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stephanie bontempi

Romaine's win continues rightward political shift in the county

Suffolk County Executive-elect Ed Romaine delivers his victory speech at Stereo Garden in Patchogue Tuesday night, Nov. 7. Photo by Raymond Janis

By Raymond Janis and Aidan Johnson

As returns came in Tuesday night, Nov. 7, electricity pulsed through Suffolk GOP headquarters. 

Republicans flipped the Suffolk County executive’s seat for the first time in two decades, with Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine cruising to victory over his Democratic opponent, businessman Dave Calone, by a 57-43% margin as of Wednesday morning.

“Thank you, Suffolk,” the county executive-elect told the audience assembled at Stereo Garden in Patchogue. “You’ve given me a large mandate tonight — you’ve crushed it.” 

“And we’re going to use that mandate to move this county forward,” he added.

Calone concedes, county executive transition commences

At the Democratic headquarters in Holtsville, Suffolk County Democratic Committee chairman and Town of Babylon supervisor, Rich Schaffer, addressed the deflated crowd as the results started to come in.

“Obviously, we would have wanted to be on the winning side tonight, but we know that what we are up against is not only the atmosphere created out of Albany, the atmosphere that’s created out of Washington, and that has hurt us here as a brand in Suffolk County,” he said.

In his concession speech, Calone thanked his family, team, running mates and outgoing county executive Steve Bellone (D), along with his supporters.

“I want to thank the people of Suffolk County for the last year, for the chance to visit with you, your families from one end of this county to the other,” he said. “And I am so proud of the ticket we put together.”

“I promise to continue working with all of you as we move and push meaningful solutions that affect the lives of the people of Suffolk County,” Calone added.

Bellone congratulated Romaine on his victory, pledging to do “everything I can to assist the new county executive-elect and his administration.”

“I am committed to ensuring a seamless transition and handover of responsibilities to the new administration beginning on Jan. 1,” he said in a statement. “To that end, I have asked Chief Deputy County Executive Lisa Black to lead our administration’s efforts to coordinate with the incoming administration.”

Republicans expand county Legislature majority

Romaine’s victory was fortified by steady gains in the county Legislature.

Chad Lennon (R-Rocky Point) flipped the county’s 6th Legislative District, besting Dorothy Cavalier (D-Mount Sinai) 61-39% in the race to succeed termed-out Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai).

“I would not be here today without you,” Lennon told the audience. “Thank you for entrusting me. I’m looking forward to a successful two years.”

Majority Leader Nick Caracappa (C-Selden) won reelection in the 4th District over Timothy Hall 64-36%. Additionally, incumbent Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) cruised to reelection with 69% of the vote in the 12th District. And Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) won his uncontested race in the 13th District with over 99% of the vote.

In Huntington, incumbent Legislator Stephanie Bontempi (R-Centerport) narrowly defeated her Democratic Party challenger Dr. Eve Meltzer-Krief, of Centerport, 53-47% in the 18th District.

Former state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) defeated Anthony Figliola (R-East Setauket) 53-47%, winning the 5th District seat left vacant by Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket).

“I’m looking forward to working on the environmental issues that are tied to the economy, such as tourism, and we really have a chance with the people who are being elected here tonight to make a difference going forward in the county Legislature,” Englebright said, before all of the final results had come in.

According to the unofficial results, the Republicans gained one seat in the county Legislature, giving the party a veto-proof 12-6 supermajority.

Town-level victories

The GOP racked up considerable victories across the towns of Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington.

In the race to succeed Romaine as supervisor of the county’s largest township, Brookhaven Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico (R) defeated SUNY Old Westbury professor Lillian Clayman (D) 62-38%.

“We know what our mandate is,” the supervisor-elect said. “We are going to govern correctly. We are going to be bold in our initiatives. This is a new day in the Town of Brookhaven, and I am proud to be the supervisor.”

Panico pledged to redirect the focus of the town government toward traditionally nonconservative areas, adding, “We are going to make major inroads throughout this entire town.”

Alongside Panico, Republicans held onto their 5-1 majority on the Town Board. Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) and Councilman Neil Manzella (R-Selden) were both reelected carrying 65% of the votes in their districts.

Incumbent Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) retained his seat with a 55-45% margin of victory over Republican challenger Gary Bodenburg.

“For the past three years, I have worked hard to represent the more than 80,000 residents of Three Village, Port Jefferson village, Port Jefferson Station and Terryville, and last night the community hired me to serve another term,” Kornreich said in a statement.

