11/07/12 12:55am
11/07/2012 12:55 AM

JOHN GRIFFIN PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop gives his victory speech at Suffolk County Democratic Committee Headquarters at the Islandia Marriott Tuesday.

Congressman Tim Bishop is headed back to Washington for a sixth term.

Two years after it took 36 days for the Southampton Democrat to claim victory over opponent Randy Altschuler, it took him less than three hours to deliver an acceptance speech Tuesday.

“My opponent may have had the guys with the big checks,” Mr. Bishop told supporters at the Islanda Marriott. “I had the guys with the big hearts.”

Mr. Bishop secured 132,525 votes to 121,478 for Mr. Altschuler, a Republican businessman from St. James.

The Congressman, who garnered 52 percent of the vote Tuesday, had defeated Mr. Altschuler by just 593 votes in 2010.

Mr. Bishop, who was also celebrating President Barack Obama’s reelection Tuesday night, will still be in the minority next year as Republicans kept control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“We’ve got serious problems to solve in this country and I very much hope now that a very, very brutal election season is behind us, we’ll set partisan differences aside and try to resolve issues for the American people,” Mr. Bishop said. “The dysfunction over the last two years certainly demonstrates that hyper-partisanship doesn’t work. We’ve tried that, we’ve now had an election, the president was reelected, so now let’s go to work to support the American people and businesses.”

Mr. Altschuler said thanked his supporters and credited his opponent in a concession speech delivered at Emporium in Patchogue shortly after midnight.

“I’m going to go home and spend time with my family and help the community,” said Mr. Altschuler, 41. “Congressman Bishop ran a good campaign.”

Mr. Bishop is the first Congressman from New York’s First District to win a sixth term since Otis Pike of Riverhead, who served nine terms before retiring in 1978.

Mr. Bishop was one of several area incumbents to claim a win Tuesday, with Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemblyman Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham) winning reelection with landslide victories.

Mr. LaValle, 73, is now, along with Schenectady Republican Hugh Farley, the longest tenured New York State Senator. Both men were first elected in 1976. Senator Owen Johnson, also from Suffolk, did not seek reelection this year after serving since 1972.

Mr. LaValle secured 60 percent of the vote Tuesday over Southampton Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, a Democrat from Sag Harbor.

Mr. Losquadro, 40, easily defeated Nicholas Deegan of Mattituck with 66 percent of the vote.

Reporting from Jennifer Gustavson and Michael White.

11/06/12 11:41pm
11/06/2012 11:41 PM

We’ll be live blogging Election Day results all night tonight. We’ll also have reporters with Congressman Tim Bishop and Republican challenger Randy Altschuler.

Follow along with the results, watch live streaming video of the speeches and to share your own election night thoughts and opinions.

We’ll also have reaction from Senator Ken LaValle, Assemblyman Dan Losquadro and County Legislator Ed Romaine, who’s running in a special election for Brookhaven Town Supervisor.

Additionally, we’ll have reporters keeping tabs on town elections in both Riverhead and Southold.

Tonight’s blog will be sponsored by Blackwells at Great Rock in Wading River and Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor.

11/06/12 5:00am

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop (left) and Republican Challenger Randy Altschuler at a Riverhead debate in September.

First Congressional District

Tim Bishop (D-Southampton)

Five-term incumbent Tim Bishop, 62, worked at Southampton College for 29 years, starting as an admissions counselor and serving for many years as provost, the chief administrative post. He left the college when first elected to Congress in 2002, defeating incumbent Republican Felix Grucci.

Mr. Bishop says if re-elected his legislative priorities will include job creation and economic expansion, protecting the environment, working for seniors and the middle class, providing access to affordable health care and supporting veterans.

A twelfth-generation Southampton resident, Mr. Bishop received his bachelor’s degree from The College of the Holy Cross and his master’s from Long Island University.

He serves on the Committee on Education, the Workforce and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and the Congressional Arts Caucus.

Mr. Bishop voted for the Affordable Health Care for America Act, commonly known as Obamacare, and the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, and his voting record reflects that he votes with the majority of House Democrats on almost every key issue.

Randy Altschuler (R-St. James)

Randy Altschuler, 41, is currently the executive chairman of CloudBlue, which recycles electronic equipment. Prior to that, he was the CEO of OfficeTiger, a company that provided office support services with employees around the world.

Mr. Altschuler ran for Mr. Bishop’s congressional seat in 2010, losing by 263 votes after an intense recount that proved to be the longest in the nation that year.

