Political upstart vs. six-year incumbent in Assembly race

Political upstart vs. six-year incumbent in Assembly race

The race for the state Assembly’s 13th District pits a six-term incumbent, Democrat Charles Lavine, against a political newcomer, Republican Jeffrey Vitale. The candidates differ sharply on issues ranging from corruption to abortion to the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump. 

The district covers Roslyn, Glen Cove, Jericho and Plainview as well as parts of Manhasset, Westbury, East Hills and Bayville. 

Vitale works as a grant writer for the Town of Oyster Bay, where he requests funding such as road repavement reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the mending of damage incurred by Hurricane Sandy. Though he has never run for public office, Vitale has volunteered for a number of local Republican candidates. The Nassau County Republican Committee approached him to run and he gladly accepted. 

Lavine, meanwhile, serves in Albany as chair of the Assembly Committee on Ethics and Guidance and co-chair of the New York State Legislative Ethics Commission. Before his time in office, Lavine worked as an attorney for the Legal Aid Society and then as a criminal defense attorney in private practice. 

Lavine cited corruption and transparency as issues at the forefront of this year’s election. “Politicians need to serve the interests of the public,” he said. 

Vitale agreed, saying corruption and the public distrust it causes are problems that prevent effective action on all other issues. But the candidates differed significantly on how to reduce or eliminate corruption. 

Vitale prescribed denying pensions to legislators who commit felonies while in office as well as limiting outside income for all members. Lavine, however, expressed a desire to get rid of outside income altogether. He proposed making a position as assemblyman a full-time job, a suggestion he has demonstrated himself by leaving his legal practice. The change would, however, raise the pay for legislators to approximately $110,000, according to Lavine. He also advocated publicly financing campaigns and closing the LLC loophole, which allows one entity to make multiple political donations through different corporations; Vitale would like to implement the latter step, too. 

A point of agreement came on Common Core, which both candidates criticized as unnecessarily onerous for students and teachers. Though Lavine praised “the concept of common core” which “establishes not a ceiling but a floor for critical thinking skills across the country.” In opposition, Vitale advocated that the state “let local teachers figure out what’s best as opposed to setting a national standard.”

A central issue for Vitale is taxes, which he said are so high that they’re discouraging companies from opening in or relocating to New York. Lavine saw the matter of attracting business from a different perspective, saying spending programs meant to revive industry are an effective way to bring companies to New York. Vitale criticized Lavine for repeatedly supporting tax hikes during his tenure in the Assembly. 

Another issue of stark disagreement is abortion, which Lavine defended as a decision that should be left up to a women. Lavine proudly stated that his wife volunteers with Planned Parenthood. In contrast, Vitale said a woman should be allowed to have an abortion for the first 20 weeks of her pregnancy, after which the operation should be made unavailable. 

Asked whether he will vote for presidential candidate Donald Trump, Vitale said, “Absolutely.” 

 “Trump has a great business ethic and built an empire that shows what he’s done in his life,”  he said. 

Lavine, on the other hand, said that “wise Republicans are distancing themselves from Trump, at least in our part of the country.” 


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