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Gene Cook

Northport power plant. File photo

Huntington town elected officials refused to entertain a request to hire additional legal help in its lawsuit against Long Island PowerAuthority, despite calls from Northport residents for help.

Huntington Councilman Gene Cook (R) offered a resolution at the June 5 town board meeting to hire Manhattan-based law firm Boies Schiller & Flexner LLP as additional legal counsel in the town’s pending tax certiorari case with LIPA and National Grid over the Northport Power Station as the case heads to trial in July.

“I believe this is a very needed law firm to hire at this point,” Cook said. “For the money that this law firm would [cost], it’s a whole lot less than the hundreds of millions we stand to lose.”

For the money that this law firm would [cost], it’s a whole lot less than the hundreds of millions we stand to lose.”
– Gene Cook

A request to hear and vote on a measure was shot down by a 3-2 vote, by Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R), Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) and Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D).

“There are hundreds of thousands — millions of dollars at stake now in this case,” Lupinacci said. “Huntington has been fighting hard on behalf of the taxpayers. We will continue to use all legal options at our [disposal] to make sure LIPA and National Grid honor their contractual promises.”

LIPA filed a tax certiorari lawsuit against the town assessor’s office in 2010 seeking a 90 percent reduction in the tax assessed valuation of its Northport Power Station, and seeking repayment of all taxes it claims to have overpaid since 2010 — currently amounting to more than $550 million and growing.

Cook said the Manhattan-based law firm is one of the top litigation firms in the nation, although admittedly not specialized in cases related to power plants.

“We are losing a huge opportunity and it will hurt everyone out there by not doing this,” he said.

Several prominent Northport residents had pleaded with the town officials to support Cook’s resolution Tuesday afternoon including Northport school board trustee David Stein, who spoke as a private resident in support of the measure.

The army of attorneys, lobbyists and PR titans that we are against now requires an outsized army of our own.”
– David Stein

“LIPA and National Grid have brought in a veritable army of lawyers, lobbyists and [public relations] attack dogs,” Stein said, painting an image of a David-versus-Goliath fight. “The army of attorneys, lobbyists and PR titans that we are against now requires an outsized army of our own. And so, I urge you to engage the services of the biggest, best, brightest and most well-known in all of these areas now.”

Under Cook’s proposed contract, attorneys from Boies Schiller & Flexner would have been paid an hourly rate of not more than $1,650 an hour to assist the town’s current legal representatives from Lewis & Greer P.C. in determining a strategy and arguments for the upcoming trial. These accumulated attorney fees could not be bonded under state law, according to the town supervisor, but would have required dipping into the town’s capital reserves.

“If spending $1,650 were a silver bullet that would achieve something here, I would do it,” Cuthbertson said. “The law firm Cook would like to hire has absolutely no experience in tax certiorari cases that involve power plants.”

Lupinacci said he was willing to consider looking into other prominent litigation law firms which might be able to serve the town at a lower cost.

“Sometimes when [law firms] look at a municipality, they believe they are looking at deep pockets,” the supervisor said. “We have to do some outside the box thinking and leave no stone unturned.”

If spending $1,650 were a silver bullet that would achieve something here, I would do it.”
– Mark Cuthbertson

Northport Village Deputy Mayor Thomas Kehoe and Northport resident Tammy Topel both urged the Huntington town officials to take more aggressive action in light of additional information that has become public — spoken widely about by Cook — calling the Northport Power Station a hub through which natural gas lines and fiber optic networks for internet pass through.

“I believe these are misguided attempts to incorporate other aspects into the valuation process that just aren’t there,” Cuthbertson said. “It’s a red herring and unfair to the public.”

Cook vehemently disagreed with his fellow councilman in open debate.

The town is moving forward by pursuing help from its state elected officials, according to the supervisor, including scheduling a meeting with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to garner his support for a resolution to the case. Lupinacci said the town still remains open to negotiations.

“We are always speaking with the other side to see if there is some kind of resolution, but we are probably not going to achieve a resolution that is going to be beneficial to the taxpayers of Huntington and to our students,” Lupinacci said. “We are prepared to take this case to trial.”

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci outlines his vision of a new direction for Huntington at his inauguration Jan. 2. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) has been officially sworn in as Huntington’s 80th supervisor, as of his first full day in office Jan. 2.