Mr. Altschuler attended New York City public schools, received his bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, studied abroad as a Fulbright Scholar and received his MBA from Harvard University.

If elected, Mr. Altschuler pledges to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act, work for the Republican plan for Medicare and Social Security reform, reform teacher tenure requirements and support school voucher programs.

First New York Senatorial District

Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson)

Incumbent Ken LaValle, 73, has held the 1st District state Senate seat since 1977, having been elected in November 1976. He has been chairman of the Senate committee on higher education since 1979 and is chairman of the Senate Majority Conference. He was a teacher before entering politics. Since he’s been in office, he earned a law degree from Touro College and is now a practicing attorney as well.

Mr. LaValle said he continues to receive support from his constituents, which is why he has won his re-election bids by overwhelming margins.

He says he’s working to get approval for the commission that Riverhead Town has advocated as a way of fast-tracking projects at EPCAL and, among other things, has been instrumental in establishing the Stony Brook Business Incubator in Calverton; has secured grant money for the J. Kings food processing facility in Baiting Hollow; and has helped to create a synergy among the three East End hospitals.

Mr. LaValle also lauds the 2 percent government tax levy cap.

“We’ve also reduced taxes for every tax category, with the majority of it going to the middle-income taxpayers,” he said.

Republicans currently have a majority in the state Senate, while Democrats control the Assembly.

Mr. LaValle is the father of two grown children and lives in Port Jefferson with his wife, Penny.

Bridget Fleming (D-Noyack)

Challenger Bridget Fleming, 52, is a matrimonial attorney who has been a Southampton Town councilwoman since March 2010.

Prior to that, she has served as chief of a Manhattan district attorney’s office unit that prosecuted fraud in public assistance programs such as welfare, public housing and Medicaid. Before that, she said, she prosecuted sex crimes.

As a Southampton Town Board member, Ms. Fleming says she’s helped to eliminate a budget deficit, thereby restoring the town’s credit rating; focused on proper staffing and controls in the town finance department; and spearheaded economic initiatives such as the Farm Fresh Market in Flanders, which is run by teenagers and sells local produce, and the Youth Build Project in Riverside, which teaches young people about sustainable building methods while restoring blighted homes.

She claims Mr. LaValle has not been effective in bringing the East End its fair share of school aid and says the amount of money East End residents pay in state taxes is more than what they get back in state services.

“Money comes out of our district, goes up to the pot in Albany and then doesn’t come back with us getting our fair share,” she said a recent debate. “We need somebody who is fighting for our local needs.”

A resident of Noyac since 2001, Ms. Fleming lives with her husband, Robert Agoglia, a general contractor, and their 9-year old son, Jai.

Riverhead Town Tax Receiver

This is a special election to fill the last three years of longtime Riverhead tax receiver Maryanne Heilbrunn’s term. She stepped down at the end of June.

Laurie Zaneski (R-Aquebogue)

This is incumbent tax receiver Laurie Zaneski’s first political race. The town’s deputy tax receiver since August 2003, Ms. Zaneski, of Aquebogue, was appointed tax receiver in September and has been running that office since Ms. Heilbrunn stepped down on June 30, she says.

Ms. Zaneski, 46, was nominated by the Riverhead Republican Committee but, because of a missed Board of Elections deadline, she is forced to run for tax receiver on an independent line, which the committee set up as Riverhead Taxpayers First.

“I’ve been on the job, doing the job,” Ms. Zaneski said. “I have the confidence of the public already; a lot of them already know me. The bottom line is the experience.”

Before working for the town, Ms. Zaneski was secretary to the director of operations at Cablevision in Riverhead. Before that, she worked for Central Suffolk Hospital (now Peconic Bay Medical Center).

She spoke in a candidate interview about “kitchen table economics.”

“People want to know their money is safe and we invest it properly to help the town,” she said.

Ms. Zaneski has been involved in many parent-teacher groups and booster clubs in the Riverhead School District and has three children in town schools. Her oldest daughter, Jocelyn, a high school senior, was a member of the Long Island champion girls’ basketball team this past school year.

Her husband, Kevin, is a 25-year member of the Riverhead Volunteer Fire Department and has worked as a New York City firefighter for the past 16 years.

Robert Gottschalk (D-Wading River)

Former town assessor Robert Gottschalk of Wading River was chosen by the town Democratic Committee in August to run in the special election for town tax receiver.

But like the Republicans, the Democrats missed a Board of Elections filing date so Mr. Gottschalk has had to run on an independent line, called Riverhead Taxpayers United.

