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Mario Mattera

Mario Mattera, left, and Mike Siderakis, right, are both political newcomers running for State Senate District 2. Photos from campaigns

After former state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) decided to end his political career this summer, leaving his seat in the 2nd District empty for a job with Northwell Health, two contenders emerged for Election Day 2020.

Former state trooper Michael Siderakis, of Nesconset, is running on the Democratic ticket and plumber union official Mario Mattera, of St. James, received the Republican nomination. Siderakis spent nearly 30 years as a New York State Police trooper and was a second vice president for the New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association. Mattera is the business agent for Plumbers Local 200 and a board member of the Suffolk County Water Authority. He also sits on Smithtown’s advisory board for new construction projects where he has been active with the Lake Avenue Revitalization project. Both candidates are longtime residents and have raised their families in Smithtown hamlets, where their children have attended schools in the Smithtown Central School District.

In a Sept. 28 Zoom debate with TBR News Media, the two candidates discussed the state’s response to COVID-19, school budgets and more. While the two agreed on ways to resolve most issues, they differed regarding bail reform.

Bail Reform

While Siderakis feels the 2019 bail reform bill that limited the number of crimes judges could set bail for needs to be looked at again and revised, Mattera said it should be repealed. 

“Our bail system is not a fair system, where somebody who has $500 available to them for the same crime can go home, while somebody who may not have $500 in the bank for no other reason than the fact that he doesn’t have $500 has to go to jail,” Siderakis said.

‘We need to be safe and businesses need to enforce their own business.’

—Mario Mattera

The Democrat added bail reform should have been put in as a stand-alone bill and not included in the state budget vote. He said he also feels that legislators shouldn’t decide on what crimes require bail, and judges should be able to decide on a case-by-case basis.

Mattera said the bail system needs to go back to the way it was, especially with cases where people have been arrested for looting, robbing, selling drugs and then released only to commit the same crime again.

“It needs to go back to the way it was,” he said. “It’s not working now. I’m very frightened. We need to give the tools back to our law enforcement.”

Education

With talks of a projected 20 to 30 percent cut to state aid for schools, both candidates said they would fight to send money back to schools in the 2nd state Senate District. 

“We have to make sure we have someone up there fighting for our education system down here on Long Island,” Siderakis said, adding it’s important to keep good teachers on Long Island.

Mattera said with 70 percent of residents’ taxes going to education, it was important to make sure local school districts receive their fair share.

“Our children are our futures for all of us,” he said. “For Long Island, we need to make sure they’re part of the workforce and stay here.”

Mattera added that many local schools need updating and the state aid is desperately needed.

Siderakis said the state also needs to stop relying on local property taxes and receive more aid from the state to ensure everyone across New York has a fair and equal education. He said several districts don’t have the same income base, and the state should step up to provide the help needed for equal education.

Mattera said if elected he would take a good look at the budget to see why cutting state aid to education is on the table.

“It shouldn’t even be part of the conversation,” he said.

COVID Response

Both candidates said New York’s response was appropriate at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis but agreed that business needed to be opened up sooner. They said wearing masks, social distancing and handwashing are important to keep the virus at bay and businesses alive.

Mattera said that unused beds in field hospitals such as the ones at Stony Brook University, the Javits Center and the USNS Comfort should have been considered to decide when a region was reopened. He noted the beds were barely used. Adhering to the public health guidelines are key, he said, as he pointed to the 1,300 members of the plumbers union where only one person contracted the virus. He said he feels people have been educated about the virus and businesses can enforce the public health guidelines. He added that the State Liquor Authority has done a good job where it follows up a complaint with an inspection visit to a restaurant.

“We need to open up,” Mattera said. “We need to be safe and the businesses need to enforce their own business.”

Siderakis said in addition to the state’s response he thought the federal government overall did well with providing businesses with loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, but he feels small businesses need even more help.

‘There are people here who have been here for generations who won’t be able to weather the pandemic.’

—Mike Siderakis

“We have to make sure local stores are treated equally, not just the big box stores,” he said. “People have felt the pain and lost their livelihoods. There are people here that have been here for generations that won’t be able to weather the pandemic.”