His oath of office was administered
moments after the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Day by Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia at his cousin’s Commack restaurant in front of his family and close friends on his grandfather’s Bible from Calabria, Italy.

Hundreds of Huntington residents and elected officials later watched Lupinacci retake the oath at the official Inauguration Ceremony Jan. 2 held at his high school alma mater, Walt Whitman High School in Huntington Station. Lupinacci took the oath of office, and oaths were administered to re-elected Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D), newcomer Councilman Ed Smyth (R) and Highway Superintendent Kevin Orelli (D).

This night has been a long time coming, a night when we return town government to the control of those with a clear vision of what defines our suburban lifestyles,” he said. “This is the night in which we begin putting into action our mandate to preserve the keys to what has made Huntington such a desirable community over the years to live, work and raise a family.”

Raia presented the new supervisor with the town’s chain of office, a 1-pound, 11-ounce ceremonial piece made of wampum and several medallions.

Chad Lupinacci takes the oath of office as Huntington’s newly elected town supervisor Jan. 2 Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

In his inaugural address, Lupinacci outlined staff and policy changes he intends to make over the upcoming months, particularly plans to hire a new economic policy adviser to oversee business matters in the town.

“We want to make sure that we are always open for business and work hard to create all the jobs we can, while maintaining the jobs that are here,” Lupinacci said.

The Jan. 3 town board meeting will see the appointment of a new town attorney and set dates for 2018 town board meetings — increasing the number to two every month, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. In coming weeks, Lupinacci said he plans to further consider scheduling the meetings at different locations across the town, instead of Town Hall only.

The new supervisor’s top priorities include increasing the town’s use of social media and passing term limits for the town’s elected officials. Councilman Gene Cook (R) pulled his proposal to create a three-term limit on all town officials, including the town clerk and receiver of taxes, at the Dec. 13 town board meeting before it could be voted on.

The town recently received $1.7 million in state funds to construct a parking garage in Huntington village, which Lupinacci said he plans to push forward with in coming months.

These new town positions and policies are part of Lupinacci’s campaign promise of “a new direction” for Huntington, which he elaborated on Tuesday night.

“It does not mean tearing everything down and starting over. It does not mean undoing everything that the town government has done over the past 24 years,” he said, calling for a round of applause for former Supervisor Frank Petrone (D). “But a new direction does mean identifying those policies, programs and procedures that should remain and building on them, while identifying those that do need to be changed and changing them as quickly as possible.”

Former Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) left a white elephant on Lupinacci’s desk as a token of good luck. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

One thing that will remain unchanged, Lupinacci announced Patricia DelCol has agreed to stay on as his deputy supervisor — an announcement met by a round of applause.

Cuthbertson, who served as a councilman for 20 years under Petrone, welcomed Lupinacci into the town after taking his oath of office.

“We take a new beginning today with Supervisor Lupinacci and the new administration,” Cuthbertson said. “I heard a lot about new beginnings in the campaign, and I can tell you that if new beginnings mean we continue to look at how we can continue to improve how we deliver town services and manage town government, I’m all for new beginnings. There’s always room for improvement at all levels of government.”

Particularly, Cuthbertson said he expects the new town board will have to tackle the issues of how to help local businesses stand up to competition against internet retailers and affordable housing for both millenials and seniors.

“When we make the tough decisions, we really do move our town forward and it has a lasting and positive impact.” Cuthbertson said. “It’s something I hope we will do in the coming four years.”

A small white elephant figurine was left sitting on Lupinacci’s desk by Petrone, as his way of wishing the new supervisor and his administration good luck.

Gene Cook. File photo by Rohma Abbas

By Victoria Espinoza

Term limits could be the law of the future, as one Huntington town councilman is looking to the public for encouragement on drafting legislation for term limits for local offices.

Back in late June, Councilman Gene Cook (R) asked Huntington residents and business owners to let him know their thoughts on term limits for all elected officials in the town. The survey asked if people were in favor of term limits, supported them for all elected officials and if they supported two terms of four years each or three terms of four years each for officials.

By mid-July the results were in and Cook feels positive about moving forward to schedule a public hearing to hear more from the residents on the matter.

“For years I have wanted term limits,” Cook said in a phone interview. “So many people have come up to me on the street and said we should have term limits for everyone. I truly believe in it, and I think it makes for a healthier environment.”

