reopened. He noted the beds were barely used. Adhering to the public health guidelines are key, he said, as he pointed to the 1,300 members of the plumbers union where only one person contracted the virus. He said he feels people have been educated about the virus and businesses can enforce the public health guidelines. He added that the State Liquor Authority has done a good job where it follows up a complaint with an inspection visit to a restaurant.

“We need to open up,” Mattera said. “We need to be safe and the businesses need to enforce their own business.”

Siderakis said in addition to the state’s response he thought the federal government overall did well with providing businesses with loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, but he feels small businesses need even more help.

‘There are people here who have been here for generations who won’t be able to weather the pandemic.’

—Mike Siderakis

“We have to make sure local stores are treated equally, not just the big box stores,” he said. “People have felt the pain and lost their livelihoods. There are people here that have been here for generations that won’t be able to weather the pandemic.”

Mattera also said he feels it’s important for all students to return to school five days a week for in-person education.

“These kids need their educators,” he said. “They need the interaction with their fellow students.”

Economy

Siderakis said he’s familiar with the problems young people on Long Island face economically with his oldest daughter trying to make it on her own with having an apartment in Port Jefferson.

“I think our small communities have a great advantage to attract businesses here where we can offer the distancing and the safety for workers,” he said.

He added we need to look at traffic patterns to avoid congestions on the roadways.

“We’re going to have to look for alternatives, and businesses are going to have to look outside of the box,” he said.

Mattera said in addition to young people, he’s also concerned about keeping people of all ages in the area. He said the Long Island Innovation Park at Hauppauge is something he worked on with Smithtown officials to make sure it becomes the premier pharmaceutical area not only of the state but in the country providing good jobs, health care and pensions for the future. He said he also sees the potential of the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center and said its future use should be planned carefully.

“We have such great talent that can work right here in the Second District,” Mattera said.

The Republican candidate pointed to the Amazon facility project that was lost to New York City. He said it would have been ideal on the grounds of the former Pilgrim Psychiatric Center in Brentwood due to its proximity to parkways and the Long Island Rail Road.

“It’s a shame that politics lost a project that would have had 25,000 people working there,” Mattera said. “I just can’t understand how politics lost that.” 

Siderakis said he feels the governor has done a great job in attracting businesses to the state and believes the wave of the future is going to be green energy jobs.

“We have to make sure that we make Suffolk County known as the technology center, or Silicon Valley here, of New York state, and make sure we have enough incentives for companies to come here and start up small businesses and have the jobs for the future,” he said.

Democrat Steve Englebright, left, and Republican Michael Ross, right, are running for New York State Senate District 4.

Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) is seeking his 15th term in the New York State Assembly on the Democratic ticket. His opponent, Michael Ross, a local lawyer and former Suffolk County assistant district attorney, is running on the Republican party line. 

Both candidates live in Setauket. Englebright has been in the Assembly for 28 years, but Ross believes he can bring a fresh perspective with his background in law. Englebright, 74, and a scientist, is the chair of the Assembly’s Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation, while Ross, 41,  worked as an assistant district attorney at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office for seven years. He now operates his private practice in Smithtown.

This week, TBR News Media spoke to both candidates by phone to discuss what they will do regarding COVID-19, bail reform and the environment, as well as other issues. 

Environment

Throughout his term, Englebright has been a huge voice favoring the environment. Last year, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act was signed into law, which he helped create and advised on. 

“For all practical purposes, Vice President [Joe] Biden’s position is our bill, so I’m pretty proud of that,” he said. 

During his tenure, Englebright touted his bringing solar and wind power to Long Island while being a senior member of the Energy Committee. Outspoken on the Climate Act, he said he is adamantly against the continuation of diesel trains and wants the LIRR to bring electrification to its transportation. He added that renewable energy initiatives will not only reduce fossil fuels, but the energy sectors he supports will bring jobs back to Long Island. 

Ross said he can agree with many of Englebright’s policies that he has brought to the table, but he wants to strive for better. 

“I have always been an advocate of the environment,” he said. “Just because there is an ‘R’ in front of my title doesn’t mean I don’t care about the environment and I don’t want to protect it. It’s not a political issue. It’s a human-being issue.” 

His questions revolve around finances, especially: “Do we have the money to do it, and do we have the time to do it?” 

He said he is concerned about the deficit the state is experiencing due to COVID-19 but is open to any suggestions and collaborative problem solving. 