Mr. Gottschalk, 56, was appointed to a one-year term as town assessor in 1998 after Leroy Barnes resigned, but lost the following election to Paul Leszcynski. He also ran unsuccessfully for assessor in 2007.

“I’m running for receiver of taxes this year because I feel that there’s a need to have a professional in the job,” he said in a candidate interview. “I have been your state-certified assessor in the past, I have an accounting background, I have been the fund administrator for the pension and welfare funds of several large unions and I have also have been active tax accountant for the last 35 years.

“It’s time that we put some people into the office that can do the job while they’re there,” he said.

Mr. Gottschalk has lived in Wading River for over 30 years and has a background in computers, accounting and real estate. He’s also worked for many years as a business representative and fund administrator for a projectionists’ union.

He’s a former president of the Polish Town Civic Association and a member of the Wading River Civic Association.

He served as chairman of the Riverhead Democratic Committee in 1994 and 1995.

Riverhead Town Justice

Allen Smith (R-Jamesport)

Incumbent Allen Smith, 69, of Jamesport, is running for another four-year term.

And again, he is running unopposed.

Judge Smith was first elected in 2000. His term doesn’t conform to regular town election years because he was originally elected to fill a term left open with the death of Henry Saxtein, and town justices in New York State must be elected to full four-year terms.

“I enjoy the job thoroughly,” Judge Smith said of his part-time role. “It’s intellectually stimulating.”

Before becoming a judge, Mr. Smith served as Riverhead Town supervisor, town attorney, a member of the Riverhead school board, a Suffolk County deputy attorney and a county personnel officer.

He also has a private law practice and has been a member of the Riverhead Fire Department since 1978.

In 2010, Judge Smith was named Judge of the Year by the Suffolk County Criminal Bar Association, the first time that honor ever went to a town justice.

Six years ago, he was also instrumental in establishing the East End Regional Intervention Court, commonly called “drug court,” with Southampton Town Justice Deborah Kooperstein.

“Our Riverhead committee believes that Judge Smith has proven himself to be an extraordinary jurist,” said Riverhead Republican Committee leader John Galla. “Fair, firm. These are the hallmarks of Judge Smith.”

The Democrats also did not challenge Judge Smith in his prior two elections.

10/24/12 5:13pm
10/24/2012 5:13 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Candidates for federal, state and local races , including State Senator Kenneth LaValle (standing), had the chance to introduce themselves to voters during the Mattituck Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon Wednesday.

Candidates running for federal, state and local offices answered Southold residents’ questions Wednesday afternoon during the Mattituck Chamber of Commerce’s “meet the candidates” luncheon at the Meetinghouse Creek Inn in Aquebogue.

Jeff Strong, president of Strong’s Marine in Mattituck, moderated the two-hour event where nearly 20 people gathered to listen to each candidate’s platform.

State Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) left after making an opening statement because he had another event to attend to this afternoon on Shelter Island. His Democratic challenger, Bridget Fleming of Noyac, was absent.

Below is an excerpt of answers to a question regarding the economy.

Question to congressional and state candidates: Do you see the local economy getting better or worse and what are your plans to help improve it?

Congressional candidates’ answers:

Incumbent Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton): The local economy is struggling from what has been the deepest recession in our nation’s history other than the Great Depression. I think there are signs that we are recovering, but we have a long, long way to go. One of things I’m working on is trying to bring the federal government back to the table in terms of investing in local wastewater infrastructure. The second thing is dealing with environment issues. I think the environment is our economy and the economy is our environment.

Challenger Randy Altshuler (R-St. James): When you speak to people locally, there’s a lot of uncertainty in the air. It’s scaring the daylights out of everybody. You see it from unemployment rates going up over the past decade to people becoming underwater with their mortgages. Some local businesses are seeing a little bit of a pick-up, but a lot of them are saying it’s still doing pretty poorly. I think we need change and the only way I think that will happen is if we have more business people in office.

State Assembly candidates’ answers:

Incumbent Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham): I don’t think the economy is doing very well at all. I think, in large part, that’s because of the burden that is placed upon businesses and residential taxes that drive up the overall cost of living. New York State spent $20 billion on Medicaid expenditures last year. We need to control spending in areas where people may not think relate to education funding. But if we save a billion dollars in Medicaid expenditures, that’s a billion dollars we can put back into education funding.