According to Cook’s office, 98.07 percent of the people who responded are in favor of term limits, 86.54 percent supported that term limits include all elected officials, 63.46 percent supported two terms of four years compared to 17.31 percent for three terms of four years each.

Cook said he went to Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) after he got the results and said he plans to present a resolution for a public hearing for proposed legislation on term limits scheduled for the September town board meeting.

The proposed legislation would support term limits of two terms of four years each for all elected officials including town supervisor, town council, town clerk, receiver of taxes and superintendent of highways. This legislation also includes if the town board ever wishes to change term limits that it go before a public referendum.   

“I feel very strongly about this, that it’s the right thing to do,” Cook said. “In a business world it’s always good to have competition, it should be the same in politics. We can make government better by doing this.”

Petrone, who has served the town for more than 20 years, said he’s going into these discussions with an open mind.

“I objected in the past because drafts didn’t include all elected officials,” he said in a phone interview. “But I believe this may be different. In the past I’ve said if we had term limits it should be all the way up the line to Congress.”

The supervisor said he’ll see if a public hearing is a better vehicle to get information.

Cook said he hopes he can get bipartisan support for this bill and show that real leadership starts at the town level.

He will be sponsoring a resolution to schedule a public hearing in September on term limits at the Aug. 15 town board meeting.

“It is extremely vital for the future of  Huntington that the residents and business owners take the time out of their busy day to attend either the August … meeting at 2 p.m., the September … meeting at 7 p.m. or email Jo-Ann Raia, Huntington town clerk to ensure their voices are heard on term limits,” Cook said in a statement. “In the six years that I have served Huntington I have had many conversations with Huntington constituents regarding their thoughts on the need for term limits. This is why I have taken a stance to sponsor legislation this important topic.”

As incumbent bows out, potential challengers come out of the woodwork

Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone drives through the Cow Harbor Day Parade on Sunday, Sept. 20. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

After more than two decades at the helm, 72-year-old Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) announced last week he will not be seeking re-election this fall for another term as supervisor.

“It is with a considerable sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, as well as a little bit of sadness, that I am announcing today that I will not be a candidate for re-election this year,” Petrone wrote in an open letter last week. He said it was a difficult decision, but felt he had achieved what he wanted to when he first took office.

“Since becoming town supervisor … I have consistently pursued an agenda that mirrored my first campaign slogan: People before Politics,” he said. “My agenda was to run town government in a way that made quality of life for our residents my No. 1 priority. And now, looking back, I believe I have accomplished what I set out to do back in 1993. It is only when an elected official puts people first that politics can be used for the greater good.”

Since being elected supervisor almost 24 years ago, Petrone has worked on issues spanning from creating affordable housing, parking, revitalizing Huntington Station, improving local water quality and more. Petrone said he is proud of his fiscal management record, which includes reducing the debt service from 24 percent to about 7 percent in the operating budget and obtaining and maintaining an AAA bond rating. He also mentioned his environmental record, which includes spearheading the first open-space bond act on Long Island, protecting 1,000 acres of land from development, purchasing more than 300 acres for preservation, creating nine new parks and improving 73 others.

“Since becoming town supervisor … I have consistently pursued an agenda that mirrored my first campaign slogan: People before Politics.” — Frank Petrone

The supervisor credited his achievements to his ability to run a bipartisan government.

“We hired people based on their qualifications and not their party affiliation,” he said. “We worked together as professionals and, when necessary, we reached across party lines to move initiatives forward.”

He thanked the many people in government he’s worked with throughout the years, as well as his wife Pat Petrone “for understanding that the demands of this job are 24/7 and for allowing me to focus on my public responsibilities, sometimes at the expense of family ones.”

At the town board meeting Tuesday, April 4, residents thanked Petrone for his service, and those very people are exactly what he said he’ll miss most.

Town board members praised Petrone for his leadership.

“The supervisor has a great ability to bring people together toward a common goal,” Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) said in an email. “We will miss his guidance, leadership and passion for our great town.”

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) echoed the sentiment.

