Voters in parts of Nassau and Suffolk counties will decide who will fill the remaining months of two open New York State Assembly seats in special elections Tuesday.
Regardless of the outcome, the races won’t affect the Democrats’ supermajority in the 150-seat Assembly. The terms will end Dec. 31, but winning the seat Tuesday will provide some of the formidable powers of incumbency in running for a two-year term in the fall, when more voters come to the polls. All of the candidates listed taxes and jobs as their top issues.
Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
In the 15th Assembly District that covers Nassau County’s North Shore, Republican Rob Walker left the seat he held since 2005 to become chief deputy Nassau County executive. Republicans have named Glen-Cove based attorney Michael Montesano and Democrats have endorsed Matthew T. Meng, who owns and operates a chain of specialty auto repair shops. Montesano also has the Independence and Conservative parties’ endorsements.
“I’m appalled at the fact that Nassau County does not get its fair share,” Montesano says, referring to the billions more in taxes that Long Island provides to New York State than it receives in services. “I think that the government in Albany is dysfunctional. We don’t need to be in the situation that we’re in.”
He said if elected, he would work to repeal the MTA tax and fight proposed cuts to Medicaid. He would also try to make the region more fertile ground for businesses, he said. “I just feel that the state needs to take on more in the area of not only attaining jobs here, but attracting jobs here.”
Montesano, a Brooklyn native who has lived in Glen Head for 31 years, is a former detective for the New York City Police Department. He previously served on the board of the North Shore Central School District and had been at separate times the acting justice and prosecutor for the Village of Roslyn Harbor. He lost by 800 votes when he challenged Nassau County Legis. Dianne Yaturo (D-Glen Cove) in November.
Democratic candidate Meng says that in addition to capping property taxes, reforming unfunded mandates and consolidating redundant school district services, there needs to be a greater emphasis on transportation and affordable housing.
“We can’t grow the island in a smart fashion anymore unless we have affordable housing,” says the East Norwich resident who owns The Little Garage in Huntington. “We can’t have affordable housing if we don’t have proper intermodal transportation,” like a monorail link between the Hub and the Long Island Rail Road, he offered as an example. He is also in favor of a third track for the main line, one of the major issues in the district.
Meng has been president of East Norwich Civic Association for 11 years, is a board member of Friends of the Bay, vice president of the Long Island Drinking Water Coalition, secretary of Long Island Environmental Voter Forum, vice president of the United Civic Associations of North Oyster Bay and is on the Central Pine Barrens Advisory Commission. Meng unsuccessfully challenged New York State Sen. Carl L. Marcellino (R-Syosset) in 2008.
The 15th Assembly District includes Bethpage, Brookville, East Garden City, East Hills, East Meadow, East Norwich, Glen Head and Glenwood Landing, Greenvale, Hicksville, Jericho, Lattingtown, Laurel Hollow, Levittown, Locust Valley, Matinecock, Muttontown, New Cassel, Old Brookville, Old Westbury, Oyster Bay, Oyster Bay Cove, Plainview, Salisbury, Syosset, Upper Brookville, and Westbury.
To the east, the 3rd Assembly District seat covering part of Suffolk County is open because Patricia Eddington, in office since 2001, was elected to be the Brookhaven town clerk in November. For her seat, Democrat Lauren Thoden, who worked on Eddington’s staff, faces Republican Dean Murray, who owns a Long Island advertising agency. Murray also has the Conservative Party line and the School Tax Relief line, while Thoden also has the Independence Party and Working Families Party lines.
This race has grown heated in the run up to the election.
“I’m not a politician, I’m a fed up Suffolk County resident and a taxpayer,” says Thoden, a 27-year-old from Patchogue. “We need someone without ulterior motives to represent our families to make sure that we get what we deserve.”
Murray, 45, of East Patchogue, shot back: “Of the two of us, only one has received a paycheck from the Assembly and from Albany, and it’s not me,” referring to Thoden’s work with Eddington. Thoden, an attorney, currently works for an appellate division judge.
As for the issues, both candidates struck a business-friendly chord and took issue with high taxes.
“A piece of legislation that I’m looking at implementing would be in reference to benefitting small business and the job market, that would be creating a tax credit to hire their part-time employees full time,” Thoden says.
“I think it’s also important that we reform the school aid formula,” she says, suggesting that the system be based on income, not property values. “We are not getting our fair share.”
Murray touted fiscal prudency. “I want to bring a business approach to Albany,” he says. “I’d like to try to teach them some fiscal responsibility and try to teach them how to put together a budget that you actually stick to.”
Murray lost his bid against Suffolk County. Legis. Jack Eddington (I-Medford) in November.
Murray is the president of D & S Advertising Inc, which prints various free publications and delivers several others, including Long Island Press.
The 3rd Assembly District includes Suffolk County’s South Shore Bellport, Blue Point, Brookhaven Hamlet, Coram, Farmingville, Gordon Heights, Holtsville, Medford, Middle Island, Patchogue, and parts of, Mastic, Selden, Shirley, Yaphank and parts of Fire Island.