“I love this community and promise to keep showing up for them day in and day out, celebrating our successes and sharing our challenges,” he added.

Brookhaven voters also reelected incumbent Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) and Receiver of Taxes Louis Marcoccia (R) with 62% and 63%, respectively.

Republicans swept each townwide race in Smithtown. Town clerk candidate Tom McCarthy — not the incumbent town councilman — cruised to victory over Bill Holst (D) carrying 65% of the townwide vote. Incumbent Smithtown Receiver of Taxes Deanna Varricchio (R) retained her seat by a 2-1 margin of victory over challenger Amy Fortunato (D). For Town Board, incumbent town Councilman Thomas Lohmann (R) and Councilwoman Lisa Inzerillo (R) each carried 33% of the vote over Democratic challengers Maria Scheuring and Sarah Tully.

In Huntington, Republicans expanded their majority on the Town Board to a sweeping 5-0, if the unofficial results hold. In an extremely close four-way contest, Republican candidates Brooke Lupinacci and Theresa Mari edged their Democratic counterparts Jen Hebert and Don McKay. Lupinacci and Mari received 25.5% and 25.4% of the vote respectively to Hebert’s and McKay’s 25% and 23.9% share respectively.

Incumbent Receiver of Taxes Jillian Guthman (D) was reelected over Pamela Velastegui (R) 53-47%, and incumbent Town Clerk Andrew Raia (R) won reelection over Linda Davis Valdez (D) 57-43%.

File photo by Raymond Janis
By Samantha Rutt

As the local election season intensifies, Suffolk County’s wastewater infrastructure has now become the defining policy issue, with residents and environmentalists demanding immediate action to address what they consider an environmental crisis.

Water quality of Long Island’s coveted waterways is currently suffering as the county’s wastewater infrastructure deteriorates rapidly. Much of the system was built decades ago and has not been adequately upgraded to meet the demands of the growing population, critics say.

“Clean water is crucial to the health of our families, the lifeblood of our economy and central to our way of life,” said businessman Dave Calone, Democratic candidate for Suffolk County executive running against Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R). “Unfortunately, our water quality is at an all-time low, and we need to act now to protect it.”

Local officials, residents and environmentalists have voiced concerns over the issue. Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said, “Suffolk County Legislators have an ethical and moral obligation to protect our drinking and coastal water resources.”

County Water Quality Restoration Act

The Suffolk County Water Quality Restoration Act, a plan to restore the county’s water quality, includes two bills that would create a fund to restore clean water by connecting homes and businesses to sewers and finance clean water septic system replacements.

“The need for an overall plan for wastewater infrastructure has been well-recognized for more than 60 years,” said Peter Scully, deputy county executive for administration.

Earlier this year, Scully had spearheaded a proposed 1/8 penny sales tax initiative to finance wastewater infrastructure. This proposal was rejected by the county Legislature in July, setting the stage for a contentious election season over this issue [See story, “Suffolk County Legislature recesses, blocks referendum on wastewater fund,” July 27, TBR News Media].

“Tragically, the Legislature doesn’t consider this a priority and has refused to let the public vote on this plan,” Esposito said. “Letting the public vote on a clean water referendum is good policy and good for democracy. It is deeply disturbing that the legislators support neither of those objectives.”

Impact on elections

The Republican vote to recess has met with fierce opposition from county Democrats, who are using the wastewater controversy to highlight differences in platforms.

“Republicans did not vote to put the referendum on the ballot,” said Keith Davies, Suffolk County Democratic Committee campaign manager. “It is clear that Republicans chose not to trust voters to make their own decisions. In our opinion, it was the wrong decision.”

Responding to these charges, county Legislator Stephanie Bontempi (R-Centerport), who is defending her 18th Legislative District seat against pediatrician Eve Meltzer-Krief (D-Centerport), indicated that her caucus is avoiding a rush to judgment.

“Rushing to pass legislation that is flawed and that will raise our taxes is simply irresponsible and not what our residents deserve,” Bontempi said. “Holding off with a referendum for a couple of months will certainly not lead to the end of Long Island, like some fearmongers like to claim.”

Many of the county’s wastewater treatment plants, pipelines and pumping stations are well past their intended lifespans, representing a growing risk for sewage leaks, overflows and contamination of local waterways and bays.

