Endorsement: Perry Gershon for Congress
On election night 2016, Republican Suffolk County chairman John Jay LaValle praised Congressman Lee Zeldin by saying that he had gone to Washington, D.C., and become “a national TV star.” It was fitting praise, considering the direction politics has taken under President Trump. It’s all about ratings.
As much as Mr. Zeldin may enjoy his cameos on Fox News, however, the job of a congressman isn’t to become a TV star. It’s to represent the people of the district. And we need that now more than ever.
In seeking a third term to represent the 1st Congressional District, Mr. Zeldin, 38, of Shirley, is opposed by Democratic challenger Perry Gershon, 56, of East Hampton, who’s making his first run for public office. The race comes at a pivotal time in our nation, as Democrats seek to regain control of the House and restore some balance to the GOP-controlled government. Mr. Zeldin won re-election easily in 2016, but this year’s race is shaping up to be tighter. It would be naive to think Mr. Zeldin’s steadfast support of President Trump isn’t a key factor in that. In a district that seems to favor a more moderate representative, Mr. Zeldin’s views and actions sway far to the right, more so than most voters likely realized in the past two elections.
On local issues, Mr. Zeldin has touted the passage of recent legislation to create a new ZIP code for Flanders, Riverside and Northampton as a “major victory.” But it remains to be seen whether that actually becomes reality.
In August 2015, Mr. Zeldin held a press conference announcing he would write the U.S. Postmaster General asking for three new ZIP codes. A year later, Mr. Zeldin held a roundtable in Flanders to discuss a bill that had just passed a House committee to establish a new ZIP code. In February 2017, he re-introduced the same legislation. In January 2018, like Groundhog Day, a press release went out citing similar legislation. Most recently in September, he sent a press release detailing the passage of another bill.
That’s a lot of celebrating without actually delivering any results. The same could be said for preserving Plum Island to prevent its sale to the highest bidder. Mr. Zeldin says he believes the undeveloped portion of Plum Island should remain that way — and we can agree with that. But for all the press releases and announcements, Plum Island remains up for sale as of this writing. We can also give credit to Mr. Zeldin for recent legislation that will require the FAA to reassess the North Shore route for aircraft. But again, there’s no guarantee the FAA will listen to anyone’s concerns and change a thing. Then what?
These accomplishments add up to mere promises. And they’re positions that any congressman representing this district would take, Republican or Democrat.
Promises alone cannot boost Mr. Zeldin enough for North Fork voters to ignore his record on the national level. Whether it’s immigration, health care, environment or gun laws, Mr. Zeldin’s record is alarming and should deeply concern voters. He follows the president’s lead in using fear to rally voters, such as the threat of MS-13 when it comes to immigration. He issued a statement in 2017 using the murder of a Greenport woman as reason to back “Kate’s Law,” an anti-immigration policy. It’s unclear whether the law, as written, would actually have prevented that incident. But Mr. Zeldin still pushed the idea, fueling the notion that immigrants are only coming here to harm us.
Mr. Zeldin’s environmental voting record is particularly troubling considering the area he represents. He has done the work to secure necessary funding for the Long Island Sound and National Estuary programs. But when it comes to issues beyond his hometown, the environment becomes less and less a priority. The League of Conservation Voters, which has been grading officials since 1970, has given Mr. Zeldin a 10 percent lifetime score. Mr. Zeldin dismisses the score, saying the LCV is a partisan group.
Mr. Zeldin agreed with the president’s decision to leave the Paris climate agreement, a landmark effort among nations to combat climate change. Mr. Zeldin said he would be open to negotiating a better agreement for the U.S., but when asked if that’s currently happening, he said no. And he continues to stand by as the EPA is gutted by the Trump administration.
The congressman’s strong rating from the NRA has been well documented by his critics. Mr. Zeldin argues that citizens have a right to own firearms to protect themselves. But when he says that he would even support teachers arming themselves in classrooms, if they so choose and are qualified to handle a weapon, it becomes clear he will never champion any common-sense gun legislation.
Just this past week, the nation mourned another horrific tragedy. The mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue that left 11 people dead understandably dominated the news . But consider this: On that day alone, an additional 31 people died by gunfire across America. Too many of our elected officials are willing to accept that kind of bloodshed.
On many of these key issues, Mr. Gershon advocates a sensible approach that even moderate Republicans should support. He’s made health care a key campaign issue and will work to strengthen the Affordable Care Act, while Mr. Zeldin has spent his time in office trying to repeal it. We’re long past the point where we need to hear Republicans harp on how devastating the law will be. We need elected officials who will try to improve what is already in place.
