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Democrats

Photo by Julianne Mosher

By Nancy Marr

What can we say about our recent election?  In Suffolk the loss of their seats by many local Democratic legislators was a surprise. Although a majority of voters in Suffolk County tend to vote Republican, Democratic legislators had been doing well for many years with little opposition. Was it because voters were critical of the dissension among the Democrats in Washington, as many analysts said? 

Editor and columnist Ezra Klein quoted data scientist David Shor, who said that the Democrats lost many lower income voters, particularly Hispanics, because of their emphasis on issues like defunding the police. Shor also said they should have talked up the issues that were the most popular and kept quiet about the others. Or did the struggle between the parties cause a lot of “no” votes on principal? 

But, coming back to Suffolk County, why were three of the five NYS ballot propositions defeated so profoundly? Many voters reported robocalls urging them to vote “no” for propositions one, three, and four. Proposition #1 would have removed a requirement included in the amendment of 2014 (that first created New York State’s independent redistricting commission), which said that there must be at least one vote from the minority on the maps that are submitted. (The League of Women Voters opposed Proposition #1, believing that it was important to give both parties a chance to have meaningful participation in redistricting).  

Propositions #3 and #4 would have made voting much easier. #3 would have it possible for a citizen to register closer to the day of the election, instead of having to register ten days before the election, as specified in the NYS Constitution. And proposition #4 would have removed the restrictive requirements to get an absentee ballot, allowing voters to vote at home if they wished, or if their work schedule interfered with the election schedule. 

Were Suffolk voters agreeing with voters in many other states who didn’t seem to want to make voting easier? Were the election results just an example of the flow of history? Perhaps the election was the natural response of Republican party leaders who found ways to convince voters to fight to gain control, while the Democratic leaders did not effectively work to get out the vote. There were issues that voters were concerned about: educational issues around teaching black history; privacy issues around mandated vaccinations; and the dilemma of schools being closed for much of the year, that Republican and Conservative campaigners emphasized to build support.   

Many voters may not know how, or do not make the effort, to evaluate the candidates who are actually running and instead rely on information on flyers and social media. The League of Women Voters, which is nonpartisan and never supports or opposes any candidate or party, sponsors candidate debates, on zoom and in person when possible, where candidates introduce themselves and answer questions. 

The League provides information from all the candidates in an online database, VOTE411.org, which provides information to each voter about their registration status, where they will vote, and their entire ballot, including all offices and any propositions.  Newsday and most of the local newspapers also print information about all the candidates and their experience and opinions, explaining why they are endorsing them, if they do.  

Voters who are informed are better able to select candidates who will represent their interests. Voters will now also have a chance to ensure that the election districts for New York State Assembly and Senate and the United States Congress are fair, representing their community and its population. 

Prior to the 2020 Census, the changes in district lines were drawn by a legislative committee, representing the political parties. In 2014, a Constitutional Amendment was passed creating an independent redistricting commission (NY IRC) for New York State. It is charged with revising the district lines to accord with the findings of the United State Census in a manner that is fair and nonpolitical. 

On November 23, the IRC will hold a hearing for Suffolk County at Stony Brook University’s Wang Center. To learn more about the new district lines and how to attend or testify at the hearing, go to https://nyirc.gov/ and review the current maps and the revisions. The testimonies at the hearing will influence the New York State Legislature, which will either accept the maps or send them back for revisions. If after two revisions no plan is approved by the IRC, the redistricting will go back to the Legislature to be drawn.  

The IRC hearings offer every citizen the opportunity to give input about how they will be governed, just as casting a vote in an election will help select a candidate who represents you. 

Nancy Marr is vice-president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. Visit www.lwv-suffolkcounty.org or call 631-862-6860. 

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, right. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) announced her nomination for New York State Supreme Court justice in the 10th District, which covers both Nassau and Suffolk counties. She has been cross-endorsed by both parties, and is almost guaranteed a seat on the bench come November.

The slate of judicial nominees was made at the Democratic Party judicial convention earlier this month. Cartright made the announcement official.

“The principles of fairness and equality under the law have been the foundation on which I built my career —first as a trial attorney and then as a town councilwoman,” she said in a statement. “My experience as an attorney, a community advocate and a legislator drafting laws and policy with community involvement uniquely positions me for judgeship.”

