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2021 elections

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Polls closed at 9 p.m. and TBR News Media will update the results throughout the night.

The following are not the final election tallies, as the Suffolk County Board of Elections still has to count all absentee ballots starting. All current results can possibly change in the next few weeks, and those finding themselves in even moderately close races could see a shift.

As of  12:30 a.m:

Suffolk County District Attorney

Tim Sini (D) – 108277 votes 42.69%

Ray Tierney (R) – 145292 votes 57.28%

Suffolk County Sheriff

Errol Toulon Jr. (D) –  135162 votes 54.39%

William Amato (R) – 113285 votes 45.58%

Suffolk County Legislator, 6th District:

Sarah Anker (D) – 7141 votes

Brendan Sweeney (R) – 8329 votes

Suffolk County Legislator, 5th District:

Kara Hahn (D) – 7582votes

Salvatore Isabella (R) – 7508 votes

Suffolk County Legislator, 4th District:

Dawn Marie Sharrock (D) – 3066 votes

Nicholas Caracappa (R) – 7702 votes

Suffolk County Legislator, 16th District:

Susan Berland (D) – 5640 votes

Manuel Esteban (R) – 6165 votes

Suffolk County Legislator, 12th District: 

Leslie Kennedy (R) – 6754 votes

Mike Sidekaris (D) – 2411 votes

Suffolk County Legislator, 13th District: 

Rob Trotta (R) – 5761 votes

Kevin Mulholland (D) – 2564 votes

Michael Simonelli (C) – 2675 votes

Suffolk County Legislator, 18th District:

Mark Cuthbertson (D) – 9765 votes

Stephanie Bontempi (R) – 11419 votes

Brookhaven town clerk:

Donna Lent (R) – 54085 votes 67.89%

Ira Costell (D) – 25546 votes 32.07%

Huntington supervisor:

Rebecca Sanin (D) – 17782 votes 39.90%

Edmund Smyth (R) – 25057 votes 56.22%

Eugene Cook (Stop LIPA) – 1727 votes 3.87%

Huntington town council member – two seats:

Jen Hebert (D) – 18174 votes 21.01%

Joseph Schramm (D) – 17171 votes 19.85%

Dave Bennardo (R) – 26300 votes 30.41%

Salvatore Ferro (R) – 24835 votes 28.71%

Huntington superintendent of highways:

Kevin Orelli (D) – 19338 votes 43.39%

Andre Sorrentino (R) – 25216 votes 59.58%

Smithtown town supervisor:

Ed Wehrheim (R) – 20446 votes 75.01%

Maria Scheuring (D) – 6806 votes 24.97%

Smithtown town council member – two seats:

Thomas McCarthy (R) – 19753 votes 37.31%

Lynne Nowick (R) – 19833 votes 37.46%

Dylan Rice (D) – 6965 votes 13.16%

Marc Etts (D) – 6378 votes 12.05%

Smithtown town clerk:

Vincent Puleo (R) – 18537 votes 99.80%

Smithtown superintendent of highways:

Robert Murphy (R) – 22231 votes 99.80 %


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TBR News Media published its endorsements in the Oct. 28 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.

Sini is leading DA’s office in the right direction

Photo by Rita J. Egan

We were impressed with the passion of both Tim Sini (D) and Ray Tierney (R), and they both brought good ideas to the table during the recent TBR News Media debate. They also were ready to back up what they said during the interview with documentation.

While Tierney has more experience in the courtroom, Sini made a good point during the debate that being DA is more than being a prosecutor, it’s also about managing the office. This is an important fact as the DA’s office, like many in Suffolk County, has a great deal of taxpayers money to manage. We felt that the current DA has more of a sense of the overall responsibilities.

The relationships Sini has forged through the years with fellow elected officials in the county are also important. Being voted into office after Tom Spota (D) was removed as DA, Sini was tasked with revamping the office. We think he has done a good job in doing so, and we would like to see him continue in the office.

We hope that Tierney, who said he never thought he would be involved in politics, will stay in the arena. He has a lot of good ideas and the passion behind them to fight for the public.

Toulon the only pick for county sheriff

File photo by Kevin Redding

With current Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr.’s (D) only opponent effectively just a name on a ballot box, as he is not actively campaigning, Suffolk voters only really have one choice come Nov. 2. However, we can still give our sincere endorsement to Toulon, who for the past four years has been a pillar of integrity in law enforcement and beyond.

Our interview with Toulon also revealed just how hard change can be regarding Suffolk’s jail system. Despite inroads with trying to help the county’s nonviolent jail population, especially with great ideas like the sheriff’s START Resource Center, a lack of adequate funds for more in-house psychologist staff means it remains tough to give people aid before they reenter society. We agree with Toulon that mental health remains a constant problem in society. The nonprofit advocacy group Prison Policy Initiative reports that more than 44% of locally run jail populations are diagnosed with a mental illness. It only makes sense to get them help when in jail before they have another encounter with law enforcement.

We hope that Toulon keeps pushing for such funds. It was also concerning to hear just how understaffed the sheriff’s department currently is, and it remains incumbent on Suffolk officials along with the Sheriff’s Office to recruit staff. Unfortunately, like much of the law enforcement community, too many of the Sheriff’s Office law enforcement remain unvaccinated. Combined with them interacting with a population of inmates with low vaccination rates, the spread of COVID-19 among officers and inmates remains a key concern.

While we appreciate the COVID precautions in Suffolk jails, and while we understand there is no requirement in Suffolk that law enforcement be vaccinated, we believe top brass of law enforcement need to do more to campaign for vaccinations among staff.

Still, Toulon remains a steadfast and effective sheriff who has found support from both sides of the political divide. We hope he continues with the good work and we look forward to the next four years.

Go with Cuthbertson’s experience in the 18th Legislative District

Photo from Cuthbertson

Both Mark Cuthbertson and Stephanie Bontempi bring a lot of good ideas to the table, and we appreciated their cordialness toward each other despite their campaigns getting off to a bad start with contentious mailers. Both also seemed apologetic about the literature. It shows that both are capable of reaching across party lines and working with others. The fact that they agreed on many issues also demonstrated this character.

In this race, we endorse Cuthbertson whose approach we felt was backed by more facts and data than his opponent. The town councilman also has experience working with elected officials on all levels which would help him to hit the ground running if chosen as county legislator in his district.

We hope that Bontempi will continue to be involved in the town and seek public office in the future if she’s not elected on Nov. 2 to the county legislator seat, as she has a fresh perspective that would be an asset during these divisive times. We were also impressed with her concerns for those in the social services system.

Trotta fights the good fight

Photo by Rita J. Egan

During this election campaign, we have found many candidates who are just placeholders on the ballot. We were disappointed to find that Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta’s (R-Fort Salonga) opponents in the 13th Legislative District were not available to debate him. His Democratic opponent is not actively campaigning, and while his Conservative opponent has plenty of signs around the district, he didn’t respond to our requests to debate Trotta. We understand that he has not debated Trotta at all this election season.

We respect that, as a former law enforcement officer, Trotta doesn’t just rubber stamp pay increases for county police officers. While he believes they should be properly compensated, as do we, he doesn’t believe that pay raises should be three times the cost of living. In other words, he understands that one of his jobs is to manage taxpayers money.

He also is a proponent of sewering in the district and is ready to work with towns on this matter.

Rob Trotta has our endorsement.

Leslie Kennedy steps up to the plate

File photo by Desirée Keegan

In the race for Suffolk County legislator in the 12th Legislative District, we endorse Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset).

While some have criticized Kennedy for having a laid-back attitude at times, the legislator has shown time and time again she cares about her constituents.

