Southold Town resident Rona Smith, a businesswoman, educator, and a champion for affordable housing, has been named by the Suffolk County Democratic Committee as its nominee to run for New York State Assembly on the Democratic line in the upcoming November election.
Ms. Smith currently serves as Chair of Southold’s Housing Advisory Commission, sits on the town’s Economic Development Committee, and is Vice-Chair of the Southold Local Development Corporation.
“I am thrilled Rona is among the qualified, brave and accomplished women nationwide deciding to step up for their communities and run for office. Rona is a civic leader on the East End,” said Kathryn Casey Quigley, Chairwoman of the Southold Town Democratic Committee. “She is a dedicated and passionate candidate who will fight hard in the Assembly to get things done for residents in this district. Southold Democrats proudly support her.”
“I know that, as a member of the Assembly, I can help clear the obstacles that so many Long Islanders face today,” said Ms. Smith, who will run against incumbent Republican Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo this fall. The three top issues on her priority list are housing, education, and healthcare.
Ms. Smith began her career as a junior high school English teacher in South Jamaica, Queens, after which she received a federal grant to obtain her Master’s Degree at NYU. A PhD fellowship followed, along with the birth of her son, and three years later, her daughter, but the state budget crunch of the late 1970s led her down another career path.
Ms. Smith’s longtime interest in real estate led to a job as a broker and ultimately involvement in investment real estate rehab and renewal.
She was the longtime head of an investment development group specializing in multi-family housing, and has used that experience in pursuit of workforce housing on the North Fork, where she has been involved in workforce housing issues exclusively since 2000.
“The need for affordable housing is dire, sending our well-educated kids to live elsewhere, forcing businesses to scrounge for workers, and often causing young people to postpone establishing their own households,” she said. “A 50-unit complex is about to be built in Southold, thanks to our efforts to proactively pursue affordable housing developers, encouraging them to build in Southold. This was accomplished by working across party lines, something I plan to do when I reach Albany.”
“Watching the Affordable Care Act coverage being ripped to shreds is a source of worry for many,” she added. “Hard-working people should not be afraid to get sick. I will work here in New York State to re-establish the diminishing safety net. With the opioid epidemic on the rise and mental health care limited or non-existent, these serious crises are on my urgent Assembly agenda.”
Ms. Smith has had personal experience with what it means not to have health care coverage. Her son, David, died in 2012. He did not have health insurance because of the high cost and postponed seeing doctors. When he finally did, he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. If not for the 2010 federal Affordable Care Act and its pre-existing-condition provision for cancer, he would not have received the aggressive treatment that was his only hope.
Ms. Smith lives in Greenport with her dog Pluto, and her daughter, Letty, a physician, also lives on Long Island.