Cartright has been the lone Democrat on the majority Republican Brookhaven Town Board for the past six-and-a-half years. She has also been the only person of color on that board in that same time.

Rich Schaffer, the Suffolk Democratic Committee chairman, said in a statement the committee was “proud to present this diverse slate of distinguished jurists that includes a candidate of Councilwoman Cartright’s caliber and experience.”

A number of nominees have been cross-endorsed by both major parties, and are almost guaranteed their seats. The Republicans had their judicial convention early this week. Cartright  — along with Kathy Gail Bergmann, a Suffolk County Family Court judge; Tim Mazzei, state Supreme Court justice; and Derrick Robinson, an acting county court judge — have all been cross-endorsed. Justice seats are on a 14-year term.

Before running for town councilperson, Cartwright had spent years as a civil rights attorney at the Law Offices of Frederick K. Brewington. She also is an adjunct professor at St. Joseph’s College.

In the past few months, the councilwoman ran for the Democratic nod for the New York State Senate 1st District seat that has long been held by state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson). She came in second place in that race with a vote tally of 6,569 compared to her Port Jeff opponent Laura Ahearn’s final number of 8,427 votes.

State Supreme Court nominees names will be on ballots come election time Nov. 3. If her seat is left vacant after that, the Brookhaven Town District 1 seat would need to be put up for vote in a special election to finish off the remaining three years of Cartright’s term.

State Senator Anthony Palumbo speaks at TBR News Media during the 2014 election cycle. File photo by Elana Glowatz

By David Luces and Kyle Barr

State Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) announced he would be looking for a step up in Albany, as he’s now seeking the hotly contested State Senate District 1 seat. 

The seat has opened up since 44-year incumbent Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) announced he was not seeking reelection
in November.

“It is apparent that the one party rule up in Albany is not working for those here on Long Island,” Palumbo said as to the reason he decided to run. “They have been instituting a progressive left agenda that is contrary to the way of the life here in SD1.”

Palumbo, 49, whose Assembly 2nd District runs along the North Shore from Fishers Island all the way to Mount Sinai, was first elected in 2013 with 57 percent of the vote and has easily retained that seat in the next three elections by large margins.

Suffolk County Republican Committee chairman, Jesse Garcia, was enthused to see Palumbo moving in as the Republican front-runner. 

“For the people of Senate District 1, this is great news,” Garcia said. “Anthony’s record is second to none.”

Though the seven-year legislator is moving from what has been considered a safe seat into what could be a fiercely contested race, Garcia said he wasn’t concerned.

“He is giving up a safe seat and is answering to a higher calling,” the Republican chairman said. “He will listen to the people and has the experience to lead SD1.”

Palumbo, a former prosecutor, will have to take on whoever comes out on top of a Democratic primary that sees well-known names like Laura Ahearn, Parents for Megan’s Law founder and Port Jeff resident, and Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station). Also running for the Democratic ticket is Skyler Johnson, Suffolk County Community College student and Mount Sinai resident, and Tommy John Schiavoni, a Southampton Town Board member.

In a prior interview with TBR News Media, Palumbo said he originally had reservations about seeking the higher office. One was the age of his children, one 12 and the other 15. The other was his current leadership position in the Assembly.

“It was a big decision for my family and I, but it is important that we hold onto Senate District 1,” the assemblyman said.

Garcia said this race is one of the big ones of the Republican Party trying to wrest back control of the State Senate from the Democrats.

Two items, he said, are at the highest importance in his run. One is bail reform, which Republicans across the island have called for the law’s removal.

“There was need for tweaking of criminal reform, but this goes beyond safe or smart,” he said. “The new discovery reform also went too far. It will cost millions of dollars in unfunded mandates.” 

Palumbo added he wants to focus on taxes and bringing in more jobs to the district. 

“The county is losing people in droves — I want to do what’s right for the district — I want my kids to be able to live here.”

Perry Gershon, again a Democratic contender for U.S district rep., spoke at a protest early in 2019. Photo by Kyle Barr

The late June Democratic debates hosted by CNBC could have been the first true coal mine canary, telling us that even more than a year out, the race for the White House is going to be a long, complicated and grueling affair.

Nancy S. Goroff, Department of Chemistry Professor, announced her run for District 1. Photo from Stony Brook University

Over two nights, the 20 candidates stood shoulder to shoulder, shouting over each other for attention and sound bites. Though it was talked well enough on every national media outlet, finding North Shore residents who watched the debates, let alone had a full opinion on the Democratic candidates, can be a chore.