Mattera also said he feels it’s important for all students to return to school five days a week for in-person education.

“These kids need their educators,” he said. “They need the interaction with their fellow students.”

Economy

Siderakis said he’s familiar with the problems young people on Long Island face economically with his oldest daughter trying to make it on her own with having an apartment in Port Jefferson.

“I think our small communities have a great advantage to attract businesses here where we can offer the distancing and the safety for workers,” he said.

He added we need to look at traffic patterns to avoid congestions on the roadways.

“We’re going to have to look for alternatives, and businesses are going to have to look outside of the box,” he said.

Mattera said in addition to young people, he’s also concerned about keeping people of all ages in the area. He said the Long Island Innovation Park at Hauppauge is something he worked on with Smithtown officials to make sure it becomes the premier pharmaceutical area not only of the state but in the country providing good jobs, health care and pensions for the future. He said he also sees the potential of the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center and said its future use should be planned carefully.

“We have such great talent that can work right here in the Second District,” Mattera said.

The Republican candidate pointed to the Amazon facility project that was lost to New York City. He said it would have been ideal on the grounds of the former Pilgrim Psychiatric Center in Brentwood due to its proximity to parkways and the Long Island Rail Road.

“It’s a shame that politics lost a project that would have had 25,000 people working there,” Mattera said. “I just can’t understand how politics lost that.” 

Siderakis said he feels the governor has done a great job in attracting businesses to the state and believes the wave of the future is going to be green energy jobs.

“We have to make sure that we make Suffolk County known as the technology center, or Silicon Valley here, of New York state, and make sure we have enough incentives for companies to come here and start up small businesses and have the jobs for the future,” he said.

Mike Siderakis and his wife, Sandra, have raised their three children in Nesconset. Photo from Mike Siderakis website

The 2020 race for the New York State Senate 2nd District seat will pit two political newcomers against each other. Mike Siderakis, a retired state trooper from Nesconset, has been tapped by Suffolk County Democrats to run for the vacant seat previously held by former Minority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport). Republicans have chosen Mario Mattera, a St. James resident, local union official and Suffolk County Water Authority board member.

Mike Siderakis

Republicans aim to keep control of a district they’ve had for the last 16 years, while Democrats see a real opportunity to retake the seat and further expand their majority in the state Senate.

Democratic candidate Mike Siderakis believes he is the right man for the job.

“We need someone that will be able to fight for the people of Senate District 2, I believe I am the right candidate,” he said. “I want to continue to serve the community and protect suburban interest [in the district].”

Siderakis said his time spent in Albany meeting elected officials as vice president and legislative director of the Police Benevolent Association of the New York State Troopers inspired him to run for office.

“I saw the job, and I thought some of these politicians didn’t have the best interests in mind for their constituents,” he said. “I knew I could do a better job than them. I care about this community.”

Siderakis said one of his main concerns is dealing with the impact of COVID-19 on the state and on local businesses.

“We’re going to have to make some tough decisions on future state and local budgets,” the Democratic candidate said. “We’re going to figure out how we are going to raise revenues.”

Assisting local businesses and attracting jobs to the area is another priority.

“Small businesses play a big part in keeping people in the district,” Siderakis said. “They have faced hardships during this pandemic, some have been forced to close down. We have to support them.”

The Nesconset resident added that he wants to attract industries and other businesses to Long Island to make sure the district is not losing young professionals by providing better-paying jobs as well as affordable housing.

“We need someone that will be able to fight for the people of Senate District 2, I believe I am the right candidate.”

— Mike Siderakis

“I’ve lived in the area for the past 25 years, my daughter also lives on the Island — it’s expensive to live here,” Siderakis said. “I want to make this a great place for people to raise their families and for future generations.”

The Democratic candidate said he also wants to address rising property taxes. He hopes with the influx of new businesses and highly skilled workers they would be able to increase the tax base.

Other issues include continuing to support doctors, nurses and other essential workers. Also, making sure all individuals have access to health care and that frontline workers have the proper equipment and medical coverage to fight coronavirus. Siderakis wants to ensure students and teachers are in a safe environment when schools reopen.