Perry Gershon promises to focus on environmental issues and will vote in favor of climate change protections. He promises to protect women’s health care rights. He promises to push for common-sense gun laws, such as mandatory background checks. He’s willing to talk immigration reform without jumping to extreme measures such as abolishing ICE.
Mr. Gershon smartly chose to focus his campaign on local issues, rather than try to circle everything back to the myriad controversies the president has sparked. But these are far from normal times, with a celebrity president who continues to let down the nation with lies and angry rhetoric. We need a congressman who will stand up to that. Not just another TV star.
That is why Times Review Media Group endorses Mr. Gershon.
Endorsement: Ken LaValle for State Senate
Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) has become synonymous with this district during his four-decade run in the New York State Senate. His résumé speaks for itself.
This year’s race is a repeat of 2016, as he is again challenged by Greg Fischer of Calverton. And the outcome will likely be no different. On the East End, we’ve become accustomed to seeing Mr. Fischer run for all sorts of elected positions, only to come up short each time. Earlier this year, Mr. Fischer, 61, finished last among seven candidates vying for a spot on the Riverhead Board of Education. Having generated so little support for a school board run, it’s hard to take seriously Mr. Fischer’s attempt to unseat a veteran lawmaker like Mr. LaValle.
The choice here is to re-elect Mr. LaValle, who even at 79 continues to be a strong advocate for the East End. In this space two years ago, we lamented the fact that Democrats have not waged a stronger campaign to challenge Mr. LaValle. And that remains today. It would be refreshing to see a viable candidate with ideas that could challenge Mr. LaValle. But at this point, it appears the seat is Mr. LaValle’s for as long as he wishes to continue serving.
Times Review Media Group endorses Mr. LaValle.
2018 Endorsement: Anthony Palumbo for Assembly
The New York State budget that was approved last spring by the Assembly and Senate and signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo included $175,000 for the creation of the North Fork Behavioral Health Initiative.
The funds were set aside following a similar initiative on the South Fork, which gave students in local school districts direct access to improved, round-the-clock treatment for critical mental health issues. The idea for the South Fork initiative came in the wake of a student’s suicide.
It is no exaggeration to say the South Fork initiative has saved lives, with students in crisis now able to receive a quick evaluation from a mental health professional. A look at the numbers on the South Fork shows success: During the 2014-15 school year, 12 students were hospitalized for mental health reasons. After the initiative was passed, that number dropped to seven and to five during the 2016-17 school year.
Last spring, Sen. Ken LaValle, working with assemblymen Anthony Palumbo and Fred Thiele, rolled out a similar initiative for North Fork schools. Their effort is an example of elected officials seeing a great need, reacting to meet it and working the levers of government and the leadership of both parties to get it funded, included in the state budget and signed into law.
This program provides local access to mental health professionals in the Riverhead, Mattituck-Cutchogue, New Suffolk, Southold, Greenport, Oysterponds and Shelter Island school districts. Participating in the program are the Family Service League, Eastern Long Island Hospital, Peconic Bay Medical Center, Stony Brook University Hospital and the towns of Riverhead and Southold. A strong supporter of the initiative, Southold Town is contributing $10,000 to the program.
For schools on both forks, this initiative is a game changer, making 24-hour service available to assist struggling students and their families. As David Gamberg, superintendent of both the Southold and Greenport school districts, said last spring, “The reality of it is, it doesn’t matter what age you are. When someone experiences such a level of crisis it doesn’t stop at 3 o’clock. We need to have the ability to make contacts after [school] hours and on weekends and we need to be more responsive.”
We agree, and that’s a key reason the Times Review Media Group endorses Mr. Palumbo, 48, for re-election to the state Assembly.
Mr. Palumbo’s opponent is Rona Smith of Greenport, 73, who chairs the Southold Town Housing Advisory Commission. She is a dedicated and longtime activist, who faults Mr. Palumbo for his opposition to a single-payer health care program. She speaks eloquently about health care — she lost her husband and son to different types of cancer about five years ago, just 12 days apart. Her son could not afford health insurance.
Southold Town is fortunate to have someone of Ms. Smith’s compassion, smarts and dedication serving on the housing commission. She deserves a larger place at the table. We hope she finds that place.
She is running on the Democratic Party line. Mr. Palumbo is on the Republican line, and is the beneficiary of a cross-endorsement deal party leaders worked out behind closed doors that also gave him the Conservative and Independence party lines.
Mr. Palumbo supported the legalization of medical marijuana but opposes allowing it for recreational use. In his interview with Times Review’s newspapers, he said he supports “common sense” gun laws and background checks and opposes arming teachers, a truly awful idea promoted by some in elected office.
He also supported the preservation of more than 800 acres at the former Shoreham nuclear plant site by including it in the Pine Barrens core preservation area.
Mr. Palumbo has earned another term in the Assembly.