However, for Suffolk County and the Suffolk Democratic Committee, it’s business as usual. According to Rich Schaffer, the county Democratic chairman, the focus starts with the local races long before any attention is applied to the congressional candidates, let alone the presidential contenders.

“You won’t get them energized this year until we finish with the local races, so our main focus will be on the town and county races,” Schaffer said. “We had minimal interest in the presidential, a couple of people calling to see about participating in a particular campaign of a particular candidate, but other than that we haven’t much.”

What’s your opinion?

Here is what a few residents from local areas thought about the current Democratic presidential candidates:

Brian Garthwaite, Port Jeff Station:

“Do I think any of the candidates that I saw talk in the last two days will go anywhere? — I hope not,’” he said. “No one really stood out to me.”

Garthwaite guessed at who would be on the final podium come 2020.

“It’s tough to say right now but if I had to guess I think it’s going to be either [Joe] Biden or [Kamala] Harris.”

Judy Cooper, West Islip:

“I’m a Democrat and I like Joe Biden, but I want to hear more about one or two of the lesser known candidates — like Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar,” she said. “I haven’t thought about a ticket yet. I watched the first night of the debate, but then got sick of it the second night. It was inconsequential the second night. The first night there were many candidates, but they seemed to be more substantial candidates.”

Peggy S., Northport:

“I’m a Democrat, I’ll tell you that,” she said. “I’d support anybody but a Republican. I like Mayor Pete the best.”

Anthony Alessi, Northport:

“I want anybody who can beat Trump,” Alessi said. “Kamala Harris impressed me last night. I’d love to see her beat Trump. My ideal ticket is Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris.”

Quotes gathered by David Luces and Leah Chiappino

In local races, the Town of Brookhaven is becoming a hotspot. Though he sees Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) as well established, Schaffer specifically looked at Cheryl Felice, who is running against Michael Loguercio (R-Ridge) for the 4th District, and Anthony Portesy, who is running for Brookhaven Highway Superintendent against Daniel Losquadro (R), specifically having a good shot considering people’s complaints with the state of their roads.

“He’s knocking on doors, and he hears a lot of complaints about the conditions of the roads and the services being provided by the highway department,” he said. 

Two Democrats have already stepped up again to face U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) in the 2020 congressional contest. Last year’s nominee Perry Gershon is again running this year, while Stony Brook resident Jack Harrington is on the sidelines, with rumors he has considered running. On July 9, Stony Brook University scientist Nancy Goroff declared she too would be running against Zeldin, setting up what may be a heated primary race mirroring the 2017-18 Suffolk primary runup.

“As a scientist, I believe in facts,” Goroff said in a release declaring her candidacy. “And it’s a fact that Washington is hurting Suffolk families. I’m running for Congress to use my experience as a scientist to combat global warming, make healthcare affordable, protect a woman’s right to choose and end the gun violence epidemic.”

The Democratic chairman said the committee has been hands-off when it comes to congressional campaigns, letting them hire their own staff and leaving them to their own campaigns. Despite the constant attention paid to national politics, he said he expected the usual number of voters, comparing it to last year’s 22,240 primary votes out of a possible 143,700. 

“It was a little more animated than past years, but on par for where it’s been, 15 to 20 percent turnout,” he said. “It’s definitely going to be animated next year, that’s for sure.”

But to Schaffer, the national race will come down to around five or six candidates, and only then will you see the public become energized around their chosen individual. The next Democratic debate, set for July 17, may be a major tipping point. Politico has reported many Democratic presidential campaigns said they believe the next set of debates could start the culling to the top contenders.

The biggest point on the national and congressional stage is whether he feels they can defeat Zeldin and Trump. If Schaffer had to choose a candidate at this moment, it would be past Vice President Joe Biden, saying he “was part of the successful years of the Obama presidency,” and “if we’re looking for someone who can take on Trump and not just convince Democrats but those ‘persuadables’, I think Biden has the best shot.”

Rich Shaffer at his office in North Babylon. File Photo by Alex Petroski

The Democratic chairman sees Suffolk’s population as more conservatively minded than what may be seen in New York City or other progressive hot spots. 

