11/30/12 12:25pm
11/30/2012 12:25 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Senator Ken LaValle speaks with News 12 at the GOP election night gala at Emporium in Patchogue. Mr. LaValle secured 60 percent of the vote this year in his 18th re-election bid.

Late on the evening of Nov. 6, 1990, Senator Ken LaValle hung up the phone at his campaign headquarters in Selden and looked out at his crowd of supporters.

He had just received a concession call from his opponent that year, Sherrye Henry, a TV political talk show host who spent a whopping $500,000 to unseat the then 14-year senator.

Ms. Henry had received just 34 percent of the vote.

To this day, political pundits and newspaper scribes say the East Hampton resident, with roots in Memphis, Tenn., and New York City, put up the toughest fight against Mr. LaValle of any of the 19 opponents he faced since he first ran for office in 1976.

Yet she didn’t come close.

The election success of Mr. LaValle, 73, who come January will share the distinction of being the longest-tenured senator in New York, is nearly unparalleled among state senators in the U.S.

When Mr. LaValle is sworn in for his 19th term in January, Republican William Doyle of Vermont will be the only active state senator in the nation to have served more terms. Mr. Doyle, 86, was first elected to his post in 1968 and won a 23rd term earlier this month.

In all, six state senators across the U.S. will have been in office longer than Mr. LaValle as of January, though five of them serve in states where they have to run only once every four years. Democrat Fred Risser of Wisconsin is the longest-tenured state senator in the U.S., having been first elected in 1962 after serving six years in the Wisconsin State Assembly.

That means that of the 1,971 state senators serving in this country next year, only Mr. Doyle, Mr. Risser, Democrat Chuck Colgan of Virginia, Democrat Douglas Henry of Vermont and Democrats Norman Stone and Mike Miller of Maryland have been in office longer than Mr. LaValle.

They tried, they lost

“I certainly was circumspect about my chances to win, but there was a part of me at that time that thought it might be possible.” 

— Ira Costell, LaValle opponent, 1986 

It’s been 100 years since a Democrat was elected to represent New York’s 1st Senatorial District. Thomas H. O’Keefe of Oyster Bay won the post by 2,355 votes over Republican George L. Thompson on Nov. 5, 1912. The anti-Tammany Democrat was one of just 12 senators in 1913 to vote against the impeachment of Governor William Sulzer, who remains the only New York State governor ever to be impeached.

Mr. O’Keefe did not seek re-election in 1914 and was replaced by his opponent in the previous election.

Mr. Thompson spent the next 26 years in office, beginning an era of Republican domination that has continued through this month’s re-election of Mr. LaValle. The senator’s most recent opponent, Bridget Fleming of Sag Harbor, who gained just under 40 percent of the vote, actually fared better than any other opponent in a LaValle re-election bid.

In the past century, only eight Democrats have received a higher percentage of the 1st District vote than Ms. Fleming did this year.

One of those candidates was longtime Stony Brook University physicist Barry McCoy, who received 42.55 percent of the vote in 1976, the year Mr. LaValle was first elected. Mr. McCoy, who Mr. LaValle called the “greatest tactician” he’s ever faced, made a name for himself in 1974, at the height of the Watergate Scandal, when he led the first Democratic takeover of the Brookhaven Town Board, Mr. LaValle said.

“It was like I was playing chess with him,” the senator recalled in an interview this week. “He’d make a remark [at a campaign event] like ‘I’ve got 200 volunteers working for me.’ I’d say to my staff, ‘We need to have 201 volunteers.’ ”

SUFFOLK TIMES FILE PHOTO | Ken LaValle as he appeared during his 1976 bid to obtain the seat formerly held bu his good friend Leon Giuffreda, for whom he served as chief aide.

Mr. LaValle was 37 years old when he first sought public office in 1976. A teacher and school administrator in the Middle Country School District in the 1960s, he went on to serve as an aide to his predecessor, Leon Giuffreda. In that capacity, Mr. LaValle served as executive director of the Senate committee on education and the joint legislative committee on mental and physical handicaps.

