Incumbent Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) will square off against Kings Park resident and Democrat Rich Macellaro on Election Day for the right to oversee the district that spans Smithtown Town and a portion of northern Islip. Macellaro has made unsuccessful bids for office, first in the Assembly in 2010 then for a Smithtown Town board seat in 2013. The two sat down for an interview in the TBR News Media main office.
During his 14 years in the Assembly, Fitzpatrick has sponsored legislation to establish a two percent property tax levy increase cap for school districts and to cap pensions for elected officials as a means to stave off financial hardships for the state. Macellaro prided himself on his work with civic and community organizations and projects in Smithtown, and his ability to bring a new set of eyes to a district in need of change.
“There are some storm clouds on the horizon. The lack of jobs, the lack of housing — I think the stress that life on Long Island puts on people, on families, maybe people are using as an outlet.”
— Mike Fitzpatrick
High property taxes and swollen government budgets have contributed to a litany of issues specific to the 8th district, but also to the region as a whole, according to Fitzpatrick. Some of those issues include a cost of living far higher than most of the nation, and fewer high paying local careers as an incentive to keep young peoplehere after graduation. He also suggested the community’s high rates of opioid- and heroin-related deaths could be a byproduct of the tough economic times in his district.
“There are some storm clouds on the horizon,” Fitzpatrick said. “The lack of jobs, the lack of housing — I think the stress that life on Long Island puts on people, on families, maybe people are using as an outlet. Obviously they are.”
Fitzpatrick was also involved in the passing of a series of bills earlier this year designed to combat addiction on the North Shore and beyond. As a result, insurers must cover the costs of life-saving Narcan to families with individuals suffering from substance abuse. Substance abusers are now offered 72 hours of emergency treatment, instead of 48 hours, so they can be stabilized and connected to longer-term addiction treatment options while also balancing the individual rights of the incapacitated individuals, among other benefits.
Macellaro said he believes penalties for dealers could be harsher, though it is not the only possible solution to the problem.
“We need to have increased penalties for drug traffickers and dealers, and we also need to get those folks who, unfortunately, for whatever reason, become addicted to opiates — we need to get them immediate rehabilitative services.”
“The two percent tax cap is great because it forced government into reducing their costs. We have to do anything possible to prevent any increase in property taxes.”
— Rich Macellaro
The Assemblyman said he believes in the “invisible hand” as a means of economic development, meaning government policies cause more harm than good in the private sector, and called the statewide START-UP NY stimulus program a failure.
“Government-directed economic development does not work,” he said.
Macellaro has a different, if outside-the-box, plan for economic development through a measure that would lower property taxes.
“I think now is the time to look at how we rein in the cost of providing education in Suffolk County and Nassau County, of which there are 124 school districts,” he said. “There are 13 towns in Nassau and Suffolk — three in Nassau, 10 in Suffolk. My proposal is simple: one school district per town. So from 124 school districts, we’ll get down to around 13.”
He said the idea would allow districts to pay for services like maintenance, athletic fields, security and even administrators in “bulk.” He strongly supported legislation to cap increases to property taxes.
“The two percent tax cap is great because it forced government into reducing their costs,” he said. “We have to do anything possible to prevent any increase in property taxes.”
But county Legislator Sarah Anker has just one-vote lead; longtime Smithtown board member ousted; and all local boards maintain huge majorities
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.”
“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.”
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.
“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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
“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.
A difference in philosophy underscored the race between an incumbent Republican legislator and his Democratic challenger.
Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) was first elected to the Suffolk County Legislature in 2013 and said his first term in office opened his eyes to the county’s financial woes. But to keep working at it, he must first win re-election against Kings Park resident Richard Macellaro.
The two sat down in the Times Beacon Record Newspapers newsroom last week to discuss their campaigns and demonstrate why they deserved to represent the county’s 13th District, which encompasses Smithtown, Fort Salonga, Kings Park, Nissequogue, St. James, Commack, Head of the Harbor and East Northport. Trotta kicked it off with strong rhetoric.
“It’s been an eye-opening experience over the past two years. I am shocked and saddened at how bad the county is fiscally,” Trotta said, highlighting the crux of his concerns looking ahead in the Legislature. “I’ve seen serious, serious problems. Worse than anybody even knows.”
The legislator said the looming threat of the county’s bond rating being reduced coupled with the growing sentiment that it’s too expensive to live in Suffolk have made his job all the more challenging. The blame, Trotta said, rests on out-of-control spending, too much union involvement in politics, and too much money being tossed around in campaign contributions.
A mismanagement of funding was at the heart of almost everything Trotta discussed as key campaign concerns. He cited recent development — part of a downtown revitalization plan — in Wyandanch as “overkill” and cautioned that communities like Kings Park would benefit from his voice of concern as the community looks toward a similar revitalization.
“Kings Park is a diamond in the rough, and we have a plan there when it comes to sewers,” he said. “But we don’t want it to be another Patchogue.”
Macellaro — who identified himself as a “new kid on the block” when it comes to seeking political office, despite unsuccessful bids for the state Assembly in 2010 and Smithtown’s Town Board in 2013 — said he wanted to put his experience as a civic member of the Kings Park community to work. With the campaign slogan “A different voice, a different choice,” the Kings Park resident said he hoped to use the office to prevent an increase in property taxes by consolidating all the county’s school districts, allocating just one per town. While a move like that does not rest in the hands of a Suffolk County legislator, Macellaro said he would use his office as a bully pulpit to enact the change.
“It can be done,” he said. “Someone has to begin to force the school districts to lessen property taxes for our residents.”
Another important issue he said he planned on addressing, if elected, was working to construct an all-encompassing master plan for the county. Doing so, he said, would revitalize downtowns throughout the county, enhance transportation and ultimately help entice young families to stay in Suffolk.
Beyond finances, Trotta said he was not a proponent of the county’s Red Light Safety Program, which utilizes cameras at traffic signals to catch and ticket cars that run red lights. He argued that some of its regulations, including the right-on-red violations, are nothing more than a money grab on innocent residents. But Macellaro, who has worked for the county’s traffic and parking violations agency in the red light division, said he disagreed.
“I think the government is functioning very well,” he said. “Taxes are what we pay for the lifestyle we choose.”
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