This is despite the rise of more progressive candidates such as Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, with Harris’ poll numbers, in particular, surging after the CNBC debates, but Schaffer said what’s important is defeating the incumbents.

“If we win, we win as a party. If we lose, we lose as a party,” he said.

A couple at an immigration rally in Huntington Station in July 2018. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Imagine if your week’s paycheck were hung on a hook from a high ceiling, dangling there within sight but not within reach, all because your boss wanted something the rest of the company said he couldn’t have.

The federal government has not had a spending bill pass the House of Representatives for approximately three weeks, and for that stretch of time, hundreds of thousands have been furloughed, been sent home or have had to work without pay as of press time. That includes thousands of Transportation Security Administration officers at airports and air traffic controllers. 

It’s hard to estimate how many Long Islanders have been affected by the shutdown, but they are certainly out there. Recently, the Suffolk Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals announced it would provide free pet food to government workers who couldn’t afford it due to the shutdown. Long Island Cares, a Hauppauge-based nonprofit food bank, said Jan. 4 it was reaching out to federal employees affected by the shutdown to provide food assistance.

This is the third government shutdown in the past decade and the longest running. There are 800,000 federal workers furloughed or working without pay because of the shutdown, and experts have said there may be a multiplier effect the longer the shutdown goes on, considering the family members of those government workers going without pay. The problem may even impact the larger local economy, harming businesses whose customers must cut back on spending, along with the tourism and travel industries with reports that thousands of TSA officers are calling out sick rather than work without pay.

This latest shutdown has been caused by a laser-targeted policy decision, namely $5.7 billion in funding for a wall on the U.S. and Mexico border. This policy has been near-singularly championed by one official, President Donald Trump (R).

Trump got on national television Jan. 8 to explain to the nation his reasoning on why the U.S. needs a border wall. He made a number of points that have already been fact checked by other news organizations, but suffice it to say he claimed, “The federal government remains shut down for one reason and one reason only: Because Democrats will not fund border security.”

This is simply untrue. Democrats put up a $1.3 billion funding bill for border security measures, including additional surveillance and more fortified fencing. The president would not sign it. It didn’t fund a 2,000-mile border wall.

And that’s what it comes down to — a wall — whether the U.S. will spend billions of dollars on a wall.

This is hostage politics. The Democrats in Congress simply won’t support a wall. The exact specifications for the wall aren’t even set down on paper, and the president is asking the American taxpayer to foot the bill for something immigration experts have outright said will have limited effect on border crossings.

Long Islanders should tell our representatives like U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) to pressure the president to end this dispute, otherwise the effects of a government shutdown will only multiply.

As a country, we have gotten over shutdowns before, and we will get over this one, but while we at TBR News Media feel it is imperative that the border be policed, we believe in bridges, not walls.

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Will we be better than our political leaders this year?

For starters, will we get out and vote? It is one of our most important civic duties and responsibilities. Not to sound like a pedantic parent, but people risked their lives long ago so that we could become One Nation Under God. If we don’t vote, are we sending a message to our politicians that we are indifferent until something doesn’t go our way?

How can we possibly complain about the people in Albany or Washington in our representative democracy if we didn’t bother to interrupt our busy schedule to elect people who will make decisions for us?

This election isn’t about any one person, and it shouldn’t be. This isn’t a referendum on anyone other than us.

We have to make informed choices, but, even that is not enough. This year, it seems especially important to vote for the strong, courageous and thoughtful individual.

At this point, we have come down to two parties. It’s the Democrats, who say “no” to everything, and the Republicans, who, in unison, say “yes.” Our politicians shouldn’t be on two diametrically opposed teams — this country is filled with people from every team and walk of life.

It’s stunning how unified both parties are. That doesn’t seem especially valuable to the country. After all, shouldn’t Democrats know a good idea when they see it, and shouldn’t Republicans stop something they don’t think will work?

We are a country of rugged individuals. Our system of national and state governments started when people wanted more freedom from taxes, religious persecution and class systems with relatively limited mobility.

How much freedom are we exercising if we vote “all blue” or “all red,” without knowing the candidates, their positions or their ability to differentiate themselves from their party by making their own choices?

The parties have become caricatures of themselves. They are no longer a collection of ideas coming together, compromising and protecting a wide range of people: They seem to exist for their own sakes and for a specific subset of their party.