“A little more than 23 years ago, Frank Petrone assumed the office of supervisor and inherited a town adrift in fiscal instability, laden with debt and countless quality of life issues needing immediate attention,” he said in an email. “Pledging to place the people above politics, Supervisor Petrone worked in a bipartisan manner to restore Huntington’s fiscal health, implemented numerous programs and enacted commonsense legislation to protect our fragile environment, expand housing opportunities for seniors and moderate income families. Throughout his distinguished tenure as supervisor, Frank Petrone never wavered from doing what was in the best interest of his residents. He demanded the best from his fellow town board members and staff, always stressing the importance of upholding our commitment to fair and just public service. It has been an honor and privilege to serve alongside a compassionate and caring gentleman. He has been a faithful and trusted mentor, and I wish him the absolute best in his impending new role as grandfather.”

Town Councilman Gene Cook (I) said he hopes Petrone’s future is as bright as possible.

“I wish him the very best,” Cook said in a phone interview. “I have the utmost respect for him and I hope his future is everything he wants it to be.”

“Frank Petrone never wavered from doing what was in the best interest of his residents. He demanded the best from his fellow town board members and staff, always stressing the importance of upholding our commitment to fair and just public service.”
— Mark Cuthbertson

As for his own future, as a challenger to Petrone’s seat just four years ago, Cook said he’s interested in hearing from residents to see if they would like him to run for supervisor again.

“It’s up to the people of Huntington to decide and I’d really like to hear from them,” he said. “If there’s support I’ll look into it and see how I feel about it.”

Cook encouraged residents to call or email him if they would like to see him represent them as town supervisor, or even “give me a thumbs-up when you see me in town.”

Darryl St. George, a Greenlawn resident who announced his bid for town supervisor last month also praised Petrone.

“Supervisor Petrone has committed over 20 years of his life to town government,” he said in an email. “I thank him for the positive contributions he has made to our town.”

St. George said he believes the timing is right for a new leader to bring change.

“I commend him on his decision as I know it was a difficult one,” he said. “Now is a time for new and energetic leadership to engage our community, and bring real and meaningful change to our neighborhoods. I am dedicated to doing what is right for the people of Huntington and listening to their ideas and concerns.”

Petrone’s announcement seems to have widened the pool of candidates for his soon-to-be vacant seat, as Huntington Station resident Brian Muellers said soon after Petrone announced he is “very seriously,” considering a run.

Muellers is a former Nassau County Legislator. He served in the 18th District from 2000 to 2003, and is looking to enter the public arena again after leaving his leadership role at Pall Corporation, a global supplier of filtration, separation and purification products. He recently volunteered for the congressional campaign of U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) which Muellers said reinvigorated his desire to give back.

“I am determining for myself if there’s enough interest in the background, experience and leadership I bring for a run for office,” he said in a phone interview. “I have the ability to win tough elections, and I have a strong desire to serve my community.”

Petrone said he feels comfortable leaving office now, as many of the projects he set out to work on when he first campaigned are completed and successful.

“It was a good breaking time for me personally and a good breaking time for the town,” he said at the town board meeting. “Some new blood will come in and sit in this seat and will maybe have some new ideas that I didn’t have. And that’s what the town needs. It needs to keep moving forward and it needs to keep new ideas floating. So I think it’s time to give someone else an opportunity to do that.”

Residents braved chilly temperatures Sunday, March 12, to cheer on the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Bagpipers, Girl Scouts, and more marched down Main Street in Huntington to celebrate the Irish.

Supervisor Frank Petrone says staying within cap will force town to cut art and youth programs

Supervisor Frank Petrone receives the 2016 budget last year. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Huntington residents have the chance to weigh in on possible tax increases for the coming year, as Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) set a public hearing on a proposal authorizing the board to adopt a 2017 budget that would pierce the state tax cap if passed.

This year’s tax levy cap is set at 0.68 percent, and according to town spokesperson A.J. Carter, town employees’ health care costs alone would pierce that tax cap.

The state cap limits the amount a municipality can increase its tax levy, which is the total amount collected in taxes, from budget to budget. While commonly referred to as a “two percent tax cap,” it actually limits levy increases to 2 percent or the rate of inflation — whichever is lower — before certain excluded spending, like on capital projects and pension payments.

Carter said staying within the tax cap would require the town to cut arts and youth programs.

Petrone said when he began the 2017 budget process this summer, he realized how much the town would have to cut to stay within the cap, and started to draft a second budget that Carter said would cost residents approximately $18 to $30 more per household.