In the Suffolk Times’ 1976 voter guide, Mr. LaValle said the key issue for the five East End Towns — the 1st District at the time also included all of Brookhaven Town except Patchogue and Blue Point — was to “maintain integrity over zoning so that the character of the area will be maintained.”

Mr. McCoy, who secured the Democratic nomination through a primary after “Doc” Menendez of Riverhead was the choice coming out of the convention, stated in the same guide that his key issue was to prevent the construction of a Cross Sound Bridge connecting Long Island to Connecticut.

Heralded largely for his experience in Albany, Mr. LaValle quickly emerged as the favorite in the race and never lost his edge in a year that saw Democrat Jimmy Carter elected president and Democrat Otis Pike re-elected to Congress in New York’s 1st District. Mr. LaValle enjoyed particular success in Southold and Southampton towns, where he received a 5,200-vote advantage over his opponent.

He quickly increased his profile on the East End by introducing the Farmland Preservation Act in his first term. The landmark legislation called for state and local governments to each pay half the cost of buying and preserving farmland. In return for accepting fair-market value for land, a farmer would agree to include a deed restricting the land from being sold for anything but farming.

By the time his first bid for re-election rolled around in 1978, Mr. LaValle had become so popular he received 5,000 more votes than he did in his first election bid, despite the fact that 1978 was a non-presidential year in which 1st District voter turnout dropped 20 percent.

It would be another 12 years before a LaValle opponent would receive more than 30 percent of the vote.

The senator has outgained his opponents by such large margins that many have wondered if Democrats have even tried most years to unseat him.

In a recent interview, even Ms. Henry, widely regarded as his most legitimate challenger, said she believed this.

“A lot of years the candidate has been nothing more than a name on a ballot,” Ms. Henry said.

It’s a point Mr. LaValle takes exception to.

In 1980, he defeated Robert Gottlieb by the fifth-largest margin over anyone he’s ever defeated, yet he says Mr. Gottlieb, a former Suffolk County assistant district attorney, put up a nasty fight.

“He was the most pugnacious opponent I ever faced,” Mr. LaValle said of Mr. Gottlieb. “If I said it’s raining outside, he’d say ‘How do you know that?’ ”

Even the man who received the fewest votes of all against Mr. LaValle, Ira Costell of Port Jefferson Station, said he put his best foot forward. Mr. Costell, then a 28-year-old who one year earlier had run an unsuccessful campaign for Brookhaven Town Board but fared well along the North Shore, received just 19,013 votes in 1986, a low turnout year. An anti-Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant candidate, he secured just 25.9 percent of the vote despite capturing the endorsement of the historically conservative Suffolk Life newspaper.

“It’s actually kind of depressing I got the least votes,” Mr. Costell said with a laugh. “But it was definitely a daunting task.”

The chosen one

“I didn’t just lose a campaign that year, I lost my reputation.” 

 Sherrye Henry, LaValle opponent, 1990

Sherrye Henry was a popular New York City television and radio personality in the 1970s and ’80s who claims in her 1994 book “The Deep Divide” to have at one time hosted the city’s most listened-to radio interview program.

The first woman in the country to broadcast television editorials, Ms. Henry was best known as a staunch feminist. A 1971 print advertisement for her CBS morning television show “Woman!,” vowed to promote the issues that matter most to women, not just give “cooking lessons” or “sewing tips.”

In 1990, Governor Mario Cuomo asked former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro to recruit women to run in 14 districts across New York where Democrats believed a campaign on feminist issues could help the party gain a majority in a state Senate where Republicans held just a four-seat advantage. The strategy came on the heels of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that would have put abortion rights in the hands of state legislators.

Ms. Ferraro tapped Ms. Henry, who split her time between East Hampton and Manhattan, to run in the 1st District. A Yale graduate, and no stranger to politics, Ms. Henry had connections to the Kennedys and her former husband served as commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission during John F. Kennedy’s presidency.