She can be seen regularly at community events talking with residents, trying to find out what’s on their minds. When she has to deal with an issue, she talks to all parties involved. Sometimes an elected official doesn’t have to grandstand to make a difference.

We were disappointed that her opponent Mike Siderakis (D), stopped actively campaigning a few months ago. Last year he ran for state senator against Mario Mattera (R-St. James) and had a lot of good ideas and solutions. We would have liked the opportunity to sit down with him and hear how he felt about county issues and how to solve them, especially since earlier in his campaign he organized a few press conferences to discuss local issues.

Kennedy has shown once again that she is there to represent her district.

A tough decision for District 4

Nick Caracappa. Photo by Julianne Mosher

While incumbent Nick Caracappa (R-Selden) and newcomer Dawn Sharrock of Selden both have their pros and cons, TBR News Media will leave the choice to you, our readers.

Caracappa, won a special election in 2020 to fill the vacant seat of former District 4 legislator, Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) and for the last year has done great things.

In the short amount of time in his position, he spearheaded the removal of Stagecoach Elementary School as a voting site, assisted senior veterans with receiving the COVID-19 vaccinations early on and composed a letter to then-governor Andrew Cuomo (D) addressing the dire conditions of our local roadways — which was signed by all 17 legislators and later resulted in the state allocating an addition $30 million to roadway repairs.

However, it is concerning that he led a “anti-mandate” rally, which encourages people to say “no” to the COVID-19 vaccine. While vaccinated himself, and his family, we feel that the role of government is to protect its citizens — especially during a worldwide pandemic that has taken hundreds of thousands of lives.

Dawn Sharrock. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Sharrock is sharp and has a bright future ahead of her. Her roles working on the Middle Country School Board have been impressive. She’s good at it, and we hope she will continue doing that for now. A mother within the district, and one who is involved and caring of our children’s well-beings, we encourage her to attend meetings and get more county experience.

We want her to continue doing the great work she does with our local school district and to keep growing while doing so. With more experience, she could be an excellent candidate down the road for higher office.

Kara Hahn will continue to lead in 2021

Kara Hahn. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Hahn has proven herself over the last several years in her position as county legislator. The current deputy presiding officer, she has done wonderful things for the local community and has always been there to help her constituents when asked.

As an elected official who cares for her environment, Hahn has sponsored legislation to reduce the use of single-use plastics, ban the sale of products containing microbeads, increased fines for illegal dumping and preserved open spaces in Setauket and Port Jefferson Station.

She has improved public access to county parkland by adding parking facilities where none previously existed at McAllister County Park in Belle Terre and new amenities at Forsythe Meadow County Park and Old Field Farm by West Meadow Beach.

But she has also been an advocate for victims of domestic violence and a supporter of small business.

Hahn’s opponent, Republican Salvatore Isabella, has not been actively campaigning and refused to talk to media throughout his run.

While he may be a placeholder, we are disappointed that the political party chose not to have someone serious on the ballot.

Hahn, however, should be applauded for her constant professionalism and dedication to her community — so much so that she has announced a bid for the Democratic Party’s nomination to run for U.S. Congress next year in New York’s 1st Congressional District.

Her advocacy for the environment, mental and public health, as well as the safety of everyone from children to first responders is admirable. We know that for her last legislative run, she will continue to represent her constituents well and be there as a helpful leader just as she has over the last six terms.

Incumbent Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) was the only one who responded to TBR News Media’s invitation for an in-person debate for the election of county legislator for District 5.

We’re looking forward to seeing what her next accomplishments for the county will be.

Anker again for the 6th District 

Sarah Anker. Photo by Julianne Mosher

TBR News Media has chosen to endorse county Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) to represent the 6th District.

Anker, who would be in her seventh term if reelected Nov. 2, proved again that she should finish all the bills and policies she has worked on throughout her near-decade career in politics.

While opponent Brendan Sweeney was enthusiastic during our in-person debate Oct. 11, we believe that Anker should follow through with her final term this year.

Over the last 10 years, Anker has shown true leadership and empathy to her constituents. An elected official who cares about the environment, children and small business, she also cares about the people in the community who might not say thank you — and even her opponent.

Sweeney, at just 28, has a great career ahead of him and has already made milestones for a millennial.

Currently working for the Town of Brookhaven, he would be able to bring that experience to the county, if elected, but we feel he needs just a little more time to truly grow.

Knowledgeable about what the town has done during COVID-19 and with other policies, Sweeney should consider looking more into county data and learn more about the constituents he would like to represent.

Anker knows her area, she has raised her children and worked here for years.

She should finish up her time with the county and, once completed, she can let a new person take the reins — maybe Sweeney down the road.

 Change is welcomed for Huntington Town Supervisor

Rebecca Sanin. Photo by Julianne Mosher

After a series of unfortunate controversies in the Town of Huntington over the last few years, change is welcomed, and Rebecca Sanin is a breath of fresh air.

While Deputy Supervisor Ed Smyth and town board member Eugene Cook are seasoned from their roles and have a wealth of knowledge devoted to the town, Sanin brings a new level of expertise to the table.

As president and chief executive of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, Sanin knows how to talk to people and listen. She said a leader needs to be empathetic and that is something she can do well.

A resident of Huntington Station, she can see all sides of the town from the safer areas to the neighborhoods that struggle with crime and could use a bit of TLC. The three runners each have their strengths; Cook is a strong individual who we admired during the debates. Smyth, an intellectual, has a wealth of knowledge and eagerness to serve. Sanin who at just 43 would be the second female supervisor in Huntington history, and for a community founded in 1653, that change is certainly welcomed.

We think that everyone on the ballot can bring something to Huntington, but Sanin can be a brand-new start for the town.

 Go with Bennardo and Ferro’s depth of knowledge

Photo by Rita J. Egan

When the four candidates for Huntington Town Board walked into TBR News Media’s offices, the atmosphere did not grow strained, as it often does for political candidate debates. In fact, a sense of decorum and comradery settled over the room.

The candidates chatted, listened to each other and complimented each other, while us reporters and editors sat stunned on the other side of the table. It’s a shame that there are not four open councilperson seats up for grabs, as we would have liked to see what could be accomplished if that spirit of compromise we saw around our newspaper’s conference table was transferred to behind the dais in Huntington Town Hall.

However, of the two Republicans David Bennardo and Sal Ferro, and the two Democrats Joseph Schramm and Jennifer Hebert, we were most impressed by Bennardo and Ferro’s depth of knowledge, as well as the more concrete plans they had to bring business to Huntington while stabilizing the tax base.

Bennardo’s experience as superintendent of South Huntington will serve him well in town leadership, and we appreciated Ferro already having a grasp of the amount of money available for environmental grants.

We wholeheartedly ask that whichever two candidates do not secure enough votes Nov. 3 should continue in public life and use that spirit to the benefit of the community at large. Some would call it naive to believe politics could return to a sense of shared bipartisanship, especially once newcomers really start to feel the sting of modern politics, but it’s still something worth trying for.

Keep Wehrheim as Smithtown Town Supervisor for continuity

Photo by Rita J. Egan

The past four years has been a time of change for Smithtown, and with change inevitably comes controversy. Despite that, change, especially regarding aiding Smithtown’s aging infrastructure and struggling small business sector, is an imperative. We here at TBR News Media feel, with the two candidates running for Smithtown supervisor, that incumbent Ed Wehrheim (R) is the best fit for pushing that revitalization.

