By Jano Tantongco
Candidates for both the New York State Assembly and Senate squared up at a Meet The Candidates forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Huntington at the Harborfields Public Library in Greenlawn Monday night.
Facing off for the 2nd Senate District are Democrat Peter Magistrale and Libertarian Stephen Ruth and Republican incumbent Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), who’s also majority leader.
For the 5th Senate District, Democrat James Gaughran and Republican incumbent Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset).
In the 10th Assembly District, Republican incumbent Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R-South Huntington) was unmatched as his opponent, Democrat Edwin Perez, was unable to attend the forum. Since Perez did not attend, Lupinacci was not permitted to participate in the forum.
For the 12th Assembly District, Democrat Spencer Rumsey debated with incumbent Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport).
The recent issue of gang violence in Brentwood was one of the topics debated on Monday as some speculated that the violence is spreading to the Huntington township.
Moderator Lisa Scott, president of the LWV of Suffolk, asked the candidates what they would do about issues of public safety issues.
Raia said the 12th Assembly District incorporates parts of Brentwood and that he is already been working with various officials to help improve safety and cut down on crime.
“I’ve been meeting with our school districts, I’ve been talking to our police,” Raia said.
“We’ve been trying to work to make it a safer environment right down there, but also right up here in Huntington.”
Rumsey, a journalist by trade, said he wants to see more funding for treatment centers for drug abuse to help curb the issues at their roots.
“As for the gangs, I drove past Melissa’s restaurant on my way here… that’s where there was a shooting,” Rumsey said. “And then you see what’s going on with the discoveries of the gangs in Brentwood. So, clearly you need to actually offer much more economic opportunity.”
In the 2nd Senate District race, Stephen Ruth, commonly known as the “Red Light Robin Hood” for his actions to illegally disable red light cameras throughout the county, criticized the Suffolk Police Department’s plan to install 50 license plate readers in Brentwood in an effort to crack down on crime. Ruth claimed this would not help solve the issue.
“What we need to do is for the police officers in these neighborhoods on foot patrol, bike patrol,” he said. “We need the police officers in the bad neighborhoods, not in the parking lots hanging out outside the bad neighborhoods.”
On the topic of political ethics, moderator Scott asked the candidates how they would prevent being “vulnerable to special interests.” Scott also asked for thoughts on implementing term limits and public campaign financing.
Staying in the 2nd Senate District, Flanagan said he’s opposed to public financing, pointing to New York City’s system, which he called a “disaster.”
“I believe in transparency and disclosure because there are a lot of groups who provide
funding to all types of candidates,” Flanagan said.
On term limits, he said we already have them. “They’re called elections,” he said.
Magistrale, a certified public accountant, said he supports public financing. He said that human nature leaves politicians vulnerable to undue influence.
“Money was invented to buy things. When someone gives you money, it’s going to have an effect on your decision making,” Magistrale said. “The only way that the public will be in power is if they’re the ones funding the elections.”
Fifth Senate District candidate James Gaughran, a former Huntington councilman in the late 80s and county legislator from 1988-1993, said he believes in mandatory term limits for members of the state Senate and Assembly.
“I think it is important that we have real ethics reform,” he added. “We need to ban or strictly limit outside income for members of the New York State Legislature.”
Marcellino, the 5th Senate District incumbent, said he believes in “full reporting, full disclosure,” and that every citizen “should know where every dollar comes from in a campaign.” He also opposes public financing.
Marcellino added that the New York State Senate already imposes voluntary term limits on itself to allow rotation in the seats of the majority leader and committee chairs.
“That was done voluntarily. There’s no law that’s necessary. We do that,” he said.
“Somebody else should get a chance to bring new thoughts and new ideas to the system.”
Election Day is Nov. 8.