Challenger Nicholas Deegan (D-Mattituck): I think the local economy is starting on an upspring. The bigger thing out here is transportation. If we’re going to be able to sustain the agritourism and wine industries, then I think we have to deal with transportation very quickly so that by next summer we have a plan going into place. The roads can only handle so much. We need to get some of the traffic off the road.

Check back on Election Day for full coverage.

jennifer@timesreview.com

08/23/12 12:00pm
08/23/2012 12:00 PM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | A state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday controversial Metropolitan Transit Authority payroll tax is unconstitutional.

Local lawmakers are celebrating this morning following a state Supreme Court decision Wednesday calling the controversial Metropolitan Transit Authority payroll tax unconstitutional.

Many legislators have challenged the fairness of the tax since its inception, claiming that eastern Long Island receives paltry service from the MTA. Approved in 2009, the tax imposed a .34 percent levy on payroll for all employers, including schools and governments, in New York City and the seven surrounding suburban counties.

In June 2011, the state Senate, which has a narrow Republican majority, passed a bill to repeal the MTA payroll tax, but the legislation didn’t pass in the Democratically dominated Assembly.

Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches), who sponsored a bill to have Suffolk join Nassau County’s lawsuit, described the recent decision as “wonderful.”

“This is an illegal tax never that should never have been imposed,” Mr. Romaine said Thursday morning on his way to Mineola for a press conference about the court’s ruling.

Mr. Romaine called the MTA payroll tax “wrong, morally and legally” because East End service was cut after the tax was imposed. Since that time, Mr. Romaine said the tax has cost Suffolk County $10 million and $150 million for small businesses in the county

Mr. Romaine said although he’s pleased with the court’s recent decision, he believes the fight isn’t over because the next step would be local municipalities and business owners getting reimbursed from paying the tax over the past few years.

MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said in a statement the MTA will “vigorously appeal” the decision.

“We believe this opinion will be overturned, since four prior challenges to the constitutionality of the law making the same argument have been dismissed,” he said.

State Assemblyman Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham) said Thursday he’s “thrilled” about the decision and believes it will be upheld upon appeal.

“Myself and my colleagues have been fighting this egregious tax and I think [the decision] is certainly a step toward its complete removal,” Mr. Losquadro said.

jennifer@timesreview.com

08/20/12 8:00am
08/20/2012 8:00 AM

JOHN GRIFFIN FILE PHOTO | Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko delivers his State of the Town address in 2010. Mr. Lesko’s resignation in Brookhaven could spell change locally.

Whenever an elected town official resigns mid-term it has the potential to drastically shake up the political landscape in that town. It’s rare, however, that such a resignation can impact several towns.

That’s certainly the case though with last week’s announcement that Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko is stepping down next month.

What will make the resulting special election even more interesting is that it comes in a non-local year, giving every elected official in Brookhaven Town outside of Ken LaValle, Dan Losquadro and Dean Murray the opportunity to pursue the seat with no risk of losing their current post. [Both Mr. Losquadro and Mr. Murray might seek the seat anyway.]

Considering that Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine of Center Moriches is already the reported GOP favorite, according to Newsday, the election could have an impact on residents of Riverhead and Southold towns.

The North Fork Legislator seems a logical choice for Republicans. He’s a savvy pol with old-school charm and he’s been incredibly popular in recent elections for County Legislature. He’s also served countywide as a County Clerk.

The position might also interest Mr. Romaine as he nears the county term limit, and has spent each of his terms in the political minority on the Legislature.

Hurting Mr. Romaine’s chances might be the losses he suffered in the two largest elections of his political career, a bid for County Executive and Congress. A good portion of his voting base is outside of Brookhaven, too.

The GOP has a fairly deep pool of candidates to choose from with two Republican State Assemblyman living in Brookhaven, Dan Losquadro of Shoreham and Dean Murray of Patchogue; the leading contender off the Brookhaven Town Board, Councilman Dan Panico of Shirley; and another County Legislator in Thomas Muratore of Ronkonkoma.

That’s a decent pool of proven candidates in a year where the Suffolk GOP is already excited about its chances to grab a seat in the House of Representatives with St. James businessman Randy Altschuler back on the ballot after being narrowly defeated in 2010.

In fact, Mr. Lesko’s timing couldn’t have been worse for Suffolk Democrats, who were already looking to spend big to keep Congressman Tim Bishop in office.

Now they’ll have to raise even more money to keep control of the largest town in the county, where Mr. Lesko’s seat currently gives them a one-vote majority.