Wehrheim’s expertise from spending years in the town parks department has paid dividends for the town’s recreation assets. He has a pragmatic sense toward development that’s seen him gain respect of elected officials from across the aisle and in higher levels of government, which is why there are big hopes for the Kings Park Psychiatric Center property to be used partially for sewage treatment. In the four years he’s been in office, Wehrheim has paved the way for St. James and Kings Park revitalization. Part of that rejuvenation is in new apartments, but those new developments have not disrupted the character of Smithtown as some people feared.

In many ways, Democrat Maria Scheuring represents the past, of a suburban ideal being threatened by the changing times. It’s a case of having your cake and eating it, too. She wants small businesses on Main Street to thrive, but she is against new apartments that would bring foot traffic into these downtowns. She agrees with the necessity of protecting the environment but shares no specific alternatives. The Gyrodyne project does require scrutiny, but there is an absolute necessity for Long Island to move away from antiquated cesspools in order to protect both the groundwater and coastal bays.

Not presenting any real answers for how to deal with these problems will only lead to stagnation. We hope Scheuring continues being involved, and that she participates in more town meetings to let her voice be heard.

Wehrheim has the right attitude and work ethic, and we hope to see more of those attributes in the next four years.

Choose Nowick and McCarthy for Smithtown Town Council

Lynne Nowick

After hearing about the vast revitalizations these two candidates have worked on together for the town of Smithtown, TBR endorses both Lynne Nowick and Tom McCarthy council.

Actively setting up a plausible solution to the sewering of Smithtown, both Republican candidates have reached milestones for the town, helping to improve not only the environment but the quality of life for residents. They are well on their way to setting up a plant in Kings Park, which will benefit Smithtown.

Both Nowick and McCarthy have been insistent that New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) helps fund the sewering of Lake Avenue, Main Street, and Kings Park, and do not stop at any obstacle in their way.

Tom McCarthy

They have also revitalized 75% of the town by funding parks, beaches and golf courses, creating a small economic engine for the town, which is something that all residents can appreciate. If elected, they will continue to finish the 25% of the revitalization work left.

TBR likes to endorse candidates that have shown their capability and willingness to live up to their promises. We believe that Nowick and McCarthy truly love their town and will go above and beyond to make sure that the Smithtown residents are happy.

Keep Donna Lent as Brookhaven town clerk

In the race for Town of Brookhaven’s town clerk, TBR News Media endorses Donna Lent (R) for the position.

We believe Lent is the right choice as her experience as town clerk since 2013 has helped the Town of Brookhaven in many different ways.

Donna Lent

Not only is her experience and realistic view of the community something we can all respect, but she has shown us she has not halted in her work when it comes to helping the community such as getting the right permits and documentation they may need.

We were impressed by her detailed responses when posed with the issue of software difficulties and the FOIL process, and we appreciate her continuing efforts to help make information readily available to the public.

Although we are inspired by the passion, vigor and refreshing ideas her opponent Ira Costell (D) has for the position, we hope he continues to use his passion toward other public services. We were especially impressed by his desire to help with mental health problems. Perhaps he could be named “mental health czar” by the town supervisor?

Costell is knowledgeable about the Town of Brookhaven and will go out of his way to help the community.

Understanding there are restrictions to the position as town clerk, TBR sees the improvements made by Lent and we hope to see her make even more if reelected.




Legislator Nick Caracappa and Dawn Sharrock during TBR News Media’s in-person debate on Oct. 22. Photos by Julianne Mosher

County Legislator Nick Caracappa (R-Selden) is on the ballot again to keep his seat for the 4th District. 

After winning his seat in a special election following the death of Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) in 2020, the 54-year-old father of five said he is “here for the people.”

“No one advocates harder than I do for the hardworking middle class,” he said. 

Previously, Caracappa was president of Local 393 Utility Workers Union of America and served as a trustee of the utility union’s national executive board. He worked for the Suffolk County Water Authority in maintenance for 34 years and was on the Middle Country school board for seven years. 

“I’ve been involved with my community since my first child was born,” he said. “I asked myself right away, ‘How can I make my family, my children’s lives better, while at the same time making my community better?’”

And it’s been a family affair for Caracappa. His mother, the late Rose Caracappa, was a county legislator and community advocate throughout most of his life.

“She’s the reason I’m sitting here today,” he said. “Seeing her service really struck a chord with me at a young age — I’m so thankful I had that opportunity. I wouldn’t know the value of giving back to the community the way she did and it’s very big shoes to fill.” 

His opponent, Dawn Sharrock, running on the Democratic Party line, has spent the last six years on the same school board, which includes serving as chairperson of the legislative committee. 

The 46-year-old mother of two high school-aged girls has lived in Selden with her husband for 19 years.

Sharrock is also on the executive committee of the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association —serving as chair of its finance committee — and is a board member of Reform Educational Financing Inequities Today, a consortium of school districts supporting equitable school funding.

“That’s really what is the catalyst to have me sitting here before you and wanting to run for county legislator,” she said during TBR News Media’s in-person debate last week. “It’s been my leadership on that committee, and the things that I was able to accomplish with working with elected officials on both sides of the aisle, that helped to get legislation passed.”

One of her greatest accomplishments, she said, was her help with getting swing-arm cameras onto school buses.

“I was instrumental in getting that legislation passed,” she said, noting that she helped work alongside both state and county officials to get the resolution passed.

COVID-19 and small business

Sharrock said that the COVID-19 pandemic divided the community and believes that it “has been politicized a lot.”

“I think as an effective leader, you are someone who has to bring people to the middle, and if you’re not doing that, you’re not being effective in the job that you’re in,” she said.

A main concern is small businesses which suffered during the pandemic.  

“We have to make sure that is something when we come to the table, we are remembering that small businesses, along with union jobs, they’re the backbone of our communities,” she added. “That doesn’t mean we don’t need big corporations, and that they’re not also beneficial to our communities, but the small businesses in particular, we really need to make sure that they’re able to strive and they’re able to continue.”

Sharrock believes that the county needs to do better budgeting, and make sure that grants are available from the federal level. She wants to make sure that “money is going where it is supposed to.”

Caracappa, a small business owner himself, agreed and noted that there were certain businesses across the country receiving PPP money that were not qualified.

“I think we need to have watchdog groups,” he said. “We need to make sure that there are advisories that are making sure that this money is being used where it was intended to be used for.”

He added that small businesses need to thrive in his district because they help grow the economy.

“The people that own the smaller businesses live within that community, as well,” he said. “So they’re giving back to that economy, they’re helping grow that economy, they’re very much active within that community and the schools.”

In the 4th District, Caracappa said that the ratio of big business to small business is greater for the small businesses — even the franchises along Route 25, which are owned by local families. 

“Our district represents probably a core of hardworking middle-class families more than anything else,” he said, adding that over the last year he has worked alongside the Town of Brookhaven, the local chambers of commerce and the IDA to help develop the area.

The two runners butt heads when it came to discussion of vaccines: Sharrock believes that the well-being of the community is important, and criticized Caracappa for holding an “anti-mandate” rally earlier this month in support of industry workers who are being let go of their jobs for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine.

Caracappa is vaccinated, himself, as are his family and staff.

“I would never say do not get vaccinated,” he said. “That is your choice to get vaccinated. I stand by that — those are constitutional rights.”

Sharrock said that a role of someone in government is to be “proactive instead of reactive.”

“I think that those are some of the things that I would bring to this seat is just being proactive, not necessarily reacting to a situation,” she said. “Make sure these things are happening the way they should before they actually go wrong.”


Caracappa has been vocal in his concern for the local environment and said he has been working to get more federal funding into the 4th District. 

“I work hard with my colleagues,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if they’re Republicans or Democrats — to get proper sewage in the ground.”