RON GALELLA PHOTO / WIREIMAGE | Sherrye Henry was famed Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein’s date to the inaugural Guild Hall Awards at St. Regis Hotel in New York City in 1985.

Most importantly to Ms. Ferraro and Gov. Cuomo, Ms. Henry was a vocal pro-choice proponent whose media background could help her and 1st District Assembly candidate Linda Bird Francke secure prime television interviews.

“They even appeared on the Ted Koppel Show,” Mr. LaValle recalled.

Ms. Henry’s growing profile — Superman himself, Christopher Reeve, came out to support her — and her contrasting style from Mr. LaValle’s had his campaign worried.

Then there was the money being spent.

To this day, no LaValle opponent’s campaign committee has spent more than the half-million dollars spent by Ms. Henry. Only Regina Calcaterra of New Suffolk came close in 2010, spending nearly $400,000 before her bid was cut short due to residency restrictions. By comparison, Ms. Fleming’s run this year cost less than half of what Ms. Henry’s campaign spent 22 years earlier.

“They bought spots during the World Series,” Mr. LaValle said — an expensive buy in a year where the home team Yankees represented the American League.

One frequently aired radio and television advertisement, according to a 1990 New York Times story, criticized Mr. LaValle for voting “against our right to choose.”

“He’s just not listening to us,” the ad suggested to women voters.

It was a high-energy campaign complete with debates both Mr. LaValle and Ms. Henry described as spirited. Both candidates were forced to knock on thousands of doors across the East End. At one point polling numbers suggested the candidates were neck and neck, a Henry campaign staffer recalled.

Then things took a turn for the worse for the challenger.

In October, Ms. Henry’s campaign issued a mailer that ripped Mr. LaValle for poor attendance in the Senate, stating he had missed votes on 119 bills that year. They were working from information the state Democratic Committee had given them, but that information failed to reflect that nearly all of those votes occurred over a brief stretch during which Mr. LaValle was visiting his gravely ill father in a Long Island hospital and later attending to the details of his funeral.

That’s when the LaValle campaign took off the gloves.

The senator began to make frequent radio and television appearances decrying Ms. Henry’s “lack of accuracy and sensitivity,” according to the Nov. 8, 1990, issue of the Riverhead News-Review. Eventually, Ms. Henry offered a public apology.

Looking back, Ms. Henry said in an interview earlier this month that two tactics employed by the LaValle campaign still bother her to this day.

One was a print advertisement she said was created by artists at Suffolk Life that described her as “a woman of low moral character,” a statement she said was also made in Republican radio spots that year.

Ms. Henry’s other key beef with the LaValle campaign was a claim she said the senator made at the end of a televised debate that stated Ms. Henry had voted twice in the 1984 presidential election, at both her home district in East Hampton and her previous polling place in Manhattan. Ms. Henry said she voted only in East Hampton that year but, due to a Board of Elections oversight, her name still appeared on the voter log in the city.

“Like I was going to go from the Hamptons to the city for one extra vote in Mondale’s losing campaign,” Ms. Henry said. “At that point, the election had completely turned.”

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Senator Ken LaValle fields the concession call from Sherrye Henry on Election Day 1990.

By the time election night rolled around, Ms. Henry said she knew she had lost the campaign, she just didn’t realize by how much. The final tally was 52,306 votes for Mr. LaValle, to just 27,353 for Ms. Henry.

“I will remember that race in my grave,” Ms. Henry said.

As a victorious Mr. LaValle hung up the phone that night at campaign headquarters, he uttered one sentence to his teary-eyed family members and campaign staffers.

“Well, this victory was for pop,” he said.

How he does it

“He has a remarkable ability to listen.” 

John Jay LaValle, Suffolk County
Republican chairman

Senator LaValle often references a thick black binder he keeps with him on the Senate floor. Indexed in the bulging book is community input on key issues. If a constituent calls his office to voice support or opposition to a particular piece of legislation, a LaValle staffer will log the call, which makes its way into the book. Newspaper columns and editorials also get clipped and inserted.

