Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) has been a Brookhaven Town councilwoman for the past six years, but now she is looking a little higher, the New York State Senate District 1 seat. That position is now an open battleground since 44-year Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) announced earlier this month he would not be seeking reelection.
Cartright said she had been asked numerous times by people in and out of the Democratic Party to run for higher office but had not considered it until LaValle made his announcement.
“He had a significant impact on the region,” she said. “For the past 44 years he has worked hard to take care of District 1.”
With the change two years ago of the Democrats taking control of both the Assembly and Senate, she said the person who comes into the seat should have the ability to deliver for the district. As someone who sees herself as having worked hard on community issues at a town level, taking that mentality up to Albany will allow her a greater access to resources to help people at home.
Cartright said there are several issues that she sees as very important which she’s worked on with the Brookhaven board to attack at the Town level, including water quality and protecting a sole-source aquifer and improving the quality of state roads.
Another is moving away from fossil fuels, for which she said electrification of the Long Island Rail Road’s Port Jefferson line is a must.
Having been a civil rights attorney before joining the Town board in 2013, she congratulated the legislature for working on a number of items to address equity, including health care, voting rights, education and criminal justice, though there is “more work to be done.”
She cited the need for New York to crack down on prescription drug pricing, with some drugs costing a few hundred dollars in Canada but several thousand in the U.S. She said New York needs to hold drug companies to task and to set limits.
She added she is an advocate for allowing paid gestational surrogates in New York, which is one of the few states that still bans the practice. As a survivor of breast cancer, she said she was once forced to consider a surrogate as an option, before she overcame the disease and had her first child.
In terms of housing and affordability, Long Island has suffered under sky-high housing prices and rents. Cartright said there is a need for “smart growth,” along with an increased acquisition of open space at multiple levels of government, to mitigate the impact to Long Island’s sole-source aquifer. She said there is a need for a complete restructure of property taxes and called for a study on the property tax structure.
Though the state is currently controlled by Democrats in both the Assembly and the Senate, things could always swing in the opposite direction, and like LaValle and his fellow Republicans found themselves in 2018, suddenly Democrats could become the minority. Cartright said that should the situation change, she has already proven she can work alongside Republicans being the only Democrat on the Town board.
She is not the only Democrat seeking the nomination. Other contenders for the seat include Parents for Megan’s Law founder and Port Jeff resident Laura Ahearn, Suffolk County Community College student and Mount Sinai resident Skyler Johnson and Tommy John Schiavoni, a Southampton Town board member. The Suffolk County Republican Party has named state Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) as its front-runner.
Though she said she has respect for all the other Democratic contenders, she feels she is in the best position to take her message to Albany, with the most legislative experience over her contemporaries.
“I know it’s a crowded race, with some formidable candidates,” she said. “But I’m putting my best foot forward … I look forward to serving my [area] and the whole of District 1 on the state level,” she said.