An immediate concern he said is the local waterways and our coastal communities which need sewage in the ground to replace cesspools.

Aa a longtime employee at SCWA, Caracappa said that we need to protect the aquifer and if we don’t, “we’re going to be in big trouble.”

While water quality is his main concern, he added that the advancement of local roadways will continuously be a challenge. Over the summer, he and a bipartisan group of his legislative colleagues, wrote a letter to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) asking for more money to be sent to the county to repair potholes. The letter resulted in an allocation of $30 million to roadway repairs, and a change in repair timeline from 2024-25 to 2022-23, Caracappa said.

Sharrock agreed that the environment and waterways need to be fixed.

“We have no more time left to not worry about the environment or the waterways, we have to make sure that we’re putting the resources in to make sure that we are protecting the environment, that we are protecting our drinking water,” she said. “And I’m not really sure what is happening — where is this money being put? These are the types of things that I want to know, and I want to when I’m sitting on the county Legislature.”

She said that we need “to make sure we’re leaving an environment for our grandchildren and their children and their children. We have to make sure we’re putting it into where it needs to go.”

Affordable housing

When asked about keeping young people on Long Island, Caracappa said his district has the most projects being built and worked on for lower income and affordable housing opportunities. 

“These opportunities are not only for young couples, but I’d like to see the young couples move into our homes,” he said, adding that empty nesters and senior citizens who cannot take care of a large property anymore need opportunities for more affordable living. 

Sharrock believes that creating goodpaying jobs that allow young people to stay is key. 

“If we want to be able to keep generations here, I think the jobs are very important,” she said. “We need to talk about growing apprenticeship programs so that we are making sure kids who are leaving high school are on a path.”

Crime and police

Sharrock said that law enforcement is one of “the toughest jobs and most important jobs out there.”

“They’re keeping our community safe,” she said. “I think that their pay should reflect that they put their lives on the line every day for us.”

She said that she supported the reform that was recently put out and was “needed, balancing out the People’s Plan.”

Caracappa, who was endorsed by the Suffolk County PBA, said that he “absolutely supports law enforcement.”

“That doesn’t mean they’re not accountable for their actions,” he said. “There are bad cops, bad teachers and bad priests, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to brush a broad stroke over the entire department, because it’s one or two bad cops out there.”

He believes that accountability is necessary, and is a huge advocate for body cams, “not only to protect police officers and the citizens, but also protect the county.”

Sharrock also supports body cams, adding, “It’s important for them and for the community.”

Photo by Rita J. Egan

The race between Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) and prosecutor Ray Tierney, who is running on the Republican and Conservative lines, has been a contentious one. At the forefront, Tierney has questioned whether Sini has been as tough on crime as the DA himself has said, especially regarding the MS-13 gang.

The two sat down with TBR News Media’s editorial staff Oct. 11 to discuss several issues including the biggest ones facing Suffolk County.

Meet the candidates

Sini was first elected to the DA’s office in 2017 and is running for his second term. His background includes being an assistant attorney in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York where he ultimately specialized in violent crimes, which included prosecuting murder trials. He went on to serve as Suffolk’s assistant deputy county executive for public safety and was appointed to the county police commissioner position in January of 2016.

“I love my job,” Sini said. “I wanted to serve in my own backyard.”

Photo by Rita J. Egan

Tierney also grew up in Suffolk County. He began his law career in the Suffolk DA’s office under DA James Catterson (R).

The challenging candidate left the DA’s office in 1999 and went on to work for a private firm and returned to the DA’s office in 2002 and remained for another six years.

He then worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York as an assistant attorney for more than 11 years.

He left the office in 2019 to become an executive assistant district attorney in the Kings County District Attorney’s office where he was in charge of the violent criminal enterprises bureau, crime strategies unit and body worn camera unit.

In order to run for Suffolk County DA, Tierney had to leave the Brooklyn office and is currently Suffolk Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.’s chief counsel for compliance and enforcement.


Sini said crime since he became police commissioner and even as DA has gone down each year. He said since he’s been in office violent crimes are down by about 30% and overall crimes more than 20%. He added year-to-date crime is down 7%.

“We’ve been very effective in keeping Suffolk safe, and also moving the criminal justice system in the right direction, but we knew that we had to reform the DA’s office and that’s why I ran initially,” he said.

Weeks before his election Sini’s predecessor, former DA Tom Spota (D), was arrested. Sini said the office has been reformed in various ways. There has also been the hiring of more than 100 people, an increase in diversity and an overhauling of the training program.

Tierney disputed Sini’s crime statistics saying shootings are up in Suffolk County, and he wants to use his experience in crime strategies to bring those numbers down.

“Statistics can be manipulated,” Tierney said. “What we’re going to do is we’re going to index the crimes.”

Tierney has criticized Sini’s approach during his campaign. He said the DA’s office will announce numerous indictments via press releases but he said the office doesn’t send out as many announcements about convictions.

“I don’t dispute for a fact that he has very splashy arrests,” Tierney said. “I’m talking about results.”

He also criticized Sini for the number of times his office has used plea bargaining, giving the example of a drug dealer that Sini charged with a top count in 2021. However, he said, a year earlier that same dealer was charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance and then allowed to plea.

“If he’s a kingpin in 2021, why do you give him a misdemeanor in 2020?” Tierney said.

Sini said pleading in certain cases is not unusual, and the DA’s office may not have the evidence needed in 2020.

MS-13 gang

Photo by Rita J. Egan

Tierney said Sini talks about the biggest MS-13 gang busts and asked for defendants’ names, pleas and sentences. He also asked why not one was charged with murder. 

“If you have a crime strategies unit, if every two weeks you’re letting the statistics come out the stats will speak for themselves,” the prosecutor said.

Tierney said doing so is an example of being independent from the police and county executive.

Sini said his office has been part of one of the largest MS-13 takedowns, where 96 people were indicted in one county. The case involved three years of wiretapping investigations. The takedown netted a multitude of arrests, and Sini said his office is now prosecuting the cases and is having a lot of success.

The DA said the reason why many were charged with murder conspiracy instead of murder was because law enforcement was able to stop the killings from happening due to the wiretaps used in the investigation.

“Our detectives would go out and stop the violence, and then we charged the defendants in some cases with murder conspiracy,” he said. “We stopped 10 murders from happening that way.”

He said the office, in addition to murder conspiracy pleas, has received pleas to assault and criminal possession of weapons, which have significant sentences attached to them.

“We’re making a difference in terms of MS-13 on Long Island, there’s no denying that,” Sini said. “And it’s not just the DA’s office, and we’re not suggesting otherwise. It’s a collaborative effort from the local police department, all the way up to our federal government.”

Tierney said there were 46 gang members on the indictment, and each one was responsible for two murders, which Sini interrupted and said it was murder conspiracy.

“Now he said he thwarted 10 murders,” Tierney said. “Now how exactly did he thwart those 10 murders? By arresting them? Well, the manner in which he arrested them was, he had this big splashy takedown after two years and then he arrested all 96 at once. So, in order for that statement to be true, that would have meant that as he prepared his press release, as he called all the media, as he got everything all ready for the takedown, the night before 10 murders became apparent. And then he took those individuals down.”

Tierney said he has a problem with that style as “that’s not how it works when we do our MS-13 indictments.”

“We take them down as soon as possible,” he said. “We don’t care about the indictment. We care about the results, and you can’t thwart 10 murder conspiracies, all at once, it’s an impossibility. There’s no way that 10 murder conspiracies come to fruition at the exact date of the takedown.”

Tierney said Sini seals his cases because he doesn’t want the public to see the plea bargains that he has given.

