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Election 2018: State and federal candidates meet at FRNCA forum

Candidates for state Senate, state Assembly and Congress attended a forum during last Monday’s meeting of the Flanders, Riverhead and Northampton Community Association. 

November’s elections will pit longtime incumbent state Sen. Ken LaValle, 79, of Port Jefferson against perennial candidate Greg Fischer, 61, of Calverton. Mr. Fischer ran against Mr. LaValle in 2016 and has sought many other elective offices over the years, but has yet to win one. 

Mr. LaValle, a Republican, was first elected in 1976. He has the backing of the Republican, Conservative, Independence and Reform parties. 

Mr. Fischer has just the Democratic line.

Incumbent 1st District Assemblyman Fred Thiele of Sag Harbor, a registered Independence Party member, is running with Democratic support. The district includes Flanders, Riverside and all of the South Fork and Shelter Island. Mr. Thiele, 65, was elected to the Assembly in 1995 after previously serving as Southampton Town supervisor and Suffolk County legislator. 

Patrick O’Connor, 53, of Southampton, is challenging Mr. Thiele and has the Republican and Conservative lines. 

Mr. Thiele is running on the Democratic, Independence, Working Families, Women’s Equality and Reform parties. 


Patrick O’Connor 

Patrick O’Connor. (Tim Gannon photo)

“I am an information technology professional with 30 years of experience in a wide range of applications, ranging from health care to business to inventory to warehousing,” Mr. O’Connor said. 

“I am the type of person the legislators turn to when they need answers to their problems. I’m just suggesting we cut out the middle-man and put me in office and see what I can do. 

“I am a passionate mathematician and I’ve seen the numbers. Right now, there are issues here concerning crime, the Route 24 circle and opioid abuse. 

“The most important issue is the high cost of living, and how issues in Albany artificially increased those costs for us. Sometimes, legislators don’t have our backs.”

Mr. O’Connor said he thinks all laws should be enforced equally. 

Fred Thiele 

Fred Thiele. (Tim Gannon photo)

“If you watch politics, people used to complain about mudslinging. Now it’s more like knife-throwing,” Mr. Thiele said.  

“That’s not my approach. I am an independent. I’m the only independent in the New York State Legislature. There are 213 members and I’m the only independent. I work with Republicans, I work with Democrats, because you have to work across party lines if you’re going to get things done in Albany.”

Mr. Thiele said that he and Sen. LaValle have worked together to get 19 bills passed in the past year. 

On issues relevant to the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton communities in recent years, Mr. Thiele said he and Mr. LaValle were responsible for getting Route 24 repaved; passing state legislation allowing work on the Riverside roundabout to begin; securing approval for two traffic signals on Route 24; getting funding for a sewer district study and a maritime trail; working with the county to approve a “text stop” on Route 25 named after Barbara Tocci, who died in an accident allegedly caused by someone texting and driving; and getting payments in lieu of taxes for local municipalities when land is taken off the tax rolls. 


Ken LaValle

Ken LaValle. (Tim Gannon photo)

“This is one of the most active civic associations in the 1st Senate District,” Mr. LaValle said of FRNCA. “This has been a great civic association working with us and, most of the time, we have solved or addressed the problem.”

He said Mr. Thiele “did a great job” listing many of the items they have worked on together. 

Mr. LaValle said he and FRNCA president Ron Fisher, along with Anne Marie Spagnoletti and Diana Ruvolo of the Mobile and Manufactured Homeowners Association, have been working on potential legislation to help mobile home owners, a number of whom were present at the FRNCA meeting. 

Two laws that mobile home owners have unsuccessfully tried to get passed over the years are a measure prohibiting “unconscionable rent increases” and another giving mobile home owners the right of first refusal to buy their park if the owner is selling it.  

Mr. LaValle said a proposed law on rent increases is in its early stages and he expects to have formal language to review by November. 

Greg Fischer

Greg Fischer. (Tim Gannon photo)

“I have a theme, which is ‘We need a turnaround,’ because nothing has changed,” Mr. Fischer said in explaining why he’s running. 

He said the state’s problem is lack of money. 

“We have very stable income but we have costs that double every 15 years. That also was a recipe for complete calamity,” he said. 

Mr. Fischer said he has degrees in business, finance and economics and has 35 years of consulting experience. He is a volunteer consultant for the Service Corps of Retired Executives, under the U.S. Department Small Business Administration, which helps people start and retain small businesses. 

“I’m looking to do this economic development at a higher level,” he said.

His economic development plan? Magnetic levitation, which was developed at Brookhaven National Laboratory in 1968 by James Powell of Shoreham and the late Gordon Danby of Wading River. 

It’s a form of high-speed transportation that uses magnets to levitate and power a train with no moving parts. The technology has been used in Europe and Asia but never caught on in the United States. It would require federal government bonds and the right of way to go under any federal highway.

“After that, we’re on our own,” Mr. Fischer said. 

(Mr. Powell’s son, Dr. Jesse Powell, is president of Maglev Strategies LLC, which hopes to establish a National Maglev Research Center and test track at the Enterprise Park at Calverton.)

Mr. Fischer also proposes using EPCAL for a motorsports park using electric cars, as well as for quads and dirt bikes. 


Perry Gershon

Perry Gershon. (Tim Gannon photo)

According to Ron Fisher of FRNCA, incumbent Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin of Shirley, 38, missed the forum because he was in Washington for voting sessions.

However, his Democratic opponent, 56-year-old Perry Gershon of East Hampton, did attend. 

“I never expected to run for office,” Mr. Gershon said. “I’m doing this as a reaction to what’s happened in this country. The hyper-partisanship that’s going on really has me terrified.”

He said elected representatives have lost touch with the people they are supposed to be representing.

“I think we need to bring a new breed of people in Washington,” he said.

Mr. Gershon said he’s met with people for the past year and found the issues they care about are health care, the environment, women’s equality, the right to choose, “doing something about the gun situation” and improving the economy.

The money from the recent tax cut should have gone into improving infrastructure, he said. 

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