Pictured Above: Left: Tommy John Schiavoni gave a pitch for Peconic County to the Suffolk County Legislature in 2023. Right: Stephen Kiely at a debate seeking a seat on the Southold Town Board in the fall of 2023.

One week after New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. announced he will not be seeking re-election after nearly 30 years in office, two candidates have stepped forward to run for his seat.

Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni, a Democrat, announced Feb 20 that he will be seeking to fill Mr. Thiele’s shoes, and Shelter Island Town Attorney Stephen Kiely, a Mattituck resident, announced he was selected as Suffolk County Republicans’ candidate on Feb. 21.

New York’s First Assembly District currently includes the towns of East Hampton, Shelter Island, Southold and much of Southampton with the exception of Northampton and Riverside — Southold was added and Northhampton and Riverside were dropped from the district during redistricting following the 2020 census.

Mr. Thiele, who prior to being elected in 1995 to serve in the State Assembly had been a Southampton Town Supervisor and Suffolk County Legislator, has become known throughout his tenure for his dedication to protecting the environment and his support of the concept of “Home Rule,” state law that gives local governments control over decisions, particularly land use, within their jurisdictions.

Initially elected as a Republican, Mr. Thiele later changed his affiliation to the Independence Party and then to the Democratic Party after the Independence Party lost its ballot line. Independent voters not registered with a party are still a major player in the district, making up 28.8 percent of the registered voter pool. Democratic registration in the district stands at 37.6 percent, and Republicans make up 27.5 percent of registered district voters, according to the latest data from the New York State Board of Elections.

“I am running for the New York State Assembly for the same reason that I sought every office thus far, to maintain what is best about our community and make changes for the better where we need them,” said Mr. Schiavoni in his campaign announcement. “I understand how people can benefit from good government, and I will use my education and experience in Albany to improve the day to day lives of all East Enders.”

Mr. Kiely, a former Senior Deputy County Clerk who served in Town Attorney offices in Southampton, Southold and Brookhaven, ran on the GOP ticket for Southold Town Board in the fall of 2023 on a platform of “Keep It Rural,” pledging support for agriculture and criticizing the Democrat-controlled New York State government in Albany.

On the campaign trail last year, Mr. Kiely frequently lambasted Democratic New York Governor Kathy “High Density Hochul’s plan,” later shot down by the State Legislature, to require towns allow dense housing to be built around train stations on Long Island even if local zoning doesn’t permit it.

“I am thrilled with the opportunity I was given,” said Mr. Kiely Thursday morning, Feb. 22, adding that his platform during this campaign will be “an outgrowth of the one I ran on for Town Board, which really resonated.”

Mr. Kiely garnered 22.61 percent of the vote in the four-way Southold Town Board race for two seats.

“I know this Assembly district forward and back, and I know what the issues are,” said Mr. Keily of his plan to address issues throughout the district. “I’m going to protect and preserve Home Rule, which is statutorily protected. We’ve got to make sure the local population gets to dictate growth here, rather than the Governor’s office. We need somebody who’s going to fight that fight, someone who reads and writes law for a living.”

Mr. Schiavoni, of North Haven, served as a Social Studies, History and Government teacher in the Center Moriches School District for more than 30 years, during which time he served on the North Haven Village Zoning Board of Appeals and Village Board, the Sag Harbor Union Free School District Board of Education and on the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals. He was elected to the Southampton Town Board in 2017.

Mr. Schiavoni was re-elected to a second four-year term in Southampton with 26.01 percent of the vote in a four-way race for two seats in 2021. He will have reached his eight-year term limit on the board at the end of 2025.

Mr. Schiavoni came in third in a five-way Democratic primary for the New York State Senate seat vacated by longtime State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle in 2019.

Laura Ahearn, who won that primary, was defeated that November by Republican Anthony Palumbo, then a State Assemblyman representing the North Fork.

Mr. Schiavoni worked in his youth for for G.F. Schiavoni Plumbing and Heating, which was run first by his grandfather, then his father and now his brothers. During his tenure on the Southampton Town Board he has focused on health concerns ranging from tick-borne diseases to mental health and opioid addiction and the pandemic, affordable housing, clean water and support for first responders.

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Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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