Sini said that was false since indictments are public, except for certain cases that may need to be sealed due to cooperators or under certain circumstances, and it’s appropriate to do so.

Drug epidemic

Sini said the drug epidemic has been one of the most significant public safety problems for more than a decade. He said the approach is investing in prevention, treatment, recovery and law enforcement.

“Law enforcement even plays a role in treatment, too, because you can create and implement diversion programs, where you get low-level offenders who are suffering from addiction into treatment programs,” he said.

He added drug offenders also need to be aggressively investigated and prosecuted.

“We’ve done that,” he said. “I’ll give you two examples, both in terms of bringing operators and major trafficker charges the top felony counts, these are significant prosecutions, and we’re leading the state on doing that.”

He said the sentences can be 25 years to life. 

Tierney said he feels the most significant public safety problem is the rise of crime in the county, whether gun violence or the opioid epidemic.

He added it’s important to keep an eye on the U.S. southern border as powder fentanyl is being brought into the country. The powder form is sprinkled into cocaine unbeknownst to the buyer.

Summing up

Sini said that Tierney has criticized him for not having as much trial experience as he, and said that’s just an issue of age, since he is younger than the challenger. The DA said that while prosecuting is part of the job there is more to it.

“We’re running to be a CEO of a major law firm,” he said. “I have significant managerial experience with a track record. He has zero.”

Sini said he believes his office has done “great work on a number of different fronts,” and he’s running on his record.

“We brought some of the most significant cases in the region on a variety of public safety fronts — the drug epidemic, gang violence, human trafficking, environmental crime.”

Tierney said he never thought he would get involved in the political process.

“I think what we’re seeing is our leadership is gaslighting us,” he said. “We’re being told everything’s great, everything’s wonderful. They are talking points.” 

Tierney said the main function of the office is to prosecute.

“We are dismissing cases,” he said. “We’re not indicting cases. This is the management of the office, but to say you’re a CEO and a manager’s office, it is the prosecutor’s office. We need someone to prosecute those cases.”

The winner of the DA race will hold office for the next four years.

Kara Hahn. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Running for her sixth term in office, Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said she wants to finish all that she has started if reelected Nov. 2. 

On the Republican ticket is Salvatore Isabella, who is not actively campaigning and did not respond to a request for a debate with the legislator at TBR News Media offices. 

Hahn, 50, said this is her last chance to run for her seat, where she has productively worked on a variety of issues throughout the county. 

“I love what I do,” she said. “I feel like I make a difference.”

Over the last several months, Hahn — who serves as the county’s deputy presiding officer — has helped during the county’s experience with the COVID-19 pandemic and its continuous aftermath. 

“The pandemic really kind of opened up some old wounds from our health care perspective,” she said. “I think it’s clear — there’s more to do to make sure that our health department is ready for next time. I don’t think we’ve done a full-on analysis of how things went, because we’re still facing it.”

But the county legislator believes there needs to be a serious review so we as a whole can be better prepared for the next time. 

COVID-19 also halted several projects Hahn began working on before the pandemic such as the county’s recycling taskforce and emergency room opioid protocols — two of which she hopes to see through if reelected. She currently has two bills underway, one making sure that the county spends its opioid settlement money appropriately. 

“I feel really strongly that because we have [more than] $100 million, that will be coming to be spent over varying degrees, some of it can be spent immediately,” she said. “There’s time but I don’t think we should be reimbursing ourselves for expenses — I think that opioid settlement money should be spent on treatment and services for prevention.”

She said that by creating programs for people with addiction, it could help get a handle on the drug epidemic that skyrocketed during the pandemic and quarantine.

Hahn is also an advocate for the COVID vaccine and has been pushing the health department to help get the public vaccinated against the coronavirus. She said that while close to 80% of adults haven gotten their full vaccine, we do not know what percentage is needed across the full population to reach herd immunity, and lower the transmission rates in schools.

Chair of the parks and environment committees, Hahn said she hopes during her next term to see federal funding to go toward infrastructure in her district. She also said she wants to get “a task force going” as the Town of Brookhaven Landfill closes and changes happen with waste removal. 

Throughout her entire political career, Hahn said she has advocated on the importance of transitioning away from septic systems and how they impact Long Island’s drinking water.

While Hahn is seeking her reelection for what would be her last term as legislator, she has also announced she will be campaigning for U.S. Congress next year. 

“I am running for Congress because I think there’s an opportunity to further help this community by getting someone from here there,” she said. “And I think that could really help.”

While opposers might question Hahn’s devotion to her seat if reelected as she seeks higher office, she said she knows it will be difficult, but she is ready. 

“I know it’s going to be hard, but I’m very committed to this job,” she said.

 “The reason for me running is to just find yet another way to continue to help and work for this community, and I wouldn’t take that on if I didn’t think I could. I love this community, and this comes first, of course.”

Legislator Sarah Anker and opponent Brendan Sweeney during TBR News Media’s in-person debates, Oct. 11. Photos by Julianne Mosher

Running on the Republican ticket for District 6 of the Suffolk County Legislature, Brendan Sweeney, of Shoreham, is currently a citizens advocate in the office of Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), Town of Brookhaven. His opponent, incumbent Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai). 

Before serving in the Legislature, Anker had been energy director for the Town of Brookhaven, where she developed solar programs and promoted clean energy and green homes technologies. She had also served on the Mount Sinai school board, raising three children in the district. 

Anker graduated from Pasco High School in Dade City, Florida, and received a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts in 1986 from St. Leo University in Dade City, Florida. She took graphic design courses at New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury. 

She first ran for county legislator a little over 10 years ago. The 2021 election is the last term she can run for and she said she can explain her reelection in three words: “To help people.”

Sweeney, 28, previously worked in the Brookhaven Town Building Department, the town Department of General Services and the town Law Department. In these roles, he worked on town issues including abandoned houses and building issues. He worked on Freedom of Information Law compliance in the town building and planning departments. He also worked for county Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset) when Kennedy was a legislator, and in the county Department of Audit and Control.

Sweeney graduated from St. Anthony’s High School and received a bachelor’s degree in history in 2014 from the University of Florida. He said he is currently enrolled at Touro Law School in Central Islip.

“It has always been in my in my blood to want to help people,” he said. 

COVID-19 recovery

Anker has been working for the county throughout the whole COVID-19 pandemic, using her platform to help connect people with vaccines and continues to educate her constituents on the matter. 

“Hopefully it’ll get better and hopefully we will have a better understanding,” she said. “What happens is that if we don’t know what’s around the corner, there’s nervousness, there’s tension and there’s anxiety — that’s what we’ve all been experiencing the past almost-two years.”

Anker said that throughout the pandemic, she worked constantly with the state. 

“I noticed, though, we need to do more on a county level to address the process to get a vaccine,” she said. 

When vaccines became available, she said that she, as chair of the county Seniors & Human Services committee, helped to get senior citizens their vaccines because she knew they were feeling left out. 

After calling the state, she said she helped set up vaccination pods at local fire departments, along with facilitating communication between doctors with credible information.

“It was frustrating,” she said, “but I have a website that is being put together to help bring critical medical information to medical providers.”

Anker believes that trust needs to be brought back into society. 

“I think the political divide has hampered that — and I’ll say on both sides to a great extent because we have more in common than we have different,” she said. “We need to figure out how we can come back to that foundation because our adversaries are just waiting.”

Sweeney believed that the county did “a good job overall” in how it handled the coronavirus crisis. 

“To be given the hand that they were dealt with, I have to give credit where credit is due,” he said. 

