County Legislator Nick Caracappa (R-Selden) is on the ballot again to keep his seat for the 4th District.
After winning his seat in a special election following the death of Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) in 2020, the 54-year-old father of five said he is “here for the people.”
“No one advocates harder than I do for the hardworking middle class,” he said.
Previously, Caracappa was president of Local 393 Utility Workers Union of America and served as a trustee of the utility union’s national executive board. He worked for the Suffolk County Water Authority in maintenance for 34 years and was on the Middle Country school board for seven years.
“I’ve been involved with my community since my first child was born,” he said. “I asked myself right away, ‘How can I make my family, my children’s lives better, while at the same time making my community better?’”
And it’s been a family affair for Caracappa. His mother, the late Rose Caracappa, was a county legislator and community advocate throughout most of his life.
“She’s the reason I’m sitting here today,” he said. “Seeing her service really struck a chord with me at a young age — I’m so thankful I had that opportunity. I wouldn’t know the value of giving back to the community the way she did and it’s very big shoes to fill.”
His opponent, Dawn Sharrock, running on the Democratic Party line, has spent the last six years on the same school board, which includes serving as chairperson of the legislative committee.
The 46-year-old mother of two high school-aged girls has lived in Selden with her husband for 19 years.
Sharrock is also on the executive committee of the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association —serving as chair of its finance committee — and is a board member of Reform Educational Financing Inequities Today, a consortium of school districts supporting equitable school funding.
“That’s really what is the catalyst to have me sitting here before you and wanting to run for county legislator,” she said during TBR News Media’s in-person debate last week. “It’s been my leadership on that committee, and the things that I was able to accomplish with working with elected officials on both sides of the aisle, that helped to get legislation passed.”
One of her greatest accomplishments, she said, was her help with getting swing-arm cameras onto school buses.
“I was instrumental in getting that legislation passed,” she said, noting that she helped work alongside both state and county officials to get the resolution passed.
COVID-19 and small business
Sharrock said that the COVID-19 pandemic divided the community and believes that it “has been politicized a lot.”
“I think as an effective leader, you are someone who has to bring people to the middle, and if you’re not doing that, you’re not being effective in the job that you’re in,” she said.
A main concern is small businesses which suffered during the pandemic.
“We have to make sure that is something when we come to the table, we are remembering that small businesses, along with union jobs, they’re the backbone of our communities,” she added. “That doesn’t mean we don’t need big corporations, and that they’re not also beneficial to our communities, but the small businesses in particular, we really need to make sure that they’re able to strive and they’re able to continue.”
Sharrock believes that the county needs to do better budgeting, and make sure that grants are available from the federal level. She wants to make sure that “money is going where it is supposed to.”
Caracappa, a small business owner himself, agreed and noted that there were certain businesses across the country receiving PPP money that were not qualified.
“I think we need to have watchdog groups,” he said. “We need to make sure that there are advisories that are making sure that this money is being used where it was intended to be used for.”
He added that small businesses need to thrive in his district because they help grow the economy.
“The people that own the smaller businesses live within that community, as well,” he said. “So they’re giving back to that economy, they’re helping grow that economy, they’re very much active within that community and the schools.”
In the 4th District, Caracappa said that the ratio of big business to small business is greater for the small businesses — even the franchises along Route 25, which are owned by local families.
“Our district represents probably a core of hardworking middle-class families more than anything else,” he said, adding that over the last year he has worked alongside the Town of Brookhaven, the local chambers of commerce and the IDA to help develop the area.
The two runners butt heads when it came to discussion of vaccines: Sharrock believes that the well-being of the community is important, and criticized Caracappa for holding an “anti-mandate” rally earlier this month in support of industry workers who are being let go of their jobs for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine.
Caracappa is vaccinated, himself, as are his family and staff.
“I would never say do not get vaccinated,” he said. “That is your choice to get vaccinated. I stand by that — those are constitutional rights.”
Sharrock said that a role of someone in government is to be “proactive instead of reactive.”
“I think that those are some of the things that I would bring to this seat is just being proactive, not necessarily reacting to a situation,” she said. “Make sure these things are happening the way they should before they actually go wrong.”
Caracappa has been vocal in his concern for the local environment and said he has been working to get more federal funding into the 4th District.
“I work hard with my colleagues,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if they’re Republicans or Democrats — to get proper sewage in the ground.”
An immediate concern he said is the local waterways and our coastal communities which need sewage in the ground to replace cesspools.
Aa a longtime employee at SCWA, Caracappa said that we need to protect the aquifer and if we don’t, “we’re going to be in big trouble.”
While water quality is his main concern, he added that the advancement of local roadways will continuously be a challenge. Over the summer, he and a bipartisan group of his legislative colleagues, wrote a letter to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) asking for more money to be sent to the county to repair potholes. The letter resulted in an allocation of $30 million to roadway repairs, and a change in repair timeline from 2024-25 to 2022-23, Caracappa said.
Sharrock agreed that the environment and waterways need to be fixed.
“We have no more time left to not worry about the environment or the waterways, we have to make sure that we’re putting the resources in to make sure that we are protecting the environment, that we are protecting our drinking water,” she said. “And I’m not really sure what is happening — where is this money being put? These are the types of things that I want to know, and I want to when I’m sitting on the county Legislature.”
She said that we need “to make sure we’re leaving an environment for our grandchildren and their children and their children. We have to make sure we’re putting it into where it needs to go.”
When asked about keeping young people on Long Island, Caracappa said his district has the most projects being built and worked on for lower income and affordable housing opportunities.
“These opportunities are not only for young couples, but I’d like to see the young couples move into our homes,” he said, adding that empty nesters and senior citizens who cannot take care of a large property anymore need opportunities for more affordable living.
Sharrock believes that creating goodpaying jobs that allow young people to stay is key.
“If we want to be able to keep generations here, I think the jobs are very important,” she said. “We need to talk about growing apprenticeship programs so that we are making sure kids who are leaving high school are on a path.”
Crime and police
Sharrock said that law enforcement is one of “the toughest jobs and most important jobs out there.”
“They’re keeping our community safe,” she said. “I think that their pay should reflect that they put their lives on the line every day for us.”
She said that she supported the reform that was recently put out and was “needed, balancing out the People’s Plan.”
Caracappa, who was endorsed by the Suffolk County PBA, said that he “absolutely supports law enforcement.”
“That doesn’t mean they’re not accountable for their actions,” he said. “There are bad cops, bad teachers and bad priests, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to brush a broad stroke over the entire department, because it’s one or two bad cops out there.”
He believes that accountability is necessary, and is a huge advocate for body cams, “not only to protect police officers and the citizens, but also protect the county.”
Sharrock also supports body cams, adding, “It’s important for them and for the community.”