But don’t expect to see Mr. LaValle sipping a cup of coffee and reading the latest issue of the Port Jefferson Times Record at his Port Jefferson home during campaign season.

“I don’t ever open the local papers during a campaign,” he said. “And I only listen to Connecticut radio stations.”

He says that tactic keeps his mind clear of claims made in political advertisements.

It’s all part of a larger philosophy the senator has developed that he says keeps him from looking back on the past. Because of this mind-set, he claims he doesn’t regret a single vote he’s ever cast.

“I talk to other senators who tell me they don’t sleep the night before a big vote,” he said. “I’ve had very few, if any, votes where I had to think about it at the last minute.”

He says that he votes based largely on constituent feedback given to him and his staff. If public input is split on an issue — he said he voted against gay marriage last year even though the communication he received was near 50/50 — he uses campaign promises he made and his own intuition to determine how to vote.

“I ran on civil unions [in 2010],” he said of his vote against the bill that ultimately legalized gay marriage. “I wasn’t going back on that.”

It’s the issues, Mr. LaValle said, that keep him interested in his job. He admits that when he first ran in 1976, he told reporters he would not remain in the position for more than 10 years.

He almost stayed true to that promise. In early 1986, Republican leaders made a strong push for him to run a primary against Congressman William Carney. It’s one of three times he’s been asked to seek higher office.

But by April 1986, he had withdrawn his name from consideration.

“I never really wanted to go to Washington,” Mr. LaValle said. “And looking at Washington today, I’m so glad I didn’t.”

Ultimately, he said his decisions to seek re-election to the Senate have been based largely on a desire to follow legislation he is working on to the finish line. This year, he said, the decade-old negotiation to unite Southampton Hospital with the Stony Brook University system was his single biggest reason to stay in office. As it turns out, a deal was struck late in his 2012 campaign. He said he is looking to expand on his goal to improve health care on the East End by also bringing both Peconic Bay Medical Center and Eastern Long Island Hospital into the Stony Brook system. He said this week that meetings have already been scheduled with officials at both hospitals.

RIBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Mr. LaValle during his latest concession call. Of 1,971 state senators in the U.S., Mr. LaValle has won the second most elections.

The face-to-face meeting is where LaValle supporters say the senator excels politically.

“He’s everywhere,” said county GOP chairman John Jay LaValle, a former Brookhaven Town Supervisor and a cousin of the senator. “A lot of politicians win an election or two and they get lazy. Ken has never let up. He has a presence at every major event and he has a passion for learning and a passion for listening.”

Even his critics and former opponents acknowledge that it’s hard to miss Mr. LaValle and his trademark red baseball cap at events throughout the district, even if they disagree with his politics.

“Listen, he’s affable and gentlemanly and an overall nice guy,” said Mr. Costell, his 1986 opponent. “But I think a lot of his success has come from the clout he’s built through decades worth of political favors. He’s definitely a go-along-to-get-along kind of guy.

“As a person, he’s a fine individual, but for the great length that he’s been in office I’m hard pressed to come up with that trademark legislation of his that’s had a dramatic impact,” Mr. Costell said.

Of course, Mr. LaValle disagrees. He frequently points to his sponsorship of the Pine Barrens Protection Act of 1993 as his signature bill. As a longtime chairman of the Senate higher education committee, he also lists the expansion of Stony Brook University, where the $22 million football stadium bears his name, among his career highlights.

“My desire is to see Stony Brook move up the ranks of national universities,” he said.

And to that end, he says he has no plan to quit, even as he enters his first year as the senior member of the Senate — a distinction he will share with 80-year-old Sen. Hugh Farley of Schenectady, who was also first elected in 1976.

He said he doesn’t plan to slow down, either.

“It all goes back to something my father would always say when I was playing sports in my youth,” Mr. LaValle said. “He’d say ‘I don’t care if you win or lose, just don’t get out-hustled.’ ”

gparpan@timesreview.com

11/08/12 12:00pm

JOHN GRIFFIN PHOTO | The crowd goes wild at Suffolk County Democratic Committee Headquarters as they hear Obama won Tuesday night.