He, however, believes that we need to adjust to a “newer normal.”

Sweeney said it’s important to encourage people to get their vaccinations against the virus, but ultimately believes it should be a choice. 

“My attitude is we have to have the government going to people and telling them the importance of it,” he said. “But the problem right now, ever since Watergate, is there’s been a distrust in government.”

Sweeney believes that information should be going straight to trusted medical providers to work with their patients to alleviate concerns or find a way to cease apprehensions. 

Small business

Sarah Anker. Photo by Julianne Mosher

While the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the daily lives of people around the world, local small businesses are still struggling. Anker said that to help business owners, she proposed legislation to create a small business website to make it easier for those struggling. 

The site includes resources for PPP, grant applications and other entities to help people navigate through the constant changes associated with COVID. She hopes that the site can also provide ways to help business owners find employees willing to work.

“There’s so many people struggling,” Anker said. “You can go down part of the whole street here and find ‘help wanted’ signs.”

Sweeney, who helped on the Brookhaven level with the coronavirus task force, had local chambers of commerce meet together to suggest the biggest issues in town. A big problem, however, was the restrictions coming in from the state level. 

“That limited, even the suggestions the businesses came to us with, for we were limited in what we could actually implement, since our regulations that we had power over were taken away from us,” he said.

But Anker said that the two share a similar perspective — the county did a good job under the circumstances and worked along other levels of government to get things done. 

“I can see where there could have been improvements, and as we continue to go through this, I’m hoping that I can help tweak it,” she said. “I’m in a place at this point where I can make suggestions, I can propose legislation, I can create a task force to get all these amazing minds together to try to solve some of these problems. But, you know, we are all in this and we’re all trying to get through it.” 

One project Anker helped with was working alongside the county Department of Labor at the One-Stop Employment Center. 

Before the pandemic, she coordinated a field trip for Rocky Point High School seniors to visit the center. She insists that young people heading out of high school and into college need to be up to date on new technology for the future jobs that will be available. 

Sweeney agreed, but noted that colleges, like county-funded Suffolk County Community College, should be given more money.

“The county is not paying its fair share right now, nor is the state, so the state’s at fault, too,” he said. “The original formula when it was decided, when it was formed, was 33% county, 33% state and basically 33% paid for by the taxpayer going to the college. But right now, it’s more like 50% for the taxpayer.”

He also believes encouraging students that college is not the only choice out there is important. 

“We need to encourage people that any option is out there, you don’t have to just immediately go to the white-collar option,” he said. “Some of these blue-collar jobs, they may not look glamorous and the work you’re doing, but the pay you’re getting because they’re in such demand will entice them.”

Water quality

Anker became involved with local environmental issues nearly 20 years ago, and now with her current role as legislator, she said she is in a place where she can vote on land preservation, clean up toxic sites, enforce illegal dumping and more. 

As of late, Anker is working toward dredging, which was finished in Mount Sinai Harbor earlier this year. 

“This is something I’m going to focus a lot more on in the upcoming weeks,” she said. 

“I’m also working to try to figure out a way to stop chemicals, medication — there’s all kind of stuff coming out in our sewers, and some of those sewer lines go right out into our oceans,” Anker added. “And to me, that’s unacceptable.”

Sweeney said he would focus on adding more sewers to the county. 

“We should put sewers where everybody that desires sewers wants them,” he said. “That’s an ambitious goal, and it’s unlikely to happen in the near future, but that’s what we’re working toward.”

Brendan Sweeney. Photo by Julianne Mosher

By adding more sewers to areas that need it, it could eventually help the aquifer where Long Islanders get their water. Sweeney added that he hopes to see the federal infrastructure bill pass soon, so more funds could go toward improving local water quality. 

Both Anker and Sweeney agree that infrastructure in their district needs to improve. 

“We’ve had a lot of flooding in Rocky Point,” Sweeney said. “Driving along William Floyd [Parkway], there are so many potholes.”

While funding comes from different levels of government depending on the roads and territories, he said that on the county level, two things should be done: preventing stormwater harm and sewering issues. 

Anker said, however, that she truly feels that the town and county work together well when it comes to joining together to better the areas they share. 

“We focus on a lot of issues, and we were very productive and getting things done,” she said. “We focus a lot on quality-of-life projects together.”


Anker was instrumental in the development of the North Shore Rail Trail connecting several different communities with a brand-new park, walking and biking trail. 

“We’re all one big community,” she said. “So, I think it’s important to support the local civic associations that work together, support the local historical societies that are keeping our legacy alive for that.”

She added that a high priority of the Legislature is to provide more open space. 

Sweeney agreed, and said that he believes communities in the district appreciate and like to visit downtowns, but aren’t necessarily looking for one in their backyard. 

“For me, I look at it not that we don’t want downtowns because we do have Rocky Point,” he said. “I think some of our residents would prefer that true suburban area. Our district is where you want to start your family. You want to move into a house, you want to occasionally go out for dinner and drinks with your friends or your spouse, and you go into the downtown area and then you go back home — but you don’t want that constant hustle and bustle, either.”

Affordable housing

Throughout Anker’s career in local government, she has helped to implement legislation that requires developers to provide affordable housing, or workforce housing. While at first unwelcomed by people within her district, she said they are now starting to see a need for the kids to have a place to live. 

“It’s becoming much more acceptable,” she said, adding that Mount Sinai has started to see several 55-and-over communities pop up for empty nesters.

Sweeney, a young person himself who has just purchased a home, said that the county should help with making living on Long Island more affordable. 

“One of the first things that I would do from the county aspect would be to start trying to find areas of the budget that we can start cutting, start reducing so that we can lower our expenditure on the average taxpayer,” he said. “That little bit can be just enough of what you need to be able to make the difference between staying in your apartment that you’re in right now and purchasing a nice, lovely new home in Coram, Middle Island or Mount Sinai.”

Candidates for Huntington Town Board, from left, David Bennardo, Sal Ferro, Jennifer Hebert and Joseph Schramm took part in a debate at TBR News Media’s office. Photos by Rita J. Egan

With two seats open on the Huntington Town Board, whoever finds themselves filling those empty positions will have their hands full, whether it’s helping bring business to the town during and after COVID-19 or dealing with water quality issues and shoring up the coastline.

Despite all that, the four candidates vying for the Town Board each said during a relaxed and downright friendly debate within TBR News Media’s office that they want to reestablish a sense of bipartisanship and civility to politics, especially as they look to represent a way forward for Huntington in these uncertain times.

Candidates David Bennardo and Sal Ferro are running on the Republican and Conservative party lines, while Joseph Schramm and Jennifer Hebert have gained the nods of the Democratic and Working Families parties. With current council seats for Ed Smyth (R), who is running for  town supervisor, and Mark Cuthbertson (D), running for county legislator, their seats will be filled by two newcomers in 2022. 

Photo by Rita J. Egan

All candidates agreed that the rising cost of living on Long Island and Huntington is a major issue for everyone. Schramm, who lives in Northport, owns a sports marketing agency that includes high-end soccer clientele. He said he moved his business mostly remote, away from its old office in Manhattan and now bases it in Huntington. He said there are multiple businesses looking to move out from New York like his, and that this is an opportunity for the town to attract them to the North Shore. He would start a committee to specifically look at attracting businesses like other television and production companies.

Ferro, of Commack and the CEO of Alure Home Improvements, agreed that the town should attract new businesses, adding that Huntington has a lot to offer, whether it’s the Melville office corridor, a regional medical center, a large train station and access to the Hauppauge Industrial Park. The town can relay these opportunities by creating zoning where people want to develop.

