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editorial. bipartisanship

File photo by TBR News Media

Every year we sit down with local candidates for our preelection political debates in the TBR News Media office. This year, of course, those debates were held via Zoom.

Despite the new format this year, one thing didn’t change — the first thing we do is thank each of the candidates for taking on the responsibility for running for office. We recognize being a public official is no easy task and running for office is just as difficult.

All candidates deserve an extra round of applause for their patience regarding the counting of mail-in ballots. After Election Day, as we reached out to the various candidates in our coverage area, those who were behind after in-person voting remained patient, and those who were ahead were humble. Most who were ahead didn’t claim victory as they understood the importance of making sure every ballot was counted, and they acknowledged every single vote mattered.

After a few long weeks, we would like to congratulate U.S. Reps Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) and Tom Suozzi (D-NY3); state Assemblymen Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James), Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills); and state Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) for regaining their seats. We also welcome newcomers, state Sen.-elect Mario Mattera (R-St. James) and state Assemblyman-elect Keith Brown (R-Northport) to the world of legislation, as well as Sen.-elect Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) and Assemblywoman-elect Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead) to their new roles.

Now that the votes are counted, it’s time to get back to business. We urge each of our elected officials to take the next few weeks to carefully assess what is going on in their districts, so after they are sworn in come January, they can hit the ground running.

It’s no secret that the coronavirus has wreaked havoc on our local businesses. Those in Albany and Washington, D.C., need to get them the funds they need to keep their doors open and their employees on the payroll. If the funds aren’t available, those in government need to work together to come up with creative ideas to keep these businesses afloat while ensuring public health safety.

Elected officials also have to look deeper as to how hard the pandemic has hurt their constituents financially. The loss of jobs and pay cuts have left many unable to make their mortgage and rent payments or keep their refrigerators full. Conversations with residents may provide vital information about what is truly happening within districts.

While New York is one of the fortunate states to have strong leadership during the pandemic, there is still a lot of work to do. And while we can hope for federal aid, we can’t count on it, as all of the states are going through the same struggle as New Yorkers are. We need to come up with new ideas to help keep Long Island strong.

Looking beyond the coronavirus, there is one thing that comes up every year during our debates. How are we going to make the Island more affordable in order to keep both our young people and retirees here, but at the same time, not overdevelop our valuable open spaces? It’s time to stop talking about it and start doing something about it. A closer eye needs to be kept on developers who promise affordable housing but are completely out of touch regarding what wage earners can actually afford. What’s the sense of building affordable housing in precious open space if the housing is out of reach financially for most residents?

Most of all, we ask our leaders in government to work together, to extend their hands across the aisles. We have seen what divisiveness in the United States has done to our country over the last decade — let’s see people come together against partisanship, now more than ever.

We have one thing in common besides our humanity. Both sides of the aisle are Americans.