As they did two years ago, voters in the 16th Legislative District will choose between Democratic incumbent Steve Stern and Republican challenger William Matthew Groh, opponents with fundamental ideas that are vastly different.
Stern, 40, of Dix Hills is running for his third, two-year term and also has the Independence and Working Families party endorsements. He said he has a proven record of holding the line on taxes and protecting the environment and the open space preservation and wastewater management programs.
Stern said his opponent does not understand the role government should play in an individual's life.
"This a gentleman that thinks there should be less government, less regulation, less of a support system," Stern said. "I don't agree with that. He believes government at all levels doesn't do anything good."
Groh, 43, a North Babylon resident who also is running on the Conservative Party line, said the trend of overspending, overregulating and overtaxing needs to be reversed. He said those problems exist partially because Stern is an ineffective leader who often blindly sides with County Executive Steve Levy.
"We need checks and balances," said Groh, a lawyer in Jericho who specializes in labor and employment law and is making his second run for elected office.
Stern, a lawyer who specializes in elder law and estate planning, agreed he shares Levy's views on fiscal responsibility, protecting the environment and focusing on quality of life issues.
"But I would also say it would be unwise and misleading to suggest that anybody, including myself, follows the county executive blindly," Stern said.
Stern pointed out he favors having a new police class next year, something Levy says is not in the proposed 2010 budget.
Groh says the No. 1 issue facing county residents is what he says are 1,631 vacant positions in Suffolk County. He said taxpayers are paying wages and benefits for those unfilled positions through their property taxes, without receiving any services in return. "Either remove the positions from the budget or, to the extent necessary, hire the people to provide the services we are paying for," Groh said.
Stern said that is a misrepresentation and a misunderstanding of the facts.
"We don't have 1,600 positions that we are taxing people to pay salary and benefits for," Stern said. "It's just not true."
According to the Suffolk County Board of Elections, as of Sept. 1, there are 18,521 registered Democrats, 17,542 Republicans, 17,034 Independence Party and 13,151 voters who are unaffiliated.