“Why did Amazon go with Oyster Bay and not Huntington — it was more attractive,” Ferro said. “We’re not attractive, you have to become attractive.”

Bennardo, a Greenlawn resident, recently retired as the superintendent of South Huntington school district. He argued that the town would best be served with certain tax abatements, tax incentives and cutting red tape that restricts businesses from setting up shop, especially in the empty spaces that are already developed throughout the town. He referred to one example as the lengthy wait for pool permits, which not only hurts homeowners, but decreases the number of contracts for businesses who install those pools.

Hebert, who in the past was a nine-year school board member and president of Huntington school district, said she comes from a family of small business owners and that she agreed that there’s a need to support and welcome those large businesses into the town. As for the empty storefronts around town, she would gather experts in current business trends to see where the market is going and find which businesses will survive being in brick and mortar. At the same time, she argued there’s a need for the town to cut down on expenses and potentially hire a grant writer to analyze different new grant-based revenue streams. As well, the town could use an updated master plan.

“I think that Huntington has been going about this in a very haphazard way,” she said. “And, really, what we need is a plan that reflects what our community wants and what we have available for us to do in Huntington.”

Photo by Rita J. Egan

Ferro agreed but added that it’s better to find grant writers specialized in specific arenas like the environment. Further, he said that while COVID has posed a problem for some businesses, it has also proved a boon to some others. The recent closure of the venerable Book Revue in Huntington village was a big blow to the community. Regarding the issue of filling empty storefronts in the town, the home improvements CEO argued that a big problem is rent prices, especially in the village. He said the town needs to look at rent abatements and work with landlords to try and fill those empty storefronts.

Looking at the empty spaces in the Huntington train station parking lot shows that less people are commuting to the city for work, Schramm said. Instead, he argued the town should look at more shared office spaces for small businesses. 

“Let’s not stumble over what’s behind us,” the marketing agency owner said. “We have to reimagine our downtowns, but what we have is a huge new workforce that exists in our town. Let’s figure out a way to leverage it.”

Bennardo also confirmed his support for rent abatements for small businesses, especially since mom-and-pop shops make so little money for the first few years after opening. He said certain regulations, like those that restrict upstairs apartments, could be nixed to better facilitate 

“I don’t see any real thing wrong with using a part of your building for two or three apartments upstairs,” he said. “It’s really what’s going on across the country. They don’t put six-story buildings up, they don’t destroy the integrity of a neighborhood, you don’t even know they’re there.”

Recent reports by environmental groups on Long Island routinely report water quality issues with bays on the North Shore. Particularly the bays in Centerport and Cold Spring Harbor report dangerous lack of oxygen in the water, which has led in part to dangerous algae blooms. 

Photo by Rita J. Egan

Schramm said he would support dredging Northport Harbor, which he said would be “an expensive proposition, but it has a lot of environmental benefits,” especially regarding fish die-offs and hypoxia in the bay waters. Northport also has a bio-filtration FLUPSY program in the works, which will help preserve the oyster population and clean the harbor waterways, and he said he would like to see that expanded to other bays in the Town of Huntington. Other than the bays, Schramm said he would like to see town parks and facilities updated and improved to the same quality as neighboring townships.

Hebert agreed, and shared that she would like to deal with concerns of Centerport and Eaton’s Neck residents about beach erosion and crumbling seawalls. Especially important is getting everybody to sit around the table to confer, with Hebert adding that she doesn’t feel text or even Zoom meetings have facilitated the interactions that actually get things done.

Bennardo said additional issues remain with facilitating upland and downland drainage systems, and that there’s a need now to clean out those drainage systems before they leak into both the aquifer and the bays. The other issue remains cesspools, something all the candidates agreed were antiquated and need to be replaced where they can. “That’s not an area where we can let cost be an argument because it’s our drinking water,” he said. 

Ferro said there are millions of dollars in grant money available to aid in environmental remediation projects within the next several years, and it’s imperative that the town focuses on getting a piece of that pie. He agreed with the other candidates that oysters are a good option for cleaning out bays, adding that regarding the antiquated cesspools, promoting nitrogen-reducing systems where sewers won’t fit is also critical. 

Overall, the candidates confirmed their commitment to seeing a change in the way local government sees the people and, perhaps more introspectively, sees itself. Ferro said he’s more than used to working with electeds on both sides of the aisle. Schramm, as an openly gay man who lives with his life-partner Steve, said he would work toward a more inviting Huntington for everyone. “Our Town Hall needs to start having people provide sign language at Town Board meetings,” he said. “We need to include everybody in our community. We need to be a welcoming Town Hall.”

Around the table, among mutual compliments, Hebert put an emphasis on the need for compromise and a shared sense of consideration for each other. “I would say you have four people here who are representing exactly what you should do to restore trust and leadership,” she said.

Bennardo echoed the sentiment, adding, “We all want to win, but we’ve made a decision that you have to act like an adult. No good compromise ever happens when someone’s calling someone a socialist or Marxist or a fascist or any of that — it’s nonsense.”

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon speaks during a media event at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Yaphank. File photo by Kevin Redding

Errol Toulon Jr. (D) is running again for his seat as the Suffolk County sheriff with the hope to continue his efforts providing aid services for nonviolent inmates alongside the office’s law enforcement work with gangs and sex trafficking. 

Toulon’s opponent, William Amato, who is running on the Republican ticket, did not respond to multiple requests for a debate with TBR staff. The Suffolk County GOP office confirmed Amato is not actively campaigning.

Toulon, who has cross-party endorsements from both the Suffolk Democratic and Conservative parties, said his job as head of his department is “to take the brunt of everything, good and bad. And during these real challenging times, I have to ask, ‘How do I keep my staff calm, how do I keep them safe, how do I feel like they’re still valued?’” And compared to his previous positions in corrections, his current job gives him a satisfaction he hasn’t had before.

“I have a job now that directly impacts the community that I live and work in,” he said.

The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office is the law enforcement branch dedicated to managing Suffolk’s jail system. Along with handling inmate populations, the office’s sheriff deputies are responsible for patrolling roadways alongside Suffolk County Police Department, investigating crimes committed on county property as well as managing the Pine Barrens protection hotline. The Sheriff’s Office also contains several specialized bureaus and sections for emergency management, DWI enforcement, domestic violence, among others.

Toulon, a former Rikers Island officer and captain, was voted into his first four-year term as sheriff in 2017 and was the first Black man elected to the role in the county’s history. Over those four years, his office has been involved with several high-profile drug and gang investigations, which included fact-finding trips to El Salvador and Los Angeles to investigate the connections of MS-13 to Long Island. He is proud of his office’s accomplishments, including his work with the office’s human trafficking unit and the creation of the START Resource Center, which provides inmates leaving county jails with employment and housing assistance as well as drug treatment and mental health care services.

But the year 2020 would throw a monkey wrench into all best-laid plans. Toulon said last year started out rough with the change to New York’s bail reform laws. Then the COVID-19 pandemic created a host of new challenges, especially safeguarding prison populations as well as corrections officers. 

During COVID’s height, officers kept inmates largely separated, which resulted in a minimal number of reported cases in Suffolk jails. Still, the year did have its share of tragedies, including the loss of Investigator Sgt. Keith Allison, a 25-year veteran of the office who died from issues relating to the virus in December. Recently, the Sheriff’s Office had to cancel its open house and family day due to staff shortages and the spread of the Delta variant. The sheriff’s website reports that, in September, 29 inmates tested positive for COVID, where 26 of those reportedly contracted the virus while in jail. Inmates are required to quarantine in a special housing pod for 14 days before being moved to general housing. Staff must take temperature checks and wear masks when coming into the facilities.

