The race to represent Town of Brookhaven’s 1st District features a two-term incumbent Democrat against a “progressive Republican” in his first campaign seeking political office.
Entering the 2017 election, Brookhaven’s lone Democratic voice on the board is attorney and 1st District Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station). The town’s wing of the Republican Party endorsed her challenger, 25-year-old town employee and Port Jefferson Station resident James Canale, though he insists he is not beholden to party politics, with this being his first run for office.
“I think it’s only a letter next to the name — I will not and do not toe the party line,” Canale said during a discussion at the Times Beacon Record News Media office with Cartright and the editorial staff in October. “I think that it is time that we have an outside candidate come into the party to try to shake things up a little bit. I consider myself a grassroots, bipartisan, progressive Republican.”
“I think it’s only a letter next to the name — I will not and do not toe the party line.”
— James Canale
Cartright, who was first elected in 2013, said her primary objective as an elected official has always been to bridge the gap between government and community.
“Accountability, transparency and integrity have always been my platform,” she said. “I have been the one bucking the system — the only Democrat on the town board — making sure that when the community’s voices come to the table during town board meetings and say ‘things are not transparent enough, things are not the way that they should be, why didn’t I know about this?’ I’m the one making sure that my colleagues are listening, not only hearing, but listening and acting in response to what the community is saying.”
Both candidates acknowledged drug addiction, especially to heroin and other opiates, as one of the major issues facing the district and town as a whole. Cartright reiterated the motif of her campaign platform in discussing the issue. She said resources exist within the town and county to help those afflicted by addiction, but there is often a breakdown in communication between the government and the community, so not all addicts are aware of their options.
“I’ve been working with the Long Island Prevention Resource Center looking to become what’s called a drug free community,” she said. Her plan is to continue a process, which she began in January, of bringing together representatives from the police department, schools, clergy members and various other community groups to share resources and ideas. “We’re trying to create a collaboration, a task force of people to come together to talk about what type of resources are there for drug prevention.”
“Accountability, transparency and integrity have always been my platform.”
— Valerie Cartright
Canale pointed to the town’s “complicated” zoning codes as a major deterrent in allowing people, especially millennials, the opportunity to establish roots and begin a life in the town, and cited it as an issue he plans to focus on if elected.
“There’s just not enough affordable housing here,” he said. “One of the reasons I got involved in politics in the first place is because I see millennials and young adults graduating from college saddled with student debt either forced to move back home with their parents and work minimum wage jobs to barely make ends meet, or, we see this all the time, folks are moving off Long Island in droves.”
Cartright pointed to her revitalization and visioning plan for the Port Jeff Station and Terryville areas, an initiative that has been ongoing since her first term, as a driver toward alleviating that same issue. She also agreed with Canale that the town needs more affordable housing.
The candidates stood on common ground on the topic of preserving the environment and water quality in Brookhaven. Cartright and the town joined a lawsuit by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in August against the U.S Environmental Protection Agency to oppose ongoing dumping of dredged spoils in the Long Island Sound, and Canale said he was in full support of the decision.