Huntington Republicans have filed petitions seeking to add an additional party line next to their name on ballots this November.
Suffolk County Board of Elections confirmed that petitions were received seeking to create a Stop LIPA party line, a move conducted with the hope of capitalizing with voters on Long Island Power Authority’s ongoing legal battle with the Town of Huntington over the Northport Power Station.
“We need to send the loudest message we can to Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo. What better way to send a message than to have those who are concerned voice this at the polls.”
— Andrew Raia
“This is a major issue with us losing a major decision in court,” New York State Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) said. “We need to send the loudest message we can to Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo. What better way to send a message than to have those who are concerned voice this at the polls.”
Raia referenced the decision made by Judge Elizabeth Emerson Aug. 16 that dismissed the third-party beneficiary lawsuits brought forth by the Town of Huntington and Northport-East Northport school district in which the judge found LIPA made no promise not to challenge the tax-assessed value of the Northport plant.
Raia is one of four political candidates who obtained the 1,500 signatures needed to petition for a Stop LIPA ballot line. The three Republicans who joined him are: Jeremy Williams, challenger for the state’s 10th Assembly District; Jim Leonick, candidate for Huntington town council; and Janet Smitelli, campaigning to be Huntington’s receiver of taxes.
Leonick, who previously ran for Huntington’s board in 2017, said he believes LIPA’s lawsuit against the town should be one of the leading issues this election cycle. In campaigning, the candidate said he feels residents haven’t been kept well informed on the situation and need leadership not simply willing to oppose LIPA, but also to consider alternative solutions.
“You are taking a serious issue and you are creating political fodder with it.”
— Joan Cergol
“They haven’t all been open to other methods of addressing the LIPA situation,” Leonick said. “Such as eminent domain or a [British thermal unit] tax. I’m open minded and I think we need to broaden our defense.”
Smitelli could not immediately be reached for comment on her petition to obtain a Stop LIPA party line on the ballot.
Huntington Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D), appointed to her seat earlier this year and running for a full term against Leonick, called Republicans’ effort to create a Stop LIPA line deceptive.
“You are taking a serious issue and you are creating political fodder with it,” she said. “For him to try to create a Stop LIPA line with his name next to it is basically false advertising.”
The councilwoman said both eminent domain and the energy tax have been discussed, but were measures not supported by Republicans in town government. She said having sat through executive sessions with Huntington’s attorney on the matter, she has gained greater knowledge and insight of the issues that have shaped her decisions and public statements.
“What makes [Leonick] more dedicated or committed to fighting LIPA’s reassessment than me?” she asked. “He didn’t call me up. He doesn’t know.”
“They’re just sorry they didn’t think of it first.”
— Jim Leonick
Cergol accused Republicans’ canvassers of being deceptive when soliciting signatures for the Stop LIPA petitions, claiming residents thought they were signing a petition to stop the utility company from having the plant reassessed.
“We made an effort to ask volunteers to explain to people exactly what they were signing,” Leonick countered. “We did not do this to be deceptive.”
Suffolk Board of Elections officials said anyone who objected had three days to file a general objection, with six more days to file specific lists of objections. Cergol said her campaign has filed notice of objection with attorneys working on drafting a more specific list of legal objections to be submitted later this week.
“They’re just sorry they didn’t think of it first,” Leonick said.