And all these extra protections have exacerbated current staffing shortages. Toulon said the Sheriff’s Office is currently down around 180 corrections officers and 43 sheriff’s deputies.

The recruitment struggle is one felt across many industries, law enforcement not excluded, though Toulon said his office has a uniquely difficult time getting people to apply, to have applicants pass the required tests and then to keep them on after they’ve had a taste of what can be a trying job at times. The challenge in recruiting is partially due to what he said has been a degradation of trust between law enforcement and the community since the start of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. The Suffolk sheriff has also seen more senior officers retire because of health concerns during the pandemic, and because of COVID they were not able to host any new police classes last year. 

Though there are currently over 1,700 people who are ready to take the next law enforcement exam in November, the expected acceptance rate is normally around just 15% to 20%, Toulon said. This lack of staff also has the effect of increasing required overtime for current officers, leading to faster burnout. 

“Sometimes, even when you get through the entire process and they have their first days in a jail when they’re working a lot of overtime, having to deal with inmates … it becomes challenging on the individual, especially someone that’s not used to it,” the sheriff said.

It’s another stress on a system that he said requires more financial help to truly give aid to the transient, nonviolent jail populations who need it. Toulon would like to see more psychologists and psychiatrists within the jail providing counseling, though there’s currently no budget for it.

“The mental health institutions throughout New York state were closed in the 1980s or 1990s, and so these individuals are winding up in jail, but [state government] never funded the jails,” he said. “The staffing model for the Sheriff’s Office was really from a 1960s or ’70s version, and it hasn’t been updated to what we need to do to address the particular individuals in our custody.”

Though the sheriff said their new initiatives have not increased the office’s budget, he is still banging the drum for more funding. Suffolk County reportedly received approximately $286 million in aid from the federal American Rescue Plan back in May, though Toulon said they have not received any percentage of those funds. County spokesperson Derek Poppe said in an email that no ARP money is slated to go to the sheriff’s department.

Challenges still exist for Suffolk jails due to the pandemic. Corrections officers are still required to wear masks on their shifts. At the same time, only around 40% of corrections officers are currently vaccinated. There is no legal requirement for Suffolk law enforcement to be vaccinated in order to work, and while Toulon is fully vaccinated, he said he told his staff to consult their primary care physicians to make that determination.

“I understand it’s an individual’s choice at the moment,” he said. 

The number of people incarcerated in Suffolk jails hovers around 780, according to the sheriff, though that population is transient, and can change from day to day. The Sheriff’s Office, through the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, has tried to provide vaccinations for its inmates, leading to around 350 so far. Still, only approximately 30% to 40% of that jail population is currently vaccinated. “All we can do is just try to encourage the inmates to at least receive the vaccine — hopefully help them learn a little bit more if they’re a little skeptical before making that decision,” he said.

As for the future, the sheriff said he wants to work hard to make sure that the majority of the inmate population — all those who are nonviolent and not a danger to the community — receive the social services they need.

“Everybody should be held accountable for their actions, I should be very clear on that, and [incarceration] is necessary for those who would do harm to be removed from society,” Toulon said. “But those men and women that are going through domestic violence, substance abuse — we have many victims of human trafficking that are in our custody, many females that we’re working with — we want to help them, empower them so that they can support themselves and support their families.”

Photo by Rita J. Egan

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) is running for reelection once again in the 13th Legislative District after taking his seat in 2014. Also on the ballot are Democrat Kevin Mulholland, who isn’t actively campaigning, and Michael Simonelli on the Conservative ticket. Simonelli didn’t respond to TBR News Media’s request to participate in the debate.

The 13th Legislative District includes Smithtown, Fort Salonga, Kings Park, San Remo, Nissequogue, Head of the Harbor and St. James, as well as portions of Commack and East Northport. The district is bounded by Route 25 to the south, Larkfield Road to the west, the Long Island Sound to the north and the Brookhaven town line to the east. 

Trotta said he wants to run again because he wants “to clean up.”

“I hate to say that I dwell on corruption, but I do,” the county legislator said. “I think you need someone like me who’s the thorn in the side to keep people straight because quite honestly they’re not straight.”

While fighting corruption may be at the forefront of his mind, Trotta said what he enjoys most about his position is helping his constituents, especially senior citizens, and acknowledging the good works of community members such as Eagle Scouts. 

Trotta said he takes exception with some of Simonelli’s campaign tactics where the Conservative candidate has called Trotta a “communist” and has said the county legislator wants to defund the police, which he said is not true at all. 

He said his opponent’s campaign is based on Simonelli being a police officer, but Trotta said his opponent has performed no police function in the last 10 years. Simonelli serves as treasurer of the Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association.

According to Simonelli’s campaign website, he is an active police officer in Suffolk and has been for 21 years. For nine of those years, he has also been a Suffolk PBA executive board member.

Suffolk County Police Department

Trotta, who was a SCPD officer for 25 years and on the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force for over 10, has been vocal about wasteful spending in the police department, but said he does not believe in defunding the police. His concern is about salaries, overtime and pensions. He said there are 16 people in the SCPD who taxpayers are paying $300,000 each a year even though they don’t perform an active police function and don’t go on calls.

He added this cost taxpayers millions each year and could be the equivalent of hiring 100 new officers. Trotta said he believes the police should be paid well, but increases shouldn’t be three times the cost of living. He said this has been done six out of eight years.

“How do you get that much in raises when [the county has] no money?” he said. “We borrowed $550 million from the pension fund, we drained the clean water fund for $250 million.”

He said he’s not against county police officers getting salary increases. 

“Just make it the cost of living,” he said, adding the police officers contract includes that if the cost of living goes up more than 5% they can reopen their contract.

“The roads and everything else suffers when you’re paying 2,300 people a third of your budget — a billion dollars,” Trotta said.

County budget 

Photo by Rita J. Egan

The 2022 county budget will have a surplus, and Trotta said it’s not the norm and is due to millions of federal aid, stimulus aid and unemployment supplement.

“I’m happy to see that the [Steve] Bellone administration (D) is actually going to pay down some of our debt with it,” he said.

But Trotta still has concerns as he said sales tax revenue was up 20% which led to millions of dollars, but the county is budgeting flat this year. He said no one can predict, though, if sales revenue would go down, and he said he would budget the same as in 2020.


Simonelli’s campaign is saying Trotta is against sewers but the county legislator said that couldn’t be further from the truth. Long Island Environmental Voters Forum recently endorsed him.

Recently, Trotta has been advocating for current Kings Park sewer district residents and businesses impacted by an expansion of the Kings Park sewage treatment plant to vote “yes” on Dec. 14 for sewers for Kings Park’s business district.

He is in favor of working toward ensuring that Smithtown’s Main Street and Lake Avenue in St. James also are hooked up to sewer systems in the future. 

Election law

One of Trotta’s biggest concerns is election law. He said the PBA collects $1 a day from every police officer and probation officer, and village department members in Amityville, Northport and Ocean Beach. While the departments can opt out of this, an individual police officer cannot.

He said state election law 17-156 is clear in stating “all campaign contributions must be voluntary.”

He said county District Attorney Tim Sini (D) benefits from this procedure with contributions around $500,000 and County Executive Bellone around a million dollars. Trotta said he has a problem with his opponent Simonelli being the treasurer of the PBA, and therefore being responsible for transferring the money.

The county legislator held a press conference about the matter on Oct. 21. (For the full story, see page A5)

Fighting corruption

Trotta said he’s not afraid of fighting corruption, and he knows he works for the taxpayers.

“I don’t respond well to people bullying me,” he said.