At the town board meeting on Aug. 16, Petrone and the board scheduled a public hearing at the Sept. 27 town board meeting to get a feel for how community members would receive the potential increase.

“What we want is a clear direction from the public,” Carter said in a phone interview. “Does the public want us to preserve our existing programs or not?”

Carter said the board will decide at the September meeting if the town will go ahead with either the budget that stays within the tax cap, or the one that pierces it, depending on feedback from the public.

Councilman Gene Cook (R) has disagreed in the past with how Petrone handles the town’s budget, and said he wants to hear how the public feels about a proposed budget that pierces the tax levy cap.

“I am definitely not for it,” Cook said in a phone interview. “I would like to do anything to avoid tax increases. But I am willing to listen to what the public thinks.”

Last year the board passed a roughly $188.7 million budget, which was a 1.3 percent increase in the town’s tax levy, and about a $29 increase for the average homeowner. Overall spending decreased by 0.2 percent.

Friends, family and town officials gather to remember Maggie Rosales, Danny Carbajal and Sarah Strobel in Huntington Station on Thursday. Three trees were planted in their honor. Photo by Mary Beth Steenson Kraese

Huntington residents are calling on their elected officials to change the way their Public Safety Department operates.

At a Dec. 8 town board meeting, residents said former Suffolk County Chief of Detectives Dominick Varrone, who is a consultant for the town department, is not necessary as the town’s connection to the 2nd Police Precinct to increase safety and control crime.

The Huntington Town Board hired Varrone as the town liaison to the police department in 2014 and gave a $50,000 budget to his company, Varron Solutions LLC, to provide consulting services and act as the town’s contact with the police, community leaders and social services agencies. The business was also required to assist in restructuring Public Safety to better protect and control crime in the Huntington Station community — the main reason the town hired Varrone.

But residents are saying Varrone isn’t essential to reducing crime.

According to Huntington Matters member Robert Rockelein, Varrone hasn’t been very active in his role to increase safety in the town.

“The Huntington Matters and the Huntington Matters Neighborhood Watch have not seen or heard of any policy, procedure or project initiated or influenced by Dominick Varrone over the last year,” Rockelein said during the meeting, speaking for the two civic groups.

He added that his organization attends meetings regarding safety in Huntington, but he has seen Varrone at only a handful of those meetings.

Other residents said the town doesn’t need Varrone at all.

“I think $50,000 a year for Dominick … we could spend $50,000 somewhere else,” Jim McGoldrick, a Huntington Station resident, said during the meeting. “We could spend it on our children, on a drug program or something like that.”

He also said 2nd Precinct Commanding Officer Christopher Hatton is doing a good enough job on his own when it comes to the town’s safety.

The town hired Varrone in November 2014, after a series of murders in Huntington Station and subsequent demands and fears from residents regarding security. Maggie Rosales, one of the victims, was stabbed to death in Huntington Station that October, a few blocks from her home.

Huntington Matters was also born out of that series of incidents, with the goal of facilitating better communication between the government, the community and the police.

Despite resident comments on Dec. 8, Huntington Town spokesman A.J. Carter said Varrone works closely with police and other agencies to address safety concerns and crime in the area.

Councilman Eugene Cook (I) was the only board member to vote against extending Varrone’s contract into 2016. He said Varrone’s sparse appearances as the town’s liaison swayed his decision.

“I think Dominick is doing a good job, but he needs the presence,” Cook said in a phone interview. He added that safety within the town is important to him, and he planned to meet with Varrone to discuss improving his presence in the community.

Varrone did not return messages seeking comment.

Councilmen Mark Cuthbertson and Gene Cook, at opposite ends, argue at a town board meeting on Thursday, Nov. 5. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

The Huntington Town Council approved its $188.7 million budget on Thursday, but not without a heated discussion between Councilman Gene Cook (I) and Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) over Cook’s vote.

The budget passed with a 4-1 vote, with Cook as the lone opposition.

The budget included a 0.2 percent decrease in overall spending, a 1.3 percent increase in property tax levy and a $15 million capital budget, the town said in a press release.

This budget will amount to a $29 increase for the average homeowner.