The Democratic challenger said he is someone who can work on both sides of the aisle to get things done for the 2nd District.

“Partisanship is dividing us, there is a need for compromise,” he said. “If we listen to each other and come to a common ground we can get better results. [The district] needs someone who on day one can advocate for the people of SD2 and I feel I can do that.”

State Sen. John Flanagan (R). Photo by Kyle Barr

Mario Mattera, a St. James resident, local union official and Suffolk County Water Authority board member, has been tapped by Suffolk County Republicans to run for the seat being vacated by state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport).

Mario Mattera

The announcement came five days after the longtime senator announced he won’t run for reelection after 18 years in the state Senate and 16 years in the state Assembly.

Mattera has been a member of Plumbers Local Union 200 for the past 25 years and is currently the business agent for the union. He said he is honored by the selection and is dedicated to fighting for the “working men and women of Long Island.” 

“I want to thank the GOP for having the confidence in me,” he said. “It is not going to be easy to fill John Flanagan’s shoes. I want to bring a commonsense voice to the Senate and be an advocate for Long Island families.”

The St. James resident said his focus right now is making sure the coronavirus is defeated on Long Island and making sure health care workers are well protected and equipped to fight the disease. 

If elected, Mattera said he would focus on a number of issues, one of them being bail reform. Republicans across the board have called for the law’s removal. Another issue would be creating jobs in the district and prevent young people from leaving.

The union official said he looks at construction jobs and blue-collar positions as the “backbone of the economy” and wants to make sure they can attain a livable wage and afford to live in the county. 

This will not be Mattera’s first attempt at elected office. In 2013, he ran unsuccessfully in the Republican Primary against current county Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga).

Suffolk County Republican Committee chairman, Jesse Garcia, believes Mattera has the experience to follow “a great leader” like Flanagan. 

“Mario shares our fierce Long Island values,” Garcia said. “He will be a great candidate for the people of Suffolk County.”

In addition, the chairman said the St. James resident is a go-getter and will be able to work across the table with Democrats in the Senate. 

Garcia acknowledged that this race and the one for the vacated seat of Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) are important in the party’s quest to regain control of the Senate from the Democrats. He said getting Mattera and Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), a state assemblyman who is running for LaValle’s seat, elected would help their chances. Ed Romaine (R), Brookhaven Town supervisor, said he has great respect for Flanagan and is “saddened” that New York will not continue to have his leadership in Albany. But he thinks Mattera is the right choice for the seat.

“He has been in the union for many years, and he’s fought for the working people,” he said.

The Brookhaven supervisor said he is concerned about the Democratic majority in the Senate, saying he is worried that Long island will not have a strong voice. He added that up in Albany there has been a shift toward New York City interests, and it has gone away from a suburban interest. 

“If anyone can change them, it would be Mario,” Romaine said. “He’s got the energy and will get along with everyone.”

The race for the 2nd Senate District will slate Mattera against Democratic candidate Mike Siderakis, a retired state trooper from Setauket. 

Republicans lost control of the state Senate in 2018, dropping to a 40-23 minority. From 2015-18, Flanagan served as the majority leader of the Senate. 

Mattera said he has a good relationship with Flanagan and LaValle and called them both mentors to him. 

“Mario will fight back against one-party control in Albany and will be a driving force to help move our economy in the right direction,” Flanagan said in a statement. “I am proud to endorse Mario Mattera to represent the people of the 2nd Senate District.”

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A scene from the 2019 St. James St. Patrick's Day Parade. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Editor’s note: As of March 12, the St. James St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been postponed.

During this year’s 36th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in St. James, spectators will witness a first — two grand marshals leading the parade.

Mario Mattera

Hosted by the St. James Chamber of Commerce, the parade committee has chosen residents Kerry Reilly DeJesus and Mario Mattera as grand marshals for 2020. William Garthe, chamber board member, said each year residents are asked to write in to say who they would like to see lead the parade. This year the chamber received an overwhelming and equal number of nominations for Mattera and DeJesus.