Wouldn’t it be incredible if a Democrat promised to support some Republican platforms or ideas? Wouldn’t it be refreshing for a Republican to propose something that ran contrary to their hierarchy?

Where are the men and women with big ideas, who can irritate their own party while gaining reluctant appreciation from the other side of the aisle? Since when did everyone in Washington feel like they had to be the Montagues and the Capulets in “Romeo and Juliet”?

Were Shakespeare alive today, I suspect he would have had a field day with the bickering, finger-pointing and bipolar world of politics.

If we vote along party lines, does it really matter what name is attached to the ticket? If we do, are we sending a message that we’d like our representatives to do the same thing?

Maybe, especially for this election, we should scrap the entire notion of party affiliation. After all, we’re better than a mob. Some time between now and the election, we all should get to know the candidates. If we have a chance to speak with them, we should ask them if they’re going to fall in line with other members of their party or if they’re going to think for themselves. We shouldn’t have to elect a party with each choice at the ballot. Instead, we should elect an individual who thinks for him or herself the way we do.

We should show our politicians how it’s done, by making informed choices and then asking them to do the same.

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Whew, that was close. We feared that a good ole game of Suffolk County partisan tug-of-war almost left us high and dry again.

Suffolk County legislators voted down 14 bond-seeking bills for various projects that have impact on the day-to-day life of residents June 5 and 19 on a party-line basis. The reasoning given was the 14 items were lumped together in three resolutions, which Republicans argued didn’t allow them to individually vote against projects that they didn’t agree with or may regret funding later.

For nearly a month, both Democrats led by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and Republicans headed by Minority Leader and Legislator Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) publicly bickered back and forth on how to approach county bonds. Each group held press conferences and made inflammatory statements as time kept ticking in the race against the clock to get federally matching funds for both the Wading River-to-Mount Sinai Rails to Trails project and repaving of Commack Road, among others.

It’s said all’s well that ends well, right? Luckily for North Shore residents, both the Rails to Trails and Commack Road bills received the bipartisan support — a supermajority 12 out of 18 votes — necessary to move forward at the July 17 legislative meeting. Most of the 14 bills were voted on individually this time around, the majority of which were approved.

Unfortunately, a few projects failed or were not voted on. Cries for funding repairs and upgrades to Suffolk County Police Department’s K-9 Unit facility in Yaphank failed despite the roof leaking, the floor having holes and the air conditioner and heating not working properly, according to Bellone. Republicans argued the planning should be done in-house rather than borrowing to pay for the project.

We couldn’t help but notice that a bill to fund $4.68 million for upgrades for the Suffolk County Police Department and county Medical Examiner’s office also failed. Another bill, one that would have given the Republican Suffolk County Board of Elections Commissioner Nick LaLota another term, as his time in office ends Dec. 31, also failed. The outcome of these votes seems to indicate that political partisanship is still afoot, alive and well, as all Long Islanders are aware that politics, too, affects our law enforcement offices.

A word of warning to our Suffolk County elected officials: While President Donald Trump (R) and our U.S. Congress play on sharp political divides to gain power and momentum, that’s not an acceptable way to act here. We beg, don’t take your political cues from Washington, D.C.

We — your residents, constituents and voters — expect you to rise above party politics and do what’s best for Suffolk. You must reach out across the aisle, discuss charged issues calmly and reach a compromise that best benefits all. It’s in the job description.

Kate Browning, Perry Gershon, Elaine DiMasi, David Pechefsky and Vivian Viloria-Fisher debate at TBR News Media's Setauket office. Photo by Kyle Barr

Fifty percent of the Nov. 6 ballot in the race to represent New York’s 1st Congressional District is already set, but there’s plenty to sort out before the other half is finalized.

Five candidates garnered enough signatures on their petitions for elected office, earning spots on the ballot for the June 26 Democratic primary. They’ll square off for the right to challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) in the general election.

Kate Browning. Photo by Kyle Barr

All five candidates were at TBR News Media’s Setauket office June 1 for a debate to point to the areas in which they differ, matters they think they’re better suited for the job and ways they can dethrone
their adversary.

In pitching herself as the candidate most capable to do the latter, former Suffolk County Legislator Kate Browning said she can take votes away from Zeldin in a variety of ways.