The $15 million capital budget also focused on improvements to the town’s infrastructure, such as rehabilitation of various plants and pump stations in the Dix Hills Water District and headwork improvements in the Huntington Sewer District. Funding was included for road rehabilitation, drainage infrastructure and paving.

The town budgeted an additional $1.9 million for the town’s highway department, due to last year’s severe winter. That increase was offset by “little-to-no” increases in the other major town funds, and decreased spending in some of the special districts, the town said in a press release.

“This was a difficult budget to put together, given the limitations of the tax cap and increases in costs, such as health insurance,” Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said in a statement. “But I am pleased that we were able to maintain services and programs our residents want and have come to expect.”

Cook said he was not in support of the budget.

“We, as taxpayers, will be given $15 million worth of bonding,” Cook said at the meeting, just before the budget was approved. “I find that horrendous. I think there are better ways of doing this, so I will be voting no.”

Cuthbertson said that this has become an annual right of passage for Cook.

“I have taken to calling this ‘having your cook and eating it too,’” Cuthbertson said at the meeting. “For the fourth year in a row now, Councilman Cook has offered no advice on the budget and no budget amendment. He simply votes no.”

Cook countered, asking Cuthbertson if he felt better after making that comment and Cuthbertson said he did, because he had stated his case.

“Tell us what you would do instead,” Cuthbertson said.

Cook, who just finished months of campaigning for a successful re-election bid, has said at many events that he feels there is a lot of mismanagement and misappropriation of funds within the town budget. He said he wants to see more consolidation to save taxpayer dollars.

“I want to start each department with a $0 budget, and have them tell us why they need money,” Cook said. “We need to have the directors of these departments be more responsible.”

Cuthbertson questioned if that was possible.

“I don’t see the building department starting off with a $0 budget,” he said. According to Cuthbertson, budgets start with requests from departmental heads.

“We scrutinize those requests very carefully,” Cuthbertson said in a phone interview on Friday. “But at the end of the day, we have to deliver services.”

Cuthbertson said that every councilmember has an obligation to offer amendments if they disagree with the budget.

“But he never does that; he never offers suggestions,” he said of Cook.

At the meeting, Cook suggested that he might present his own budget next year.

“I think it’s about time,” Cook said. “But the problem is, nobody listens to me.”

But county Legislator Sarah Anker has just one-vote lead; longtime Smithtown board member ousted; and all local boards maintain huge majorities

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Legislator Sarah Anker are all smiles on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The incumbents won big on Suffolk County’s North Shore this Election Day, with only a couple real upsets at the county and town levels.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) handily won a second term at the helm against his Republican challenger, lawyer Jim O’Connor, with 57 percent of the vote.

Bellone thanked many people for his victory and also thanked his opponent for a “good race.”

Steve Bellone gives a speech after being re-elected Suffolk County executive. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Steve Bellone gives a speech after being re-elected Suffolk County executive. Photo by Rohma Abbas

“Tonight the people of Suffolk County delivered a mandate: to advance the issues we talked about in this campaign,” he said, at the Democratic Election Night headquarters in Hauppauge. “To continue the reform government so that we can protect taxpayers, make government more efficient and effective. To reverse the decades of decline that we have seen in water quality so that we can protect this precious natural resource for ourselves and future generations.”

He vowed that he would work hard for the voters.

“To the people of Suffolk County: I want to thank you for the confidence you placed in me and this incredible team of legislators. I can guarantee you we will repay that confidence by working hard every single day to make progress on the issues that matter to you and to you families. We may celebrate a little bit tonight but that work begins tomorrow.”

Though Bellone was the clear winner early on, O’Connor said he was proud of his campaign.

“I think we talked about the issues that need to be talked about here on Long Island,” he said.

Despite the results, the challenger enjoyed himself: “I love this. … In America we run for office, we put our ideas forward and we let the people decide.”

Steve Tricarico, Legislator Sarah Anker's Republican challenger, feels confident about a win on Election Day. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Steve Tricarico, Legislator Sarah Anker’s Republican challenger, feels confident about a win on Election Day. Photo by Giselle Barkley

In the Suffolk County Legislature, incumbents from Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington towns won re-election, one of them by a razor-thin margin: Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who represents the 6th District, was leading her challenger by just one vote after the polls closed. It was not immediately clear if absentee ballots would tilt the scales in the favor of Republican candidate Steve Tricarico, a Brookhaven Town deputy highway superintendent. But Anker said Tuesday night that she felt “cautiously optimistic.”