Mattera said he was surprised when he heard he was chosen because he thought the grand marshal had to be of Irish descent. The St. James resident said he was humbled and honored.

When he heard DeJesus was also chosen, he was thrilled and described her as a wonderful person.

“Just her personality brings a smile to your face,” he said. “That’s the type of woman Kerry is. We need more of that.”

DeJesus also had complimentary things to say about Mattera.

“I couldn’t be in better company than Mario,” she said, adding she was overwhelmed when she heard the news that she was chosen.

“I was so flattered,” she said. “I thought that was so sweet of them to think of me.”

Mattera, a Smithtown resident for 55 years, moved from Nesconset to St. James in 1996. He said his wife of 26 years, Terry, and his two daughters Jessica and Jayme will be on hand to walk with him in the parade.

The husband and father is the business agent for Plumbers Local Union 200 of Ronkonkoma. In addition to his work with the union, he is a member of the Smithtown Executive Board representing St. James, and on the boards of Community Association of Greater St. James, the Suffolk County Water Authority and the Suffolk County Consumer Affairs Plumbing, Licensing and Fire Protection. He is also a Suffolk County Workforce Housing Committee member, the plumber’s union chairman for the political PAC fund for the county and board member for the New York State Apprenticeship Committee.

In his free time, he volunteers with Helmets to Hardhats, which works with returning veterans, and he also finds time to cheer on the Smithtown High School East’s Whisperettes, the kickline team, of which both of his daughters have been members.

DeJesus works as a call center manager for the Stony Brook University’s Southampton Hospital. She has lived in St. James for more than two decades where she and her husband, Ralph, of 25 years, have raised four children. She said she’s excited that her son Ralph Jr., who is serving in the U.S. Marines, has been granted a weekend leave to march with her and the family.

Kerry Reilly DeJesus

The wife and mother has taught religion at St. Philip and St. James R.C. Church, and with her teaching career in St. James and past service in two other churches, she earned a 20-year service award. She has also been active in the Smithtown Central School District as a Family Living chairperson working on food drives at Mills Pond Elementary School and was vice president of the PTA at the elementary school for two years. She later went on to serve as PTA president for two years. As her children advanced in the school district, so did DeJesus. For three years she was PTA president at Nesaquake Middle School and then did the same for six years at Smithtown High School East’s PTA. She has worked in other roles too as Spiritwear chairperson, recording secretary, vice president and a two-year stint as council president and vice president for the district.

Outside of religious instruction and the school district, DeJesus said she has been a Girl and Boy Scouts leader for her children’s troops. She has volunteered through the years at Deepwells Haunted Mansion where she has played a witch and dead doll, as well as working the concession.

“That’s a lot of fun,” she said. “That’s another great community thing that we do in St. James.” 

While Mattera has participated in past parades with the car club, DeJesus has marched with the Boy and Girl Scouts. When it comes to parades, both grand marshals agree it’s important for communities.

“It brings everyone together, and bringing the community together, especially with the feeling right now — that we’re going to give the town a jump start — it’s a lot,” Mattera said, referencing the revitalization of
Lake Avenue.

DeJesus said parades are also a way to draw people to St. James from other hamlets in the township. Plus, she said the St. Patrick’s Day Parade signals that spring is around the corner and gets everyone out of their homes.

“I feel like I’m reconnecting with old friends when I see all these people,” she said.

Mattera and DeJesus will be joined by the parade’s princesses and princes. The court includes two-year-old Avianna Manning, St. James Elementary School third-grader Juliana Cating Gleeson, kindergartener Jayden Cassidy Gleeson, third-grader Samantha Keil, first-grader Violet Keil, third-grader Mia Sherlock, kindergartener Sydney Sherlock, fourth-grader Ethan Tuzinkiewicz, second-grader Benjamin Tuzinkiewicz, first-grader Daniel Tuzinkiewicz and Nesaquake Middle School sixth-grade studentw Kayla Moore.

The St. James St. Patrick’s Day Parade begins at the Smithtown High School East parking lot on Woodlawn Avenue and travels to Lake Avenue where it makes a right and continues to the St. James Gazebo by the Long Island Rail Road station.