Former Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith unveiled her “Common Sense New York” platform Monday in her bid to win a state Assembly seat.
And when it was over, she blasted her opponent, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, on a number of ethical issues.
Ms. Jens-Smith, a Democrat, served one two-year term as town supervisor from 2018-2019 before losing to Republican Yvette Aguiar in November.
Ms. Giglio, a Republican, has been on the board since 2010.
When longtime State Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) opted not to seek reelection, the North Fork’s state assemblyman, Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), was chosen to run for Mr. LaValle’s seat. That left the assembly seat, which covered the towns of Southold and Riverhead and part of Brookhaven, up for grabs.
Ms. Giglio was nominated by the Republican committee, while Ms. Jens-Smith won a primary for the Democratic nod.
“You’ve heard me say it before and I will repeat it again,” Ms. Jens-Smith said. “Jodi Giglio is a walking talking conflict of interest. She is exactly the kind of person that doesn’t belong in politics.
“Jodi is a permit expediter who, in a thinly veiled scheme to avoid paying her own fair share of property taxes, didn’t bother getting permits on her own home, allowing her to skirt tens of thousands of dollars in taxes,” Ms. Jens-Smith said, referencing a report that emerged in 2013 prior to the Republican town council primary. “A small portion of which she paid back on the plot was revealed.”
Ms. Giglio said Monday that the permit situation in her house was corrected. In 2015, the Riverhead school board accepted a $10,000 donation from Ms. Giglio — a payment in lieu of property taxes that were never assessed to her over the course of several years.
Ms. Jens-Smith also pointed to the controversy in 2018 when Ms. Giglio met privately with leaders of Triple Five Group in New York City. At the time, the Town Board had not yet voted on whether Calverton Aviation & Technology — of which Triple Five owns 75% — was qualified and eligible to purchase 1,640 acres of land from the town from $40 million.
“[Ms. Giglio] visited New York City arm-in-arm with a paid broker for the biggest development project in the history of the town and then mysteriously changed her vote on that project?” Ms. Jens-Smith said Monday.
The qualified and eligible vote was delayed until Riverhead Town’s Ethics Board ruled whether Ms. Giglio should recuse herself from voting. The ethics board ultimately ruled in her favor.
“She’s referring to her old politically partisan complaint that she filed herself with the town ethics board,” Ms. Giglio said. “It was found to be unfounded by the town’s independent ethics board. There’s nothing I can add that the ethics board hasn’t already stated. It was completely unfounded.”
Ms. Giglio also defended criticism by Ms. Jens-Smith related to identifying clients and potential conflicts of interest. Ms. Giglio said that any potential conflict of interest must be disclosed in ethics forms required by the town.
“The ethics form is very clear as to whether you have clients doing business with the town,” she said. “As an ethical person, I would disclose it.”
“Jodi Giglio is comfortable with lies, half-truths and unaccounted time,” Mr. Jens-Smith said. “She has no problem representing developers and exchanging favors.”
She said Ms. Giglio “has little to show for her time in office.”
Ms. Giglio shot back that her opponent “has a disastrous record of raising school and local taxes, she’s done nothing for downtown.”
“The voters in this town have validated and revalidated my record five times,” Ms. Giglio said. “She was two-year, one-term supervisor, one of very few in this town.”
There is also a third candidate in the assembly race on the North Fork, as William Van Helmond of Jamesport is running on the libertarian line.
Mr. Van Helmond is a former president of the Greater Jamesport Civic Association and owns a landscaping business. He ran for town council in 2018.
“Government for the longest time has been failing the masses,” Mr. Van Helmond said in response to Ms. Jens-Smith’s platform. “The two dominant parties who have control have gotten so big that they forget about who they’re supposed to serve and they become self-serving.”
Issues on Jens-Smith Platform
• Health care
Ms. Jens-Smith said she feels the longterm solution must come from the federal government, but added that she will “fight to eliminate ‘surprise billing,’ in which patients get socked for huge bills when they receive care outside their insurer’s network.”
• Middle Class families first
“I will spend every day I am in Albany searching for new ways to reduce the tax burden on the state’s middle class and working class,” she said, adding, “for too long, our tax policy has been tilted toward the ultra rich.”
“Our police officers confront danger daily,” she said. “Their job is difficult and pur police deserve our support.”
She added, “I will fight for all I’m worth against the dangerous policies coming out of New York City that put our officers in harm’s way, empower criminals and make our communities less safe.”
• Suburban caucus
“I’m not running for the state Assembly to be beholden to Bill de Blasio,” she said. “Far from it, I’m running to be a strong voice for Long Island. For too long, Albany has been dominated by the whims of New York City.”
She said she is proposing a “suburban caucus” where officials from Long Island, Westchester and Putman counties can advocate for the needs of suburbanites, “who send in tremendous amounts of dollars to the state and get little in return.”
• The budget process
Ms. Jens-Smith said the state budget is about $178 billion, but she questions how much of that will go to working people and how much will go to IDA tax giveaways or to special interests.
“We need to make sure that the funding comes to Long Island,” she said. “I will be a very loud voice for Long Island.”
• Bail reform
Ms. Jens-Smith said New Jersey has done it the right way.
“Judges in New Jersey have always been permitted to take into account the risks to the community in releasing defendants,” she said.
“Releasing nearly everybody without judges having a say, even when the accused of heinous crimes like domestic violences, was a mistake.”