Tricarico felt the same way.

“I’m feeling very confident,” he said before results were in. “This shows … that people are looking for a change. That’s what I’ve been offering.”

According to Tricarico, Republican absentee ballots outnumbered those of the Democrats, which he said boosts his confidence.

But Suffolk County Democratic Party Chairman Rich Schaffer was calling it in the other direction: “Sarah Anker — mark my words — in about two weeks will be a newly re-elected legislator.”

Anker said her election demonstrates that each vote counts. Asked what could have led to such a close race, the legislator said she’s got the political cards stacked against her as a Democrat representing a largely Republican district.

Legislator Kara Hahn and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone embrace after both are re-elected. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Legislator Kara Hahn and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone embrace after both are re-elected. Photo by Rohma Abbas

“Most political strategists have never understood how I won it the past three times, much less this fourth time,” she said. “But I feel it’s because the people appreciate what I do. They’re looking for leadership.”

From there, it was smooth sailing. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), the 5th District legislator, beat Republican challenger Donna Cumella, of Port Jefferson Station, with 63 percent of the vote. In the 13th, Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) beat Kings Park Democrat Rich Macellaro with more than 70 percent of the total.

In Huntington, Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) won his final term in the 16th District against Republican attorney Tom McNally with 60 percent of the vote.

“We understand what’s on the minds of our constituents, we listen to our constituents, and we deliver for our constituents,” Stern said.

Also, Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) took the 18th District against his challenger from the right, Grant Lally, after garnering 56 percent of the votes.

“It’s exhilarating,” a joyous Spencer said. “It’s really is. After two years of hard work and six-month campaign, to really have the people recognize I’m giving my heart and soul to try to support us means a lot to me.”

Doc Spencer celebrates a win on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Doc Spencer celebrates a win on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Despite her loss, Cumella stayed positive and said she wouldn’t let this year’s election deter her from running for the same position in the future. She said she is now “a little bit more educated with the political arena.”

About her victory over that Republican, Hahn said, “I’m really gratified by the confidence the community has shown in me and I very much appreciate it and I plan to work just as hard as I’ve worked in the last four years.”

Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma), the 4th District legislator, and the 12th District’s Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) were effectively unopposed for re-election and secured their next terms.

“I’m ecstatic,” Muratore said. “Maybe we can bring some of our ideas to the table … We’re about doing the right things to people.”

Supervisor Ed Romaine celebrates his re-election as the head of Brookhaven Town. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Supervisor Ed Romaine celebrates his re-election as the head of Brookhaven Town. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Kennedy said she did not spend time campaigning and was pleased with the outcome.

“I want to go home and go to bed so I can wake up tomorrow ready to vote on the Operating Budget Committee board,” she said.

Brookhaven Town saw its supervisor, Ed Romaine (R), and its highway superintendent, Dan Losquadro (R), re-elected easily — Romaine won 72 percent of the votes against Democratic challenger Douglas Dittko and Losquadro beat out his own Democratic opponent, Jason Kontzamanys, with 69 percent of the voters’ support.

Romaine called his landslide victory “encouraging” and Losquadro said, “I really feel that this is a validation of the work that we’ve been doing in the town.”

“It’s such a big department, and really, for the fundamental services that people expect from their tax dollars are that their roads are safe, cleared of snow and debris, and I’m very excited to be given the opportunity to continue to do that work.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright go in for a kiss after both win re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright go in for a kiss after both win re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The three incumbents running for re-election to the Brookhaven Town Board on the North Shore were returned to their seats. Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) beat Republican challenger Ed Garboski, the president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association. She had 56 percent of the vote to his 44 percent.

“I worked really hard,” she said Tuesday night. “The community came together.”

She has no small task ahead of her. If all of the election results stand, she will be the only Democrat on the Town Board next year, after her effectively unopposed North Shore colleagues Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) and Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) won re-election, as did South Shore Republican Councilmen Dan Panico and Neil Foley. But Cartright’s lone Democratic colleague, Councilwoman Connie Kepert, was ousted by Republican challenger Michael Loguercio Jr.

“I’m kind of speechless, which isn’t normally the case for me,” Bonner said about winning by a large margin. “I’m super, super excited to get started, move forward. I can’t wait to get to work tomorrow.”

