State Sen. Ken LaValle’s (R-Port Jefferson) announcement he would not be seeking reelection has suddenly bolstered both party’s efforts to get a candidate into the 1st District seat.
Several Democrats have already stepped up to run, including Parents for Megan’s Law founder and Port Jeff resident Laura Ahearn, Suffolk County Community College student and Mount Sinai resident Skyler Johnson and Tommy John Schiavoni, a Southampton Town Board member.
Johnson said he thought it was good LaValle was retiring after so long in office. The young Democrat took a shine to a primary that “allows people to hear what candidates have to say, to help us flesh out our ideas.”
Ahearn thanked LaValle for his years of service, adding that now the venerable senator is no longer running, she “looks forward to continuing meeting and listening to voters of the 1st Senate District.”
Suffolk Democratic Committee Chairman Rich Schaffer did not return multiple requests for comment, but has made previous statements to other newspapers that have perked the ears on both sides of the aisle.
Quickly upon the news of LaValle not seeking another term coming out Jan. 8, rumors quickly circulated who else was on the shortlist. While some rumors pointed to Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant wishing to seek the seat, she strongly put the idea aside, saying she did not want to step into that arena.
The other person most rumored to be running was Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), who has yet to make an official announcement but responded to inquiries by saying, “The county chair indicated that I would be running — his statement is correct.”
On the Republican side, rumors circulated that Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) would look to take up his cousin’s seat, but the town councilman said he currently resides outside the district boundaries and cannot run for the position.
Suffolk Republican chairman, Jesse Garcia, said he already had a shortlist for Ken LaValle’s seat that included Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), Riverhead Town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, and even Brookhaven council members Dan Panico (R-Manorville) and Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point).
Palumbo said while it would be a step-up, his current leadership position in the Assembly, and the young age of his two children, one 12 and the other 15, might make it a tough call.
“It wouldn’t foreclose a future run,” he said.
When asked about the prospect of running, Bonner said, “There are a lot of people exploring their options. … I’ve been approached by numerous people to consider it and I am. It’s a conversation I’ll have to have with my family and husband. It is a decision that’s not to be made lightly.”