“We need to be able to appeal to the blue-collar voters, and I believe that’s something I can do,” she said. “Having a husband who’s in law enforcement, who’s an Army veteran — we hear Lee Zeldin talk about ‘vote for the vet, vote for the William Floyd graduate,’ and I live in his base, and I can tell you I know that I can take votes from his base. And having two kids in the military, I can take a lot of that away from him.”

Zeldin is a U.S. Army Reserve veteran.

Perry Gershon identified a different way that he can pull from Zeldin’s support. The candidate said he made a living in commercial mortgage lending for 25 years and owned a small business — a sports bar in New York City — touting the fact he is a political outsider hoping to shake things up.

“What that background means is that when I talk about the economy and jobs I have a little extra credibility, because I’ve been involved in creating jobs before,” Gershon said.

Elaine DiMasi. Photo by Kyle Barr

Elaine DiMasi provides perhaps the most unique qualifications of the bunch.

“There aren’t too many districts that can add a professional scientist to that problem-solving team that is congress,” said DiMasi, a physicist at Brookhaven National Lab. “There’s 435 professionals there — many lawyers, many legislators, many more people with business degrees than with backgrounds like mine, and it’s badly needed right now.”

David Pechefsky said he offers a blend of foreign and domestic policy experience despite never holding elected office, which is uncommon for most first-time candidates. He has worked as an adviser to governments abroad, in addition to his time as a staffer for the New York City Council.

“We’re going to need that to go toe-to-toe with Zeldin,” he said. “He talks a lot about foreign policy. Our national lawmaking body [is] going to have to vote on a whole host of issues pertaining to foreign policy, and I also feel deeply that the Democratic Party needs to challenge the narrative on foreign policy. We cannot afford to continue to have military interventions.”

Vivian Viloria-Fisher said she previously served as a delegate at three Democratic National Conventions in the past. That, her experience as a Suffolk County legislator and living in the district for nearly five decades helps her to understand the needs of 1st District Democrats, she said.

Perry Gershon. Photo by Kyle Barr

“This is who I am, this is who I’ve always been,” she said. “I have a footprint that goes throughout the district and I’ve done good work throughout this district. I’m well-known.”

Viloria-Fisher and Pechefsky said they possess empathy and compassion, respectively, which they said they feel Zeldin lacks. DiMasi said she’s dexterous, or quick-witted, capable of thinking on her feet in the midst of say, a scrutinized debate. Gershon said during his years in business he thought he’d earned a reputation as a person with high integrity, capable of getting along with people from all walks of life. Browning said she’s approachable, often having to remind people to call her “Kate,” as opposed to Legislator or Mrs. Browning.

The winner of the primary will be campaigning for a seat Zeldin won by almost 20 points in 2016, within a county Trump won by seven points, marking the first time a Republican presidential candidate secured Suffolk County since 1992.

Viloria-Fisher said she partnered with Republicans to pass various pieces of bipartisan legislation while representing the county. Pechefsky said he thinks his message — his willingness to advocate for working people — cuts across political lines. DiMasi said she thought her approach to campaigning — sticking to just the facts — would earn her respect with Republicans.

David Pechefsky. Photo by Kyle Barr

Gershon said he believes many people who voted for Trump in the past could be convinced to vote Democratic because he thinks many regret doing so, with an opportunity to score points because of the Republican tax plan, which did particular damage to Long Island property owners. Zeldin was one of few Republicans in Congress who did not vote for the bill.

The candidates identified many of the same issues — gun control legislation, immigration reform, health care options, lack of high-paying jobs, high cost of living in the district — as the most important to the voters they’ve spoken to, while also citing what they said they viewed as Zeldin’s misguided positions on these issues.

Browning named taxes and water quality as among the biggest concerns facing the district in the near future.

“[Zeldin will] come to the Island and say, ‘I have a great environmental record, I’m opposed to the offshore drilling, I’m all about clean water,’ however, he’s voting for bills that are polluting the waters in Virginia,” she said.

Pechefsky identified availability of affordable housing, for people from all income brackets, as desperately needed.

Vivian Viloria-Fisher. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Brookhaven is losing population except for Patchogue, and seniors can’t afford to stay here either,” he said. “When you say we’re trying to figure out interventions that can make for healthier communities, healthier neighborhoods — housing is one you could tackle directly. I worked a lot on housing policy in the city.”

Viloria-Fisher also noted the importance of creating reasons — be it high-paying jobs or vibrant downtowns — for young graduates to remain local and plant roots.