Newsday reports that Former Assemblyman Marc Alessi of Shoreham and Mr. Lesko’s top aide, Brian Beedenbender, are among the leading contenders for the Democratic nomination. Considering Mr. Alessi and Mr. Beedenbender lost their most recent elections — to Mr. Losquadro and Mr. Muratore, respectively — that’s not a great sign for the Democrats. Patchogue Village Mayor Paul Pontieri is also in the mix, but he comes with his own set of political baggage.

On the flip side, the other two townwide elected leaders in Brookhaven, John Rouse and Patricia Eddington, have both won on the Democratic line. But would they really want to move away from those two cozy posts?

Perhaps the Democrats’ best opportunity comes with having President Barrack Obama and Congressman Tim Bishop on the ballot, enabling their candidate to receive trickle-down votes from incumbents at the top of the ticket.

The fact that this special election comes in a presidential year, where voters are twice as likely to visit the polls, makes just about anything possible.

And should it be Mr. Romaine who earns the GOP nomination and ultimately the supervisorship, that could mean more than just a change in our local leadership on the County Legislature if local officials pursue his seat.

Just think about all the posts that could change hands at the town level if, say, one of the North Fork town supervisors pursued Mr. Romaine’s seat.

No matter how things shake out, the situation in Brookhaven is certainly worth keeping an eye on from out here.

Grant Parpan is the executive editor for Times/Review Newsgroup. He covered Brookhaven Town politics from 2006 to 2011 as a reporter and editor of the former North Shore Sun newspaper.

08/06/12 11:00am
08/06/2012 11:00 AM

Have you received a text asking you to respond “no” or “stop” or you’ll be charged for a service?

Most people would probably ignore such nonsense, but ignoring the text is a signal to a third party that you want to be charged for its “services.”

State Assemblyman Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham) fell victim to this rock-or-a-hard-place scam, called “cramming,” and he’s urging his constituents to contact their cell phone carriers to add what’s called a purchase block to their accounts.

A purchase block bars third parties from tagging services fees to phone bills, he said.

“I was recently a victim of wireless phone bill cramming and would have been charged more than ten dollars a month for a service that I did not explicitly authorize had I not caught this,” Mr. Losquadro said.  “I encourage everyone who has a mobile phone to contact their service provider and place a purchase block on their account immediately.”

Once the purchase block is in place, customers are issued a PIN number that must be entered to allow third parties to charge an account.

The Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission are investigating thousands of complaints and are predicting the problem will grow as more people grow accustomed to purchasing services through their phones.

“Although this appears to be entirely a federal issue, I am examining possible solutions with the New York State Department of State Division of Consumer Protection and will work with the FCC and FTC towards making purchase blocks a mandatory default feature for all wireless plans,” Mr. Losquadro said.  “While many families are currently struggling to pay their bills, the last thing they need to worry about is paying additional money for charges they did not permit or even know they are paying for.”

mwhite@timesreview.com

07/26/12 6:00am
07/26/2012 6:00 AM

Asked why he failed to support marriage equality when the bill failed in the state Senate three years ago, North Fork Senator Ken LaValle told a Times/Review reporter that his decision was a reflection of what his constituents wanted.

“What I have heard from a lot of people is that we are just not ready for it,” the Republican from Port Jefferson said. “It could happen someday in the future, but just not right now.”

The future began a year ago this week, as gay and lesbian couples were finally allowed to marry in New York State. Citing reasons similar to those he gave in 2009, Mr. LaValle voted against last year’s bill, too. Local Assemblyman Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham) also voted no on marriage equality.

Now a full year has passed and we ask Mr. LaValle, Mr. Losquadro and anyone else opposed to gay marriage just how their lives have been negatively affected by the 49 same-sex couples who have applied for marriage licenses on the North Fork in these past 12 months.

We suspect their lives haven’t changed much at all.

Here’s what has changed:

At least 98 of their neighbors (many more could have applied for licenses elsewhere) have been able to exercise a right so many of us take for granted. These same-sex couples have finally been given the same basic rights the state affords any of us.

They’ve been able to share in the joys and benefits of marriage. The pains, too.

Equality. Finally.

But there’s still work to be done.

One year later, 30 states still ban all forms of marriage not involving one man and one woman, and just five other states have comprehensive laws providing marriage equality like New York’s.

The Defense of Marriage Act still stands in the way of marriage equality for all Americans, despite many current active attempts to repeal the federal law.

Marriage equality in New York is a bright, shining example of how government can enact change for the good of its people. We hope the rest of America is watching. We hope they’re ready for it.