Local, national races in North Shore voters’ hands

Local, national races in North Shore voters’ hands

North Shore voters will pick more than just a new president in Tuesday’s election — they’ll also send new representatives to the national, state and county legislatures.

Four of the races on northwest Nassau County ballots are for open seats after the resignations of three popular lawmakers and the death of a fourth. Incumbents are seeking re-election in the other three races.

Some candidates have said the showdown between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump has overshadowed the contests further down the ballot. But some of them have big local implications.

The North Shore will likely have a hand in determining which party controls the state Senate, and whether the Nassau County Legislature will have a Republican supermajority that would not need Democrats’ approval to spend or borrow money.

Two others will determine who replaces lawmakers who have represented the area for at least a decade. And voters could re-elect Democratic U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, who could become the next Senate majority leader if Democrats take control of the chamber.


U.S. Senate

Schumer, a Brooklyn Democrat, is seeking a fourth six-year term against Republican Wendy Long, an attorney from Manhattan.

Schumer and Long have sparred over the records and policies of their parties’ respective presidential nominees, giving the presidential race a larger role here than in other local contests.

Schumer is heavily favored to win re-election, leading Long by 27 percentage points in a recent Siena College poll. He’s also the favorite to replace retiring Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) as his party’s Senate leader, a position of considerable influence if Democrats win the Senate.


3rd Congressional District

Republican state Sen. Jack Martins and Democrat Tom Suozzi, a former Nassau County executive, are vying to replace U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) in the North Shore district stretching from northeast Queens to northwest Suffolk County.

Both candidates are moderates who have pledged to work against polarization in Washington to get things done. They differ on issues such as health care and immigration reform, but agree that taxes are too high and that more money must come back to the North Shore.

But they have gone after each other’s records, with Martins attacking large tax increases Suozzi imposed and pay raises he took, and Suozzi criticizing Martins’ reluctance to break from his party in Albany.

Both Martins, from Old Westbury, and Suozzi, from Glen Cove, were early entrants into the race to succeed Israel, a prominent congressman who decided in January not to seek a ninth term.

Suozzi beat four other Democrats in a June primary, while Martins fought a months-long legal battle to avoid a primary against Philip Pidot, an upstart conservative challenger.

Published polls have shown Suozzi with a large lead driven by support from Republicans and independents. He has also raised and spent much more money than Martins.

But Martins has been spending heavily on advertising to increase his name recognition, his major obstacle in the race. His campaign released a poll last month showing him behind by less than one percentage point, contradicting the other surveys.

The 3rd Congressional District includes Great Neck, Manhasset, Roslyn, Port Washington and parts of East Williston and Williston Park.


4th Congressional District

U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) is seeking a second term in the southwest Nassau County district against Republican David Gurfein, a retired U.S. Marine from Manhasset.

Rice, a former Nassau County district attorney first elected in 2014, has touted her work with Republicans to pass two laws, something no other first-term Democratic representative did.

Gurfein, a former military liaison to Congress, has said his military and business experience makes him best prepared to support his priorities of national defense and economic growth.

Rice and Gurfein are at opposite ends of the political spectrum on several issues. She favors additional gun control measures and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, while he opposes any more gun control and wants the U.S. borders secured before offering immigrants citizenship.

Gurfein started his campaign in the 3rd District, but turned to the 4th District after the GOP nominated Martins to run on the North Shore. Gurfein would have to move into the district within a year if elected.

Rice has a large financial advantage in the race, and registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district, adding to her advantage as an incumbent Democrat running in a presidential election year.

The 4th Congressional District includes New Hyde Park, Mineola, Floral Park and parts of Williston Park and East Williston.


7th State Senate District

Democrat Adam Haber and Republican Elaine Phillips are vying to replace Martins, whose campaign for Congress required him to vacate this key seat at the end of this year.

The race is considered crucial for Democrats as they seek to win a majority in the state Senate, controlled for years by Republicans. That would give the party control of the governor’s office and both houses of the state Legislature.

Haber, a Roslyn school board trustee and former board member of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, is making his third run for higher office in four years and his second run for this state Senate seat. He lost a Democratic primary for county executive to Suozzi in 2013 and was handily defeated by Martins in the 2014 Senate race.

Phillips, the mayor of the Village of Flower Hill and a former Goldman Sachs vice president, is making her first run for higher office. She is seeking to keep the seat in Republican hands, which she says is critical to maintaining political balance and protecting Long Island from the interests of New York City Democrats.

Pledging to put “Long Island first,” Haber has rejected Phillips’ claim that Democratic control would be bad for the North Shore. He says he will fight for more state aid to school districts and for a permanent cap on property tax increases.

Phillips says she supports the property tax cap and would support changing the school aid formula to give Long Island districts their “fair share.”