LaValle called his own win an “honor.”

Over in Huntington, town board incumbents Gene Cook (I) and Susan Berland (D) were returned to the board after a four-way race with 27 percent and 24 percent of the vote, respectively. Democratic challenger Keith Barrett and Republican challenger Jennifer Thompson fell short, each garnering about 22 percent of the vote.

“I can’t wait until tomorrow,” Cook said Tuesday night. “I felt good throughout today because I’m always honest and I think I’ve shown that in the last four years.”

Councilmen Ed Wehrheim and Bob Creighton discuss the Smithtown board election results. Photo by Phil Corso
Councilmen Ed Wehrheim and Bob Creighton discuss the Smithtown board election results. Photo by Phil Corso

Berland said she was “proud and humbled” to be re-elected.

“I just want to keep doing good things for the people of the town and making the town the best place it can possibly be,” she said.

Smithtown Town Board experienced a bit of an upset. Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) was re-elected to one of two board seats, after receiving 31 percent of the vote, but his colleague Bob Creighton (R) was unable to battle back after losing a Republican primary to newcomer Lisa Inzerillo.

Inzerillo was elected Tuesday night with 28 percent of the vote, as compared to Creighton’s 20 percent. The latter total was even lower than that of the lone Democratic candidate for Town Board, who lost after garnering just 22 percent of the vote.

Inzerillo held a private gathering at her home Tuesday night and did not respond to requests seeking comment, but took to her Facebook page to thank her team.

Larry Vetter says the people have spoken in choosing not to elect him. Photo by Kevin Redding
Larry Vetter says the people have spoken in choosing not to elect him. Photo by Kevin Redding

“I am grateful beyond words for all of the support I received from residents,” she said. “It is very humbling to know my grassroots campaign was successful. I look forward to working with the new town board and working for the residents that elected me.”

Wehrheim, who frequently works with Creighton on town projects, called Inzerillo’s win “a loss for Smithtown” and called his own victory “bittersweet” as he prepared to work with the newcomer. Creighton apologized to his room of supporters Tuesday night, adding that he was “sorry things didn’t work out.”

About his defeat, Vetter said, “The message is clear: The town didn’t want me. … Apparently the town is satisfied with what they have.”

Earlier in the night he had said, “If I lose and it’s tight, I might try again. If I get clobbered, I’m not gonna do it again.”

Rohma Abbas, Giselle Barkley, Phil Corso, Victoria Espinoza, Desirée Keegan, Kevin Redding and Eric Santiago contributed reporting.

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Susan Berland and Gene Cook talk at a Huntington Town Board meeting. File photo

There’s a lot of fire in the race for Huntington Town Board this year: You could see unfriendly sparks flying between incumbents Susan Berland (D), of Dix Hills, and Gene Cook (I), of Greenlawn, at a debate hosted by TBR Newspapers. Passion for public office is one thing these two have in common, and that’s where the similarities end.

But it’s that, coupled with their experience in the positions and unique political strengths that this paper endorses Berland and Cook for four-year terms on the board.

Say what you will about Berland, who is unpopular in Elwood for her controversial vote in favor of rezoning land to make way for The Seasons at Elwood — a huge condominium development geared toward the 55-and-up community — but the councilwoman works hard; it is her full-time job. She has also worked to sponsor legislation that’s made a difference, including laws that help put an end to blight and legislation to regulate the invasive bamboo, which can frequently be a nuisance to neighbors.

Cook’s greatest strength lies in being the sole minority party member on the board, and his willingness to speak up when something fishy is going on, whether he’s right or wrong. The Democratic-majority board members fall in line on mostly all votes, and Cook is often the one to keep Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) on his toes. Dissension is important: It encourages compromise and analysis, and prevents elected officials from slipping controversial measures past residents.

This wasn’t an easy choice. Democrat Keith Barrett, of Huntington Station, is a fine candidate. He has good ideas and has already reduced expenses and reorganized services as head of the town’s general services department. With a few more years under his belt, he’d be ready to take another stab at Town Board.

While Republican Jennifer Thompson possesses great communication skills and the right attitude, she would be stronger in her current role on the Northport-East Northport school board.

Vote for Cook and Berland on Tuesday.