Times/Review contributing photographers John Griffin and Robert O’Rourk documented election night with their cameras Tuesday.

Griffin shot the Democratic gala at the Islandia Marriott. O’Rourk was with the GOP at its gala at Emporium in Patchogue.

Below are some photos from the events they covered:

/ 23
11/08/12 8:00am

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | Al Krupski and Congressman Tim Bishop at a March event in Southold.

Scott Russell vs. Al Krupski?

County Legislator Ed Densieski?

Faulk for Legislature?

These are some of the names being bounced around by party leaders to replace County Legislator Ed Romaine, who won a special election Tuesday for Brookhaven Town Supervisor.

Mr. Krupski was the only potential candidate named Tuesday night by Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer. He said Wednesday that he’s interested, but he can’t commit to running in a special election just yet.

“I can’t say yes but I’m not saying no,” said Mr. Krupski, the only Democrat to hold a Town Board post in Mr. Romaine’s district.  “I’m going to talk about it with Rich and then talk about it with my family. I certainly know the district and the county, so it’s not like I’m coming out of the cabbage patch.”

In that comment Mr. Krupski pokes fun at his life as a pumpkin farmer, and raises the question on whether he can run his family’s Peconic agricultural business while simultaneously representing a legislative district that stretches from Fishers Island to Center Moriches.

“That’s going to take a little bit of reflection,” he said.

Art Tillman, Southold Democratic leader, responded with enthusiasm on the prospect of councilman’s candidacy.

“I think it would be great to have a farmer serving in the County Legislature,” Mr. Tillman said.

Mr. Krupski, Southold’s only elected Democrat, has long been considered the heir-apparent to Republican Supervisor Scott Russell.

During the Southold Polish Democratic Club’s “roast” of Mr. Krupski earlier this year, Mr. Schaffer went as far as to describe the councilman as “Southold’s next supervisor.”

And he still could be. Especially if Mr. Russell ran for the open legislature seat. Sound like a stretch? Well, Suffolk County Republican chairman John Jay LaValle said Wednesday that Mr. Russell’s name has been discussed for the post, though he said he has not yet had a conversation with the supervisor about it.

Mr. Russell said that’s unlikely, especially with Mr. Krupski on the ballott.

“There’s no scenario whatsoever where I would be running against Albert for any elected office,” he said.

If Krupski wasn’t in the mix?.

“I’m pretty invested in Southold Town,” said Mr. Russell, who confirmed he hasn’t talked to Mr. LaValle. “There’s a lot of demands to being supervisor, but at the end of the day I’m still in Southold. I still get to go to my kid’s football game. The strains of covering four towns would hamper my ability to be a good dad. Politics is all about timing and the timing isn’t right.”

Mr. Russell noted that for a brief time in 1995 he actually was the expected GOP nominee for Legislature, but was replaced at the nominating convention by former Legislator Mike Caracciolo.

Mr. LaValle said he has been approached about the vacant seat by Bill Faulk, an aide to Mr. Romaine, and former Riverhead Town Councilman Ed Densieski.

Riverhead Town Councilmembers John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio have both expressed interest, among other Republicans about the job.

Riverhead GOP chairman John Galla said Republicans will have many options.

“I think you’re going to see a deep bench of candidates,” he said. “I’m sure you’ll hear from people who might come forward now that the people of Brookhaven made their decision.”

Anthony Coates, an aide to Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter, said he plans to pursue a political office in 2013. He is expected to make an announcement next week.

Mr. Romaine said his replacement in the Legislature will have to fight hard to get the residents of the North Fork what they need. He said that person will need to stand up to others “for what is right” for the East End.

“If the issues are right and you can make a decent case, you can prevail,” said Mr. Romaine when asked what advice he’d give his replacement.

And what might those key issues be?

“Preserving farmland and open space,” he said. “Working on the Peconic Estuary to minimize nitrogen pollution and preventing red and brown tide. Working to preserve our coastline from erosion. And ensuring that taxes stay low. I can go on and on.”

