Democratic challenger Keith S. Lebowitz, 62, a lifelong Long Beacher, studied winemaking in France for two years. He has an unusual perspective and an easygoing, unguarded manner.

Like many candidates, Lebowitz has complaints about how the county and its finances are run. Unlike most of them, though, Lebowitz isn't terrified to support fixes, like a temporary tax increase to balance the books. A sales representative, Lebowitz wants to use dumps and other unused land for wind turbines and solar power. He seeks more transparency in county contracting and fewer tax breaks for big companies that harm small businesses.

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Denise Ford, 64, is a registered Democrat who caucuses with the Republican majority. The Long Beach resident has been a good representative for 12 years and her connection to the district is palpable. But she has done little to stop the fiscal disaster that has developed, never stepping up to lead.

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Newsday endorses Lebowitz.