Meltzer-Krief warned that this could have devastating consequences for the region and its fragile ecosystems, including its renowned coastal areas and marine life.

“The quality of our waterways and bays here in Suffolk County is currently the poorest it has ever been,” she said. “The main cause is nitrogen runoff from outdated cesspools and septic systems which flows into our waters and triggers potentially toxic algal blooms which deprive marine life of the oxygen they need to survive.”

Research from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency indicates that nitrogen from sewage is suffocating Long Island’s bays and harbors, contaminating drinking water and causing fish kills and algal blooms.

“Thankfully, scientists know how to reverse this troubling and urgent environmental concern and clean our waters,” Meltzer-Krief said.

But, she added, “It is the responsibility of our county legislators to follow the science and protect our children from the toxins in the water by securing funding for the recommended clean water infrastructure.”

While local officials and environmental organizations have been sounding the alarm for years over aging infrastructure, progress has been slow and funding for these projects has often fallen short of what is required.

Restoring clean, healthy water requires drastically reducing nitrogen pollution from its primary source — Suffolk County’s approximately 360,000 nitrogen-polluting cesspools and septic systems.

“Once the legislation has been amended to properly address our wastewater infrastructure, the voters will be able to decide,” Bontempi said. “The Republican majority at the Suffolk County Legislature wants clean water, too.”

Suffolk County elections will take place Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Legislator Nick Caracappa shake hands during signing ceremony. Photo from Steve Bellone’s Flickr page

A countywide housing initiative recently got a bit sweeter for veterans and people with disabilities.

Public officials, veterans and disability advocates together with community members gathered Friday, June 9, at the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge, where Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) ceremonially signed two landmark pieces of legislation.

U.S. Census Bureau data indicates Suffolk County is home to over 56,000 veterans, the highest concentration of any county across New York state and among the highest in the nation. The census also indicates that 6.1% of the county’s 1.5 million residents are with a disability under 65.

Under the new local laws passed unanimously by the Suffolk County Legislature last December and signed officially by Bellone in January, funds and housing units will now be set aside to accommodate veterans and those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“We are committed to, in this county, making sure that everyone in our community is included,” Bellone said during the recent ceremony.

Legislator Leslie Kennedy speaks during the signing ceremony event. Photo from Steve Bellone’s Flickr page

The two bipartisan legislative packages were introduced by Majority Leader Nick Caracappa (C-Selden) and Legislators Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset), Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), Stephanie Bontempi (R-Centerport) and Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), among others.

Caracappa, who chairs the county’s Veterans & Consumer Affairs Committee, noted the sizable veteran and disabled populations, suggesting the county is pursuing a proper course for these historically underserved communities.

“We have far too many veterans on our streets [who are] homeless,” he said. “We have far too many individuals, family members, neighbors, friends with disabilities who are willing, able, ready for a life of independence and dignity.”

Kennedy decried the lack of initiative across all levels of government in supporting these demographics. “We would be nowhere without our veterans, and we have done so little to assist them as life goes on,” she said. “This is us moving forward.”

The county legislator added, “For those with impaired abilities, they deserve to live on their own.”

Trish Calandra of Wading River, in an emotional address, shared the story of her two children with autism, who are both now living on their own.

“To see them living this great life was something I really needed to help others achieve,” she said. “There’s still more to do. We need to get this across this state. We need to get this across this country. We have so many people who need assistance and need help.”

At podium, Tom Ronayne, director of Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency. Photo from Steve Bellone’s Flickr page

Tom Ronayne, director of Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency, celebrated the legislation, noting that Suffolk County has “set the bar high.”

“For the people who are most directly affected by what is happening here today, their lives are changed profoundly,” he said. “They can lay down and go to sleep knowing that they have a safe, affordable place to live and that tomorrow will not challenge them in the ways that yesterday may have.”

He concluded, “Welcome to Suffolk County because this is how we do it here.”

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) was joined by several county legislators on Tuesday, June 13, at the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge, signing legislation that will fortify 12-year term limits for county offices.

Although term limits have existed in Suffolk County since 1993, the original statute was ambiguous. This new law, which was passed unanimously by the county Legislature last month, will cement 12-year terms for the offices of executive, legislator and comptroller. 

Bellone considered this a much-needed measure that has received “overwhelming support” from the public and that reaffirms the original intent of the 1993 law.

“People really believe and understand that there is a value in turning over the people who are in office, that after a period of years — 12 years in this case — it’s time to give someone else an opportunity,” he said. “If there is a time limit in office, there’s more likely to be a focus on what’s in the interest of people rather than maintaining themselves in that office.”

Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst) discusses the legislative intent of the 1993 term limit law. Photo from Steve Bellone’s Flickr page

The 1993 law was poorly written, offering a loophole for those eager to circumvent its legislative intent, allowing officials to bypass its 12-year cap after a break in service. Bellone said this new law closes that loophole, establishing a fixed-term limit of 12 total years for each respective office.

“This Legislature has made it clear in this action today that they want to limit government, that they want to limit the time that someone can serve,” the county executive said. “Our experience here in Suffolk County is that that is absolutely a good thing.”

Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst) shared why this law will benefit voters. By creating more turnover in county government, the term limits will make room for new blood and fresh ideas.

“I’ve served in the Legislature for a little bit over eight years now,” he said. “I have seen some come and go and said, ‘I hate to see them go.’ But you know what? Someone takes their place and we have an input of different ideas and different personalities, and I think it’s been positive.”

Suffolk County Legislator Stephanie Bontempi (R-Centerport), at podium, sponsored this legislation. Photo from Steve Bellone’s Flickr page

Legislator Stephanie Bontempi (R-Centerport) sponsored this legislation. Elected for the first time in 2021, Bontempi views the term limits as a motivating influence, creating a fixed window of time for her to deliver results for her constituents.

“There will be no more sitting idly, languishing over decisions for decades,” she said. “I want to actually produce results.” The legislator added, “It just simply is good government — new ideas, new candidates.”

The law will make one final pit stop before it is formally enacted. County voters will weigh in on the matter in a referendum this November. Both the county executive and the legislators present urged Suffolk County residents to ratify this legislation.

Republican legislators at the William H. Rogers Legislature Building in Hauppauge, above. Photo by Raymond Janis

County legislators met on the floor of the William H. Rogers Legislature Building in Hauppauge May 12 to announce legislation that would solidify term limits for elected officials in Suffolk County.

If passed, the proposed legislation would limit the offices of county executive, comptroller and legislators to a total of 12 years. Proponents argue the measure will remove a loophole in the law that allows individuals to exceed the 12-year threshold. 

Term limits were first instituted in Suffolk County in 1993 by voter referendum. However, the statute was ambiguous, according to Legislator Stephanie Bontempi (R-Centerport). 

“In 1993 Suffolk County voters went to the polls and approved term limits that dictate an elected official in the Legislature, the comptroller or the county executive could not serve in the same office [beyond] 12 consecutive years,” Bontempi said. “However, that still leaves the possibility for a candidate to run for that office again after a break in the 12 years.”

Bontempi’s proposed legislation would close this loophole. If enacted, the law would mandate that no person could serve more than 12 cumulative years in office. 

Last year, former county Legislator Kate Browning (D-Shirley) campaigned in a special election for the 3rd Legislative District. Despite previously serving in the Legislature for 12 years, Browning received the Democratic nomination following an appellate court panel ruling. She was defeated in that race by current Legislator Jim Mazzarella (R-Moriches) by a 55-45% margin and again in November’s election by 63-37%.

Mazzarella said this legislation will prevent a similar scenario from unfolding in the future, cementing 12-year term limits in Suffolk for good.

“A year ago when I first ran for office, a former legislator who had already served 12 years tried to game the system and run again,” Mazzarella said. “I could tell by being out there with the voters that the electorate at the time felt duped. Ultimately, the voters did make their feelings known at the ballot box and I was elected as legislator.” He added, “This law needs to be put in place to guarantee that voters are properly represented.”

Legislator Stephanie Bontempi (R-Centerport) is sponsoring legislation to solidify term limits for county officeholders. Photo by Raymond Janis

Bontempi said the purpose of the legislation is to bring fresh blood into the political process and to add more opportunities for newcomers in county government. “The goal here is for the majority to provide Suffolk County voters new candidates who can bring new ideas and new perspectives to their offices,” she said, adding, “Our communities are ever changing, and leadership should reflect those changes.”

Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst) said voters approved term limits in 1993 with an understanding that it would prevent elected officers from serving more than 12 years. He considers this new legislation a way to reinstate the law’s original intent. 

“In 1993 the voters overwhelmingly approved and passed term-limit laws,” McCaffrey said. “Their intent, as was our intent, was to make it a 12-year term.” The presiding officer added, “We want to make sure that we codify it. We’re going to put it up as a referendum for the voters after this resolution is passed, and we expect them to overwhelmingly support this referendum.”