Mr. Romaine secured about 57 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s special election to replace former supervisor Mark Lesko. He outperformed Democratic nominee Brian Beedenbender of Centereach by more than 20,000 votes.

Reporting by Jennifer Gustavson, Tim Kelly, Paul Squire and Michael White.

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.

11/07/12 12:53am

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Ed Romaine, right, was elected Brookhaven Town Supervisor Tuesday. He’s shown here with Brookhaven GOP chairman Jesse Garcia.

Election season came to a close on the North Fork Tuesday. It starts back up Wednesday.

That’s because North Fork County Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches) has won a special election to become the next Brookhaven Town Supervisor, setting up a February special election to fill his seat in the Legislature.

“Tomorrow is a new day for cheers,” Mr. Romaine told GOP supporters at the party gala in Patchogue Tuesday night.

He said his replacement in the Legislature will have to fight hard to get the residents of the North Fork what they need. He said that person will need to stand up to others “for what is right” for the East End.

“If the issues are right and you can make a decent case, you can prevail,” said Mr. Romaine of what advice he’d give his replacement.

Now the attention will turn to just who that replacement will be.

Suffolk County Democratic Chairman Richard Schaffer of Babylon said his first phone call Wednesday will be to gauge the interest of Southold Councilman Al Krupski, the only Democrat to serve on a Town Board in Mr. Romaine’s district.

“People respect him and know he calls it like he sees it,” said Mr. Schaffer of Mr. Krupski. He did not discuss any other potential candidates.

The Republican picture isn’t as clear but a pair of Riverhead Councilmembers, Jodi Giglio and John Dunleavy, previously expressed an interest in the post to the News-Review.

Democrats, with a 12-member caucus that includes two minor-party members, currently hold a majority in the Suffolk County Legislature. The County Executive, Steve Bellone, is also a Democrat.

Reporting by 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 11:40pm

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Riverhead tax receiver Laurie Zaneski hugs her deputy, Cori Fife, on election night.

In the race for Riverhead tax receiver, Republican incumbent Laurie Zaneski was easily elected to the post Tuesday night, defeating Democrat Robert Gottschalk by an unofficial vote of 6,188 to 1,900, although neither of them appeared on the ballot with major party backing.

Because both parties missed the deadline for petitions for major party candidates due to the unexpected resignation of longtime tax receiver MaryAnn Heilbrunn, Ms. Zaneski ended up on the ballot as the Riverhead Taxpayers First party candidate and Mr. Gottschalk had the Taxpayers Unite line, since minor parties have more time to file nominating petitions.

Ms. Zaneski had been the deputy tax receiver, an appointed position, for eight years and was nominated by the Republicans to run for Ms. Heilbrunn’s seat. It was her first run for an elected office.

“It was exciting and exhausting,” she said after the vote, which saw her gain 76 percent of the vote. “I’m still a little overwhelmed. But now we can push forward and keep doing what we’re doing.”

She was overheard saying “I’m so glad it’s over,” as she hugged a relative Tuesday night at her home in Aquebogue, where friends and relatives gathered to watch the results.

Town Republican leaders were in Patchogue, watching the Congressional race results.

Over in Democratic headquarters, at the Polish Town Civic Association headquarters, it was apparent early that Mr. Gottschalk, a former town assessor, was trailing by a large margin.

“It doesn’t look good,” he said, as he watched his cellphone.

Afterwards, when told how far behind he was, he joked, “I’m moving to Brookhaven.”

Riverhead Republican chairman John Galla said Republicans made about 1,000 “robocalls” earlier in the day in support of Ms. Zaneski. He said he was worried about the fact that the minor party line she ran on was at the bottom of the ballot.

Ms. Zaneski was elected to fill the remaining three years of Ms. Heilbrunn’s term. Ms. Heilbrunn had been reelected to a four year term last year and decided in mid-year to step down.

 tgannon@timesreview.com

 

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.