Suffolk County Democrats have a new majority leader in the Legislature.
The Democratic caucus voted unanimously on Saturday to name Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) the newest majority leader, replacing Legislator Robert Calarco (D-Patchogue), who is expected to succeed Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) as deputy presiding officer in early 2016 after a vote scheduled for the first week in January.
Schneiderman was term limited out of the Legislature and will be succeeded in the 2nd District by Legislator-elect Bridget Fleming (D-Sag Harbor).
Hahn, who was first elected to the Legislature in 2011, referred to her quick rise to the majority leader position as validating and empowering, as she looks ahead into the new year.
“I am truly honored that my colleagues have put their trust in me to lead our caucus,” she said in a phone interview Monday. “I feel like I have a proven record of getting things done, and I’m going to do everything I can to work with my colleagues to address the needs of Suffolk County.”
As majority leader, Hahn will lead caucus meetings and help set the Democratic agenda in the county Legislature, a spokesman from her office said. In her four years as a legislator for the North Shore’s 5th District, Hahn has been at the forefront of several legislative battles advocating for the environment, the fight against drug addiction and public safety. She said she planned on tackling the same issues with her majority leader role, with hopes of enacting change for every district in the county.
“It’s important to me that we work hard to solve people’s problems,” she said.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) referred to Hahn’s legislative record as a promising attribute to his party’s newest majority leader. Bellone has signed onto several pieces of Hahn’s legislative agenda items over the past several years, including attempts at addressing domestic violence in Suffolk County and limiting the abundance of microbeads polluting county waterways.
“Kara Hahn has a proven record on critical issues like protecting our environment, tackling the opioid crisis and advocating for victims of domestic violence,” Bellone said in a statement. “I know Kara will use the platform of majority leader to be even more effective on the issues that she has spent her life fighting for, and which are critical to move Suffolk County forward.”
Calarco said he has known Hahn for a long time, dating back to when the two of them worked as aides in the county Legislature long before they were first elected. He gave his long-standing colleague encouraging words as she prepared to succeed him as majority leader.
“I think she’s going to be great,” he said. “She knows the Legislature well. She knows how to get things done. She’s a very good fighter for her district and the county as a whole.”
Among the top issues Hahn said she hoped to lead the Democratic caucus in addressing were spurring economic development throughout the county, requiring the county to test groundwater for toxins, preserving open spaces and advocating for healthy living.