Both candidates talked about the Gyrodyne project in St. James and how it will impact their jurisdiction. Englebright said the development will cause damage to Stony Brook Harbor with a plan to hook parts of Smithtown into its sewer. Ross said that while the Three Village area has received enormous amounts of job revenue because of local study facilities, it will be hard to accommodate the amount of traffic that will be coming in and out of the development. 

“With the roads that we have, they’re now looking for growth,” the Republican said. “And it would be a shame for the people in that area who will be adversely affected without upgrading infrastructure.”

Bail Reform and Police Transparency 

Englebright said the system in New York often favors those who have money and was “essentially prejudicial based on economic background, so you could buy your way out of incarceration.” 

He argued that one is not supposed to be punished until convicted. So, while he was in favor of the bail reform, he would have preferred it to be a standalone bill. 

“I think we should have given judges more discretion,” the Democrat said. “There are circumstances where you can’t write the law in anticipation of all circumstances, and you do need to have the role of a judge using, no pun intended, judgment. We did not, in my opinion, see that.”

Ross said he decided to run for the Assembly because of bail reform and his concern around it. 

“My issue with the bill reform was that it wasn’t discussed,” he said. “This is something that the Democrats were pushing for years and years, and there was always a Republican majority saying, ‘Stop, we’re not doing that.’” 

Ross added that from the standpoint as a prosecutor, it could have been improved. 

When asked about police transparency, Englebright said he believes our local police are doing a good job overall and always try to maintain a positive presence in the community.

He added that he has not seen any direct racism within his district, but “Long Island as a whole is the question.” 

Regarding more minority traffic stops from officers on duty, “it seems to be disproportional,” he said. “I think there’s always room for improvement.”

Ross brought his experience as a defense attorney to the table regarding the transparency of police. He said that for defense, it could be helpful to their case. But for a citizen to look into an officer’s file, it could be harmful. 

“If an officer has a credibility issue, that’s revealed by an honest, thorough prosecutor,” he said. “Then I think that you’ve achieved what you need to with regard to transparency.”

People Leaving Long Island

Both candidates agreed that keeping young people on Long Island is crucial, and by keeping them here is to create more jobs. 

Englebright noted his excitement for the Ørsted/Eversource offshore wind farm project, which is setting up Port Jefferson to be a hub docking area for service vessels operating the wind farm off Montauk. Such a project, he said, will help create jobs. He added that also improving the Island’s mass transportation will help. 

“If we can solve some of our transportation problems, we can generate jobs,” he said. “You won’t have to have all the jobs in the immediate neighborhood.” 

Ross said Long Island needs to attract businesses that will pay a higher rate for people to continue living here. 

“I think we need to focus on stabilizing our taxes and work on getting our SALT rebate back,” he said. “My goal would be to make our area much more business friendly, perhaps by lifting regulations or giving tax advantages.”

COVID-19 Response

The COVID-19 pandemic hit both candidates hard over the last several months.  Englebright said he will continue to work with Legislature to involve the public with deliberations as the virus continues on. 

“One thing is for sure, this is New York, we believe in science,” he said. 

Ross agreed, adding that every doctor and expert he has spoken to are telling us how severe the virus is and that everyone needs to continue adhering to the guidelines. However, he disagreed with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) stance on many incentives during his executive order. 

“I think that the separation of the branches of government is too important,” he said. “I don’t favor an executive order.”

This version of the article amends Ross’ past history with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.

Stony Brook Democrat Nancy Goroff, left, and Shirley Republican Lee Zeldin, right, are both seaking election for New York’s first congressional district. Photos from campaigns

In a race as hotly contested as that for the House of Representatives’ 1st Congressional District seat, much of the actual policy and positions of candidates is often buried under disinformation and a slate of attack ads. Still underneath all that rigamarole is a decision that goes beyond a question of red or blue. 

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1), who has held the seat for the past five years, is squaring off against Democrat Nancy Goroff, a scientist from Stony Brook who has worked in multiple executive positions at Stony Brook University.

TBR News Media hosted a debate Oct. 23 with both candidates via Zoom, asking them their stances beyond the attack ads on issues from the environment to health care to the COVID-19 response on the federal level. 

Zeldin is looking to retake his seat based on his work in getting masks and other PPE to his home county, the money he helped steer to protecting the Long Island Sound and his help getting the Electron-Ion Collider to Brookhaven National Laboratory.