The candidates agree, though, on the need for ethics reforms in Albany. Both say they support term limits for legislators and eliminating a campaign finance loophole that allows individuals to give hundreds of thousands of dollars to campaigns through multiple limited liability corporations.

The 7th Senate District includes Great Neck, Manhasset, Roslyn, Port Washington, New Hyde Park, Williston Park, East Williston and Mineola.


16th State Assembly


The race to replace Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel (D-Port Washington) features a Democratic veteran and a Republican newcomer in the North Shore district.

Democrat Anthony D’Urso, 77, and Republican Matthew Varvaro, 25, both from Port Washington, are vying to succeed Schimel, who announced in January that she would leave office at the end of this year.

D’Urso was a North Hempstead town councilman from 1992 until 2005 and spent the following decade doing humanitarian work in Haiti. Varvaro, a former aide to Republican town Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio, worked on Joe Lhota’s 2013 campaign for New York City mayor and ex-Gov. George Pataki’s short-lived presidential bid last year.

D’Urso says his record of public service, both on the Town Board and as the New York City Department of Housing’s chief architect, has prepared him best to succeed Schimel in this solidly Democratic district.

But Varvaro says he has the knowledge and policy expertise necessary to make change in Albany while D’Urso is out of touch with issues affecting North Shore residents.

Varvaro has made ethics reform central to his first campaign for public office. He supports term limits for state legislators, tougher penalties for corrupt lawmakers and the creation of an independent ethics oversight board.

D’Urso also supports term limits and wants to see legislative offices become full-time jobs with higher salaries. D’Urso also favors prohibiting legislators from earning outside income, a measure Varvaro opposes.

The 16th Assembly District includes Great Neck, Port Washington, Roslyn, Manhasset and parts of Roslyn and New Hyde Park.


19th State Assembly


Democrat Gary Port is making his second challenge to incumbent Assemblyman Edward Ra, a Franklin Square Republican seeking a fourth term.

Ra, the son of Hempstead Town Attorney Joseph Ra, has touted his work to reform the state’s education standards as a ranking member of the Assembly Education Committee.

He has also pledged to work toward ethics reforms, saying he supports an internal review of the Legislature and limiting the power of legislative leaders.

But Port, a divorce lawyer and U.S. Army veteran from West Hempstead, has charged that Ra’s career benefited from nepotism when he took a job under his father at the Town of Hempstead. 

Port says he wants to lengthen state legislators’ terms from two years to four and impose term limits to help insulate the Legislature from corruption.

The 19th Assembly District stretches from Franklin Square to Glen Head and includes Williston Park, East Williston, Mineola, New Hyde Park and parts of Old Westbury.


13th Assembly District

Incumbent Assemblyman Charles Lavine, a Glen Cove Democrat, is seeking a seventh term against Republican newcomer Jeffrey Vitale and Green Party candidate Jeff Peress, who is making his fifth run for the seat.

Naming ethics as the state’s top issue, Lavine has touted his work as chairman of the Assembly Committee on Ethics and Guidance and as co-chair of the New York State Legislative Ethics Commission. He supports raising pay and eliminating outside income for state legislators and backs public financing of elections.

Vitale said he supports stripping pensions from lawmakers convicted of corruption and limits on outside income. But he said high taxes create an unfavorable business environment in New York and criticized Lavine for supporting tax increases.

Peress, a student and custodian at SUNY Old Westbury, agrees with Lavine’s ethics proposals and wants to see higher taxes for the state’s top earners. Peress supports voting rights for people on parole for crimes, while Lavine says they should only get voting rights once their parole ends.

The 13th Assembly District includes Roslyn and parts of East Hills and Manhasset.


16th Nassau County

Legislative District

Democrat Arnold Drucker and Republican Louis Imbroto are vying to replace Legislator Judy Jacobs, a Woodbury Democrat who died in September after 20 years in the Legislature.

Jacobs’ district is favorable to Democrats, but a Republican victory there would give the GOP a 13-seat supermajority in the 19-member Legislature, meaning the party would not need any Democratic support for large spending and borrowing measures.

Making his first run for public office, Drucker, a lawyer from Plainview, says he supports an independent inspector general to oversee county contracts, a measure Democrats have pushed for strongly since the corruption conviction of former Republican state Sen. Dean Skelos last year.

He also criticized Republican County Executive Edward Mangano’s proposed fee increases in his 2017 budget.

Imbroto, a lawyer for the Nassau Health Care Corporation who ran against Jacobs in 2013, said he prioritizes spending and tax cuts to make Nassau County more affordable.

He praised Republican-enacted reforms to the county contracting process, saying he wants to wait to see their impact before deciding whether to support an inspector general.

The 16th Legislative District includes Roslyn Heights, Old Westbury and parts of the Town of Oyster Bay.

By Noah Manskar

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