In the hubbub over this year’s campaigns for national office, you may be forgiven if you forget that there are many state lawmakers running for office this year as well.
Down on the South Fork, State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, who has held that office since 1995, is running on the Democratic party line against Republican Heather Collins of East Quogue. Ms. Collins also ran against Mr. Thiele in 2014, when she took 32.4 percent of the vote, while Mr. Thiele won 60.5 percent.
On the North Fork, Republican State Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo, who took office after a special election in 2013 when former Assemblyman Dan Losquadro was elected Brookhaven Highway Superintendent, is running against Manorville Democrat Michael Conroy, a labor leader and construction worker who has been active with the Brookhaven Town and Suffolk County Democratic parties.
Republican State Senator Kenneth LaValle, who has been in office since 1976, is being challenged this year by Democrat Greg Fischer, a business consultant from Riverhead who has waged many local campaigns and ran for state senate in 2008 and 2010.
Mr. Thiele, Mr. Fischer and Mr. LaValle all took part in the Concerned Citizens of Montauk’s Oct. 16 Meet the Candidates forum at the Montauk School. Ms. Collins did not participate.
Mr. LaValle told the crowd that he believes the number one issue facing voters is their personal economic situations.
“I hope that you realize, in the last number of years, with the tax cap, the percentage of increase in real property taxes has really diminished,” he said, adding that the tax cap has saved voters in his district more than $500 million. He added that he has helped increase state aid to cash-strapped districts like the Springs School District in East Hampton Town.
Mr. LaValle also asked voters to vote yes on Proposition 1, on the back side of this November’s ballot, which extends the East End’s Community Preservation Fund 2 percent real estate transfer tax for land preservation by 20 years, to 2050, and allows the five East End towns to use up to 20 percent of the money for water quality projects.
Mr. Fischer said he believes the CPF extension is “kicking a debt can down the road.”
“We haven’t ensured towns like Riverhead won’t pillage the fund,” he said, adding that Riverhead “pretends they’re Robin Hood when they’re stealing from the poor box.”
Mr. LaValle and Mr. Thiele were instrumental in passing the state legislation allowing the public vote, and in the original creation of the Community Preservation Fund, which was approved by voters in 1998.
“I hope you will support that by flipping over the ballot,” he said. “Assemblyman Thiele and I were the parents of the CPF.”
Mr. LaValle said that he has heard very clearly from East End residents that “sewering is not an option,” and that he helped create the water quality center at Stony Brook Southampton that is looking into better ways to treat wastewater here.
Mr. Fischer said that he believes he should be elected because “I haven’t been in office for 40 years.”
“I have four children, and I’m very clear about what has to be done for the future in terms of making Long Island affordable,” he said. “I have 34 years of business consulting experience… Attorneys who are running government don’t know about business.”
Mr. Fischer added that SUNY Buffalo is spending “about $1 million per graduate” to educate students. Mr. LaValle serves as chairman of the Senate Committee on Higher Education.
Mr. Thiele seemed happy to have the floor to himself for his race.
“I’m not running against these two guys, not even you, Greg, but I do have an opponent. My opponent is not here, violating the rule that 90 percent of live is just showing up.”
Mr. Thiele said his contest is the last one to appear on this November’s ballot, the “only place you’ll find me to the right of Donald Trump.”
Mr. Thiele also urged voters to flip over the ballot and vote yes on Proposition 1, and said that he has East Hampton’s back when dealing with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plans for downtown Montauk.
“We wanted a soft solution for downtown Montauk and we got presented with an interim project that was not what we wanted. It was what I described as a little better than a sharp stick in the eye, but you couldn’t do nothing. You couldn’t leave downtown Montauk exposed,” he said. “For the second short-term project, I think we need substantially more sand on the beach in Montauk, and what the town has decided is the right decision there.”
“Longer term, ultimately, Mother Nature wins,” he added. “We have to retreat from the coastline, but we can’t just do that willy-nilly. We all need to come up with a plan for sea level rise and climate change and ultimately retreat.”
“I agree with most of what Mr. Thiele says,” said Mr. Fischer, “but the greater cause of this event is uncontrolled outsourcing, outsourcing to nations that have zero respect for the environment. That is not free trade. That’s the most expensive trade I’ve ever heard of.”
China leads the world in carbon emissions, with 8,715 million metric tons per year as of 2011, while the United States has the second highest emissions, at 5,491 million metric tons per year.
Mr. LaValle said he also stands behind East Hampton’s position on the Army Corps project in Montauk.
“The supervisor and the town board have done yeoman’s work to get something done, and it required someone like Assemblyman Thiele and myself to stand behind them,” he said.
In their closing remarks, Mr. Thiele said he learned from legendary U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Tip O’Neill to never make the mistake of not asking voters to support him, even if he stands a good chance of keeping his seat.
“That’s a mistake I never make. I’m asking for your vote on Nov. 8,” he said. “Thank you for the honor of representing you in the State Assembly.”
Mr. Fischer said he won’t take a salary if he’s elected to the State Senate.
“I’m going to do this for free,” he said. “I’m doing this for patriotic reasons.”
Mr. LaValle said that an East Hampton critical care clinic, an offshoot of Stony Brook University Hospital’s partnership with Southampton Hospital, will be closer to becoming a reality within weeks, in part due to his efforts as chairman of the Senate Committee on Higher Education.
“When I started, East Hampton and Southampton were medically underserved,” he said. “I pledged to turn that around. We’re talking about peoples’ lives, and that is critically important. A lot has changed for the better, but we have a long way to go. I think it will change your health life immeasurably.”