“When the coronavirus first hit us, I worked with elected officials on both sides of the aisle and all levels of government to secure ventilators, PPE, funding, access to the municipal liquidity facility and so much more,” he said. “We have more work to do.”

Goroff is running on her experience as a scientist, particularly in helping to combat climate change and continue the fight against COVID-19, as well as her administrative work at Stony Brook University working in a department with a multimillion-dollar budget. 

“I want our kids to live in a world where the government is trying to make people’s lives better, and where policy decisions are based on facts and reality,” she said. “I’m going to bring all these experiences to Washington, to be there for the people of this district no matter what.”

COVID-19 Response

The candidates differ greatly in how they see the pandemic was handled at the federal level. While Goroff lambasted the federal government for a “lack of leadership,” Zeldin emphasized the work getting pandemic resources to folks at home.

Goroff said while New York may have been able to dig in its heels early in the face of the virus, the federal government dropped the ball. She cited reports that President Donald Trump (R), and by extension other federal officials, knew early on in January how bad the virus was but misled the public on how dangerous and severe the virus would be in the early 2020 months.

She said the government did not work early enough to get PPE into the hands of those who need it, and that the president still resists promoting the wearing of masks, contact tracing and testing.

“We should have had national action to make sure every community had the PPE they needed, not just whoever makes a phone call to [the president’s son-in-law] Jared Kushner on a Saturday night,” she said. “Here in New York we have no borders, no walls between us and other states, and as long as the numbers are going up elsewhere, we are in danger here.”

Zeldin said the key to dealing with the ongoing pandemic is the same now as it was before, with bipartisan effort. He cited the USNS Comfort coming to New York as well as the Javits Center being converted into a temporary hospital, as well as his connection with the executive officials to secure needed ventilators, testing and finances for New York.

“We were approaching it not as Republicans first or Democrats first, but as Long Islanders, New Yorkers and Americans first,” he said.

Currently, Republican Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has said the Senate will be in recess until Nov. 9 after the election, which means there will likely be no deal on a stimulus bill for now. In terms of economic stimulus for New York, the congressman said it’s “extremely likely” there will be a bill within the next few weeks, which would include money for families, additional Paycheck Protection Program funding, money for state and local governments, food assistance and testing. 

“From all conversations I’m hearing, all these pots of money are quite robust, hovering around the $2 trillion number,” he said. “I don’t think we can have this money fast enough, of course it will take both Republicans and Democrats to agree.”

Goroff said it is imperative we receive assistance from the federal government, both in state and local aid. The problem is though the Democrats in the House have put forward a relief bill that has been rejected by the Republican-controlled Senate, and McConnell has instead focused on rushing the process of the now-installed Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. 

“We are in an economic crisis that will require significant investment in infrastructure, and particularly clean energy infrastructure so that as we rebuild our economy, we can build the future we want for ourselves and our kids,” Goroff said.

She criticized Zeldin for voting against that original House assistance bill. In response, the congressman said that bill was “known to be dead on arrival once it passed the House,” as a “one house messaging bill.” He said there were several so-called “poison pills” included in that bill that would never get broad support.

Environment and Climate Change

While Zeldin touted his bipartisan support of local environmental initiatives such as the Long Island Sound Stewardship Act, Goroff said more work is needed, especially regarding the response to climate change.

Zeldin cochairs the Long Island Sound Caucus, and said as the one Republican voice in the caucus they need to increase the investment into the Long Island Sound Program. He said there is room in the stewardship act to increase the appropriation as well as the National Estuary Program and Sea Grant. 

The congressman added he has worked hand-in-hand with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers so that two-thirds of their budget was for projects in the 1st Congressional District. 

Goroff said the work done so far to impact the Long Island Sound has been “helpful,” but more needs to be done with not only cleaning the water, especially with creating sewering and providing funds for projects to help reduce the amount of nitrogen going into the water from aging cesspools and septic systems. She also spoke on the need for more coastal resilience.

“We should be restoring wetlands to make sure we have as much resilience as possible, but we must be investing in our coastlines because they are so important to tourism, our economy and our way of life here,” she said.

However, Goroff said there’s an even bigger challenge with climate change. She said her office could be a “resource for every member of Congress, Democrat or Republican” about information related to climate change. 

She said the U.S. should aim to be carbon neutral in energy production by 2035. The scientist added the county should invest more heavily in clean technologies from transportation to infrastructure, as well as invest in research currently going on at BNL and SBU. Such innovations could be exported to other heavy polluter countries so they can better reduce their carbon footprint.