While this legislation will impose definitive term limits on several offices, there are some notable exemptions. The offices of county sheriff, county clerk and district attorney are each mandated by the state constitution and thereby cannot be regulated by county law, according to McCaffrey. 

“Those are state-mandated offices and we do not have the ability to control them,” the presiding officer said. 

A vote on Bontempi’s legislation is expected in early June. If the resolution is passed by the Legislature, voters will have final say on the matter in a referendum this November.

Photos from candidates

While the race for Suffolk County legislator in the 18th Legislative District got off to a rocky start with contentious mailers sent by both candidates, the tone was civil during a TBR News Media Zoom debate with candidates Mark Cuthbertson (D), currently serving as Town of Huntington councilman, and Stephanie Bontempi, a newcomer to the political field.

County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) has served the district for nearly a decade, but decided not to run this year. He is currently facing charges for allegedly trading oxycodone for sex.

Meet the candidates

Bontempi, who grew up in Sweden and came to the U.S. for college and decided to stay in New York, is a fifth-grade teacher at The Green Vale School in Old Brookville. The wife and mother, of three grown children, has lived in Centerport for 30 years.

She’s the chairperson of Town of Huntington’s Beautification Advisory Council and has been a member of several local organizations. In addition to teaching, she has a degree in finance and two graduate degrees in education-related subjects.

She said with more time on her hands now that her children are grown, she decided to run for office and be a “voice for the people in our community.”

“I’ve seen a decline in our area,” Bontempi said. “Our taxes are going up, roads failing, the environment, water quality and so forth … rather than complain, I want to try to do something about it.”

Cuthbertson has been a town councilman for more than two decades. He grew up in Huntington Station and graduated from Walt Whitman High School. He’s a husband and father of three children. As a councilman as well as an attorney, he said he’s been involved in local government in a public and private capacity. He said he has “good grounding” when it comes to not only town issues but county issues. 

“I really feel that I can bring the breadth of my experience to the county and work with the county executive, who has been a friend for 24 years, to do things for the 18th Legislative District.”

He added he’s proud of helping to preserve and protect more than 1,000 acres of land in the Town of Huntington and contributing to the town’s triple-A bond rating.

County budget

Cuthbertson said there are several things that are good in the proposed Suffolk County budget, including $125 million for wastewater infrastructure which he thinks is key. He also agrees with the $35 million for main street recovery to help businesses hit by COVID-19 and money put aside if the pandemic becomes an ongoing issue.

“I think the good parts of this budget are the reserve funds,” he said. “I think that’s been a key to our success in the Town of Huntington is when you have good years — not just squandering that money on spending — reserving it for things that you have to pay in the future. So, there’s money that’s going toward tax stabilization. There’s money that’s going toward debt service reserve fund and insurance reserve fund, pensions and payouts of employees which are important.” 

Bontempi said one has to be careful when using the term surplus, especially since the county has additional funds due to federal government aid and not taxpayers’ money.

“We have to be very careful with how we utilize this money,” Bontempi said.

She added the county has pulled money from the budget for a long time and money has been taken out from the funds for sewer stabilization and environmental causes.

“I would suggest that we replenish the areas where money has been taken out, definitely,” she said. “I would suggest that we repay some of our debt to lower our interest expenses.”

Bontempi added the county’s Department of Social Services needs more attention. She said the department is overwhelmed and understaffed leading to not having the proper resources to serve the community.

Cuthbertson agreed that being able to staff social services at adequate levels is important.

“We have 7.2% of this county living in poverty, and there are outcomes there that are very difficult and beyond people in poverty, that are in difficult circumstances that need the help of government,” he said.

Suffolk County Police Department

Bontempi said after people’s physiological needs are met the next fundamental need to thrive is safety.

“We need to feel safe in our homes,” she said. “We need to feel safe dropping our children at the school bus. We need to feel safe walking our dogs. So, I am very much a proponent for law enforcement.”

She added because of this she feels police officers should be provided funding for adequate training and to be well equipped.

Cuthbertson said it’s well known that SCPD officers make good money and county residents know “a police officer joins the force and in a short period of time, with overtime, he’s probably making in excess of six figures.”

He added it’s important to continue giving police the resources they need but also to demand accountability. Cuthbertson said it’s important to evolve and embrace “the mental health piece of the police reform plan to embrace other issues.”

