By Jano Tantongco
Before a statue of his role model, Theodore Roosevelt, and a group of supporters, James Gaughran denounced, on Tuesday, the corruption of government officials in Albany. The current Suffolk County Water Authority chairman, and former Huntington Town councilman, compared the status of Albany today to that of the 19th and 20th century when the infamously corrupt Tammany Hall reigned.
Roosevelt fought against that institution in his early political career. And Gaughran said he plans to fight a similar battle this election season as he runs for the seat in the state’s 5th Senate District.
“I’m going up there and we’re going to take them on,” he said. “The cost of this corruption is felt most by Long Island taxpayers and especially the kids of Long Island who go to public schools and are being shortchanged on education funding that they desperately need.”
Gaughran, of Northport, hopes to unseat Republican Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset), who has held the seat since 1995. The 5th Senate district encompasses an area from Glen Cove to the Smithtown border primarily from the LIE north, and includes most of the Town of Huntington.
While he launched the campaign from Oyster Bay – Marcellino’s home base – Gaughran is well known within the Huntington township.
He served as a Huntington councilman from 1984-1987. He was then elected to the Suffolk County Legislature, where he remained from 1988-1993. Gaughran, who also runs his own private practice as an attorney, has been Suffolk’s Water Authority chairman since 2010.
Rich Shaffer, chairman of the Suffolk County Democratic Committee, which has officially backed Gaughran, said in a statement that Gaughran would be a “different kind of Democratic state Senator,” one that “will fight corruption in Albany, and take on New York City Democrats and Mayor DeBlasio when he has to, to protect the interests of Long Island.”
Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills), who is running for the 3rd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, also supported Gaughran’s run.
“I would say that Jim is the right man at the right time,” he said. “We need to clean up Albany because New Yorkers are furious with rampant corruption.”
Gaughran emphasized that his platform would focus on issues including banning outside income for state legislators; prohibiting politicians, officials and candidates from spending campaign funds for personal use; eliminating backroom deals in Albany; and empowering local voters to remove officials who damage municipal credit ratings in corrupt dealings.
“Everything is done behind closed doors. Budgets are passed with very little time. We need to have full public debates,” Gaughran said.
Gaughran also vowed to keep Long Island a priority, unlike “people in the legislature that promote New York City at the expense of Long Island,” he said.
This resonated with Sherry Pavone, 40, of Northport, who attended Gaughran’s campaign announcement and said she wants a candidate free from New York City influence.
She added, “I’ve known Mr. Gaughran for many years. He is the epitome of an honest politician -- they’re very rare.”
Responding to a new candidate in the running, incumbent Marcellino responded Tuesday.
“Every two years, I have an opponent. This time is no different,” he said in a statement. “I am honored to serve the people of the 5th Senate District and, over the next few months, I will be asking for their continued support and confidence.”
State Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport), who previously worked as a legislative assistant for Marcellino, threw his support behind the incumbent in an interview Tuesday.
Raia said Marcellino has “always represented the district with zeal.”
Raia added, “He’s done a fine job championing the interests and concerns that are important to the folks.”