Zeldin said he serves on the House Climate Solutions Caucus, and has cosponsored the Carbon Capture Improvement Act to provide financial incentives to invest in carbon capture equipment.

“The way to achieve results on this is to talk to each other, not past each other and work together on these legislative initiatives,” he said. 

He added he has cosponsored legislation to renew solar investment tax credit, and that he supports new research and offshore wind farm developments off Long Island’s coasts.

Health Care

With multiple efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act in Congress over the past four years, the CD1 candidates both had strong words for each other regarding what the future of America’s health care system should be.

Goroff said she believes every American should have access to high-quality, affordable health care. She said the ACA should be strengthened, and the ongoing pandemic has shown how unequal access to health care has been. She said she would expand the minimum age for Medicare, and said she would support allowing young people or employers to buy into Medicare as well.

“I strongly support expanding Medicare and making Medicare a public option,” she said.

Zeldin said despite the way such topics become more politicized closer to election, the best way for the country to move forward on health care is by working in a bipartisan way. He cited efforts in Congress to impact prescription drug costs. A bill to that effect went forward out of committee, but that bill “became a partisan messaging bill, much to the chagrin of the Republicans and Democrats who put the bill together.”

He said he has supported efforts to protect people with preexisting conditions getting access to health care, and that he has cosponsored bills to have policies across state lines. 

Goroff said Republicans have been working to end the ACA, one by opening up the law to judicial action by removing the individual mandate. She also went after Zeldin for his past history voting to repeal the ACA 15 times in the past several years without offering a new plan to replace it.

“They have taken the actions that specifically put [the ACA] at risk and there are 71,000 people in this district who would have lost their health care if Mr. Zeldin and his party were successful,” she said. “To say now after four years of the president would come up with something … when they still have not offered what their vision would look like, is hypocrisy.”

Zeldin said he voted against the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act bill that removed the individual mandate, though he added a one-size-fits-all approach is not the answer with health care. 

“Of 535 members of Congress, I don’t know a single person in Congress who’s actually against covering individuals with preexisting conditions,” he said. 

SALT Cap and LI’s Brain Drain

As the pandemic leads into a new looming economic crisis, many fear more people could be leaving Long Island. As the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act capped the state and local tax deductions at $10,000 per year, both candidates said they would work to end that cap, as well as bring jobs to Long Island to halt the exodus.

Goroff said the SALT deduction is something she would see reinstated in full instead of being capped.

“You don’t need to have a very large house here to have a $10,000 tax bill,” she said. 

She said while working as associate provost at SBU she developed entrepreneurial programs for students and heard from local business leaders whether their kids could stay here.

“The way we deal with it is to make sure we have good jobs for people,” she said, adding that SBU is a resource which should be tapped to help with new business concepts. She added new green technologies like upcoming offshore wind projects will help keep more people on Long Island.

She also criticized her opponent for voting “no” on a bill that would have brought back the SALT deductions introduced by U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY3).

Zeldin said he has introduced several bills to restore the SALT deductions. Suozzi’s bill, which the local congressman said he “would have voted for,” had “required an additional tax increase to be named later” to pay for the deduction’s reinstatement. 

Besides that, he argued the people who benefited the most from the deductions were already relatively wealthy, and those who could already afford to stay.

“Creating more jobs, job growth, bringing down electric costs, controlling tax increases, there’s a lot more that goes into the discussion why for a very long time why we’re losing members of our family to North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida,” he said.

Michael Marcantonio, left, and Keith Brown, right, are both seeking the Assembly District 12 seat. Left, file photo; right, photo from campaign

After an April 28 special election had to be postponed due to the pandemic, Republican Keith Brown and Democrat Michael Marcantonio will finally find out who the 12th state Assembly District constituents will choose for assemblyman Nov. 3. The two candidates are running for the seat left vacant by Andrew Raia (R-East Northport), who resigned at the beginning of 2020 after winning the Huntington town clerk seat.

Marcantonio was set to run for assemblyman on the Democratic ticket in 2018. However, due to voting as a student at Duke University in 2012 and 2014, judges from the New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division disqualified from him running, maintaining New York State requires a five-year residency to qualify to run.

