Dix Hills lawyer Steve Stern said years ago he didn't want to be a career politician. And if he wins this time, term limits will make this his final election to the Suffolk County Legislature. Stern, 46, wisely says the environment, open space preservation and sewer infrastructure remain his key issues. In particular, he deserves credit in this term for his Housing our Homeless Heroes Act, which will transform homes seized for unpaid taxes for use by veterans.

His opponent, corporate insurance lawyer Thomas McNally, 51, a Republican from Dix Hills, is right to identify high taxes and government inefficiency as top concerns. However, one of his remedies -- a 2.5 percent across-the-board spending cut (but just 1 percent for police, a major driver of rising county costs) -- is not a terribly artful plan for good government.

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We urge Stern to use his experience to step up from the back bench as an independent voice on issues he cares about -- budget prudence, drugs and crime, affordable housing and transit-oriented development.

Newsday endorses Stern.