It’s important to look at issues in Suffolk County, he added, where studies show Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to get pulled over or be part of an escalated situation.

“Let’s compensate our police adequately and well, but let’s ask that they embrace change and accountability, and I think 99% of the police force do,” Cuthbertson said. “I think it’s a matter of just a cultural shift that hopefully is going on.” 


He said with approximately $286 million from the American Recovery Plan, there’s a possibility that some funding will go to Huntington Station sewering. He said there has been a study of the area and the direction the town should go and the best alternatives to connect to an existing sewering system.

“I think by partnering with the county we could affect some really great change for the environment for economic development in one fell swoop,” Cuthbertson said. 

He added they have to do a better job in talking to residents about replacing their septic systems with low-nitrogen units.

Bontempi agreed that sewers are important. She said in addition to Huntington Station, areas north of Route 25A need to be looked at, too. She said higher-density areas and elevated areas have more toxins seeping into the ground and making it to local waterways.

She added the new low-nitrogen septic systems need more work as they are expensive to install, even with the county grant.

“We have to protect our water,” she said. “There is no question about it.”

The two agreed there are difficulties with getting sewers in certain areas of the district due to topography.

William “Doc” Spencer

Both candidates said regarding Spencer they would like to continue his work to help save the environment such as the plastic bag initiative. Bontempi added she applauds his work in saving open space, such as Coindre Hall Park that overlooks Huntington Harbor. Both candidates said Spencer’s work regarding the opioid crisis is also important to continue.

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By Harry To

Suffolk County Republicans have endorsed Stephanie Bontempi, a fifth-grade teacher at The Green Vale School in Old Brookville and chairperson of Town of Huntington’s Beautification Advisory Council, in the race against Democrat Mark Cuthbertson for Suffolk County legislator in the 18th district. The election will take place in November.

A first-time candidate, Bontempi said that she has “always been into local politics,” but hasn’t been able to run for office due to her duties as a parent. Now, her kids have grown up and become independent, giving her an opportunity to run for office.

“I’m running on a campaign of quality of life for all of us to have a good quality of life on Long Island,” Bontempi said in a phone interview.

She emphasized the fact that Long Island has become increasingly expensive while wages have remained stagnant, a problem that’s forcing lifelong residents of the county to reconsider where they call home.

This, she said, has forced her son to move to North Carolina for affordable housing. Now she fears her daughters may be forced out next.

“I have two daughters,” she said. “I don’t want them to leave just because they can’t afford to be here.”

Bontempi believes the management of the Suffolk County budget is one of the main culprits of the rise in living expenses.

“Something needs to be done about the mismanagement of finances in Suffolk County,” she said. “That’s really why I’m running. We need to evaluate the process. We need to scrutinize how funds are being allocated. As it stands, we keep borrowing and borrowing.”

However, Bontempi said she couldn’t provide specifics as to what was being overfunded and what could be cut from the budget.

“If you ask me exactly what I’m going to do, I won’t really be able to answer that because I’ve never done this before,” she said. “There’s no transparency. It’s not until I’m there that I can really answer that question.”

In regard to her lack of political experience, compared to Cuthbertson, who is a longtime Huntington Town Board member, Bontempi said that anybody who has done a job for a while will have a history of experience.

“I’ve been teaching for a long time,” she said. “I’ve taught hundreds of children how to do fractions and percentages, and about ancient civilizations because I’ve done it for so long. If you’ve done something for a while, of course you’ll have a lot of achievements.”

In talking about her personal life, Bontempi spoke of her upbringing in Europe and her journey immigrating to the United States.

“I was born in Sweden to a Swedish dad and French-Italian mom, so I spent most of my time between Sweden and France,” she said. “I’m trilingual, and I’ve got a heavy accent that is kind of a mishmash of it all.”

Bontempi originally received her schooling in Europe but ended up coming to the United States before finishing her education.

“I got an opportunity to go to school in America and was very excited. Land of opportunity, right?” she said. “So, I came for my last year at Hartford University in Connecticut and graduated with a bachelor’s in business.”

Bontempi said she was granted American citizenship in 2003.

After a period of being a stay-at-home mother, Bontempi decided to change careers.

“I worked in telecommunications consulting for a little while, then I had kids and stayed home for a few years,” she said. “Then I tried real estate but that wasn’t for me, so I went back to school and got my graduate degree in elementary education.”