During an Oct. 15 Zoom debate with TBR News Media, the two attorneys and longtime Northport residents exchanged barbs. Brown said the millennial Marcantonio doesn’t understand mortgages and bills because he lives with his mother and also described him as “bombastic.” Marcantonio pointed to a Riverhead-News Review article from September that reported on the alleged Russian mob ties of one developer Brown represented and said the attorney didn’t always represent the most honest developers.

“Anyone can say whatever they want on the internet,” Brown said. “It doesn’t mean it’s true.”

Marcantonio said he has a better chance of getting things done in the state Assembly as he will be part of the Democratic majority. Brown reminded his opponent that he would be a freshman assemblyman and would have little power. The Republican added he himself has worked in both the public and private sectors and he has a reputation for getting things done. He described himself as a self-made businessman who has built up his law firm.

The candidates also debated on other issues facing New York state, particularly in their district. 

LIPA

For years, many local residents have been waiting for a settlement with the Long Island Power Authority. The Northport power plant was taxed at $86 million, which LIPA said was drastically overassessed, and the entity was seeking a court-order reduction which could have led to a 90% cut of taxes. This in turn would have made the Town of Huntington responsible for an $800 million refund to LIPA and school taxes would have been raised.

A recently proposed settlement, agreed on by the Northport-East Northport school district and the town, will cut LIPA’s taxes to $46 million from $86 million over the next seven years, lessening the burden a court-order reduction would have imposed.

Marcantonio has spoken against the town and the school district agreeing to the LIPA settlement. He said he drafted legislation that would prevent LIPA from collecting hundreds of millions of dollars of back taxes, which he said he “gave” to state Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport). While the bill passed in the state Senate it didn’t make it through the Assembly.

He said if elected by being part of the chamber’s majority and being able to chair committees and introduce legislation, he’ll be able to have a say when decisions are being made and get such a bill passed again.

“If my opponent wins this race — which he won’t — but if he does, the most he can do is cosponsor a Democrat’s legislation,” Marcantonio said.

Brown said Marcantonio’s LIPA bill is a “fool’s errand” as it only applies to back taxes. He also said the Democrat was a single-issue candidate.

“He’s trying to go through and tout this legislation that is dead on arrival,” Brown said. 

He added that Marcantonio is “blinded by this issue” and called him a single-issue candidate. He said moving on from the issue of LIPA’s back taxes and accepting the recent settlement will control the damages felt by the town and the school district.

Education

Brown said if he’s elected one of the first things he will do is meet with superintendents to see what their districts need. Despite proposed state aid cuts of 20% to 30%, the Republican said he plans to bring money back to local schools.

“I have a deep respect for the school superintendents and the job that they do,” he said.

Marcantonio said he also would make sure schools in the district get the money they need as the district is the fourth most-owed in the state for foundation aid.

“It’s not enough for New York State to get federal aid,” he said. “We need to get the aid from the state to this district — it doesn’t automatically go equally to each district.”

COVID Response

Brown said he believes Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) did a good job during the pandemic, but added that he believes businesses could have been reopened quicker. When the lockdown was lifted, Brown said he started meeting with small business owners along major corridors, including Route 25, Commack Road, Larkfield Road and provided owners with his information. He said there is a need to take another look at how businesses are opening but not at the risk of public health.

“If we don’t do something soon, we’re going to lose major industries,” he said, adding many are filing bankruptcy. 

Marcantonio said there were arbitrary rules when it came to reopening, and he agreed that the state needed clearer guidelines.

“Small businesses are getting crushed right now, and they’re getting crushed because we have a system right now that favors big businesses over small businesses,” he said.

Economy

Marcantonio said he’s fighting for young people who feel forced to leave the Island due to the high cost of living. He understands because he’s a millennial as well, and knows his peers want to stay near their families.

“I have empathy for them,” he said. “I don’t shame young people for not being able to afford a home.”

To help bring jobs to the area, Marcantonio said there is a need to attract manufacturing jobs back to Long Island and rebuild a crumbling infrastructure. He added the Island would benefit from a high-speed railroad which would enable residents to travel from Montauk to New York City in 30 minutes.

Brown said one of the reasons he wanted to run for Assembly was because he was horrified by those in the legislative body that fought against an Amazon facility in Long Island City, which would have brought more jobs to the area. He said he doesn’t shame millennials and their struggles, and is working on transportation projects to keep millennials on the Island and to keep the region vibrant and relevant. He said he believes his business background will help to keep businesses here and not lose them to the South.

“I’m fighting for the middle class,” he said. “I’m fighting for the business owners who are being strangled by regulations.”