She also referenced Zeldin’s position on guns, and campaign donations he has received from the National Rifle Association, as counter to the values of voters she said she’s spoken to.

“He calls it Second Amendment support, I just call it gun violence support,” she said. “Nobody needs to carry around an assault weapon.”

DiMasi said she’s been trying to get through to those with a distaste for politics, recalling a conversation with an African-American as she was campaigning door-to-door.

“The fact is, I believe that federal law is the place to decrease discrimination,” she said. “Laws create personal biases, much more so than the other way around, and that’s from research. We have to understand just how deeply disenfranchised people have become.”

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When it comes to having options to choose from, sometimes less is more.

As of April 12, the Democratic nominees to run against 1st Congressional District U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) have dwindled down to five from seven. While it’s nice to see new and old faces throwing their hats into the political ring — for which we wholeheartedly commend them — a five-way race in the Democratic primary could create a situation in which voters are overloaded with information and less prepared to cast the vote that makes the most sense for them and the district as a whole come November.

With some signs of internal fighting going on between the candidates already, it’s not a leap to think the longer five people are alive in the race the muddier the ideologies of the party locally will get, similarly to the way the 2016 presidential primary featuring Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) and Hillary Clinton played out, but more so.

Condensing the nominees would show unification within the “party and a clearer focus come Election Day, which regardless of party should be a priority for voters on both sides seeking relevant personal representation in the federal government.

While we understand following the November 2016 election of President Donald Trump (R) and locally with Zeldin that those on the other side are vocal and motivated, it would be a mistake to allow infighting to harm the eventual primary winner’s chances in the general. If those running can engage in substantive policy discussions about how they differ and how they are the same, an admittedly near-impossible task with five candidates, ultimate party unification and digestible information for those heading to the polls would likely be the byproduct, and that is a good thing for everyone in New York’s 1st Congressional District, party be damned. If Democrats cannot find a way to do this, it will be to their ultimate detriment, as they can rest assured the Republican party will undoubtedly rally behind its candidate well before November.

A five-legged beast proved to be a challenge for Harry Potter, and a five-headed one on primary day could be just as scary for voters.

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While Democrats and Republicans squabble over reaching an agreement to raise the debt ceiling in the hopes of funding the government beyond Jan. 19, peoples’ lives are hanging in the balance.

Debt ceiling battles that come down to the 11th hour are nothing new in Washington. As is wont to happen in our nation’s capital, a high-stakes game of chicken is currently underway. Democrats are seeking a resolution to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative while the Republicans want additional border security, which will also serve as much-needed political points for President Donald Trump (R), who promised his supporters a secure border during the 2016 campaign.

While political games often have real-life consequences, this time feels different. DACA was meant to be a temporary fix during the Obama administration to answer the complicated question regarding what to do about children brought to the United States by adults coming here illegally. It provided temporary status for approximately 800,000 people — commonly referred to as Dreamers — who fit this description, though a permanent answer to the question is still being sought. The Trump administration rescinded the action in September and, ever since, Dreamers have lived in fear of deportation from a country that has become home. Now, their status is a pawn in a political game of chess.

Similarly, reauthorization of CHIP — the Children’s Health Insurance Program — is awaiting a government funding agreement. The service provides low-cost health coverage to children in families that earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid. In 2016, nearly 9 million children were enrolled in the program, according to www.medicaid.gov. The program covers routine checkups and immunizations, doctor visits, prescriptions, dental and vision care and emergency services for enrollees. In November 2017, the House passed a five-year reauthorization bill to keep the program running, but it never reached the Senate floor. The health of 9 million children hangs in limbo while politicians try to score points for their home team.

Obviously, for far more reasons than the fate of DACA or CHIP, a compromise needs to be reached in order to keep the government running. Taking a funding battle to the wire is nothing new, but it is shameful that leadership from both parties are allowing these vulnerable members of our society to twist in the wind for months on end along the way.

For Democrats, erecting a border wall, or fence, to appease the president and score him a political win in exchange for a sensible resolution to DACA — and an end to the torturous waiting — would not be the end of the world. For Republicans, do 800,000 people who have contributed to our society need to be uprooted and sent home?

While we wait for both sides to grow up and compromise, families with sick kids and those looking to live the American Dream are likely going through incomprehensibly difficult times. A little compromise and compassion would go a long way.