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Long IslandColumnistsRick Brand

The tables turn on Suffolk County Legis. Monica Martinez

Monica Martinez, Democratic incumbent candidate for Suffolk County

Monica Martinez, Democratic incumbent candidate for Suffolk County Legislature 9th District, poses for a portrait during a party convention at 370 Motor Parkway in Hauppauge on May 22, 2017. Photo Credit: James Escher

Suffolk Legis. Monica Martinez, who won her Ninth District seat four years ago after attacking incumbent Rick Montano in a Democratic primary for not doing enough to represent the district, is having the same issue turned on her.

And the Sept. 12 primary challenge is coming from Angela Ramos, wife of Assemb. Phil Ramos (D-Brentwood), who with her husband, backed Martinez when she first ran.

“We see millions of dollars for the community from the state but very little from the county,” said Angela Ramos, 40, of Brentwood, who is making her first run for office.

“She may be there for the photo op, but we need real resources” to fix local roads and renew downtowns, Ramos said of Martinez. “She isn’t delivering for the community.”

Martinez, 39, of Brentwood, said the district has received major county funding including $700,000 for anti-gang programs; $200,000 for sewer studies; money for day camps for 1,000 local kids; and $150,000 for high school students to conduct science research in local rivers.

“My philosophy from the beginning has been to work with everyone,” said Martinez. “We are a good community of hard working people who just want a fair shot.”

Some see Ramos’ run as fueled primarily by her husband’s strained relations with Martinez over the fact that she has worked with some that Ramos considers enemies.

“I think people see this as more personality-driven than issue-driven,” said Town of Islip Democratic chairman Luis Montes, Martinez’s campaign manager and a former aide to Phil Ramos.

But the battle has made people “uncomfortable because they are being forced to choose sides,” Montes said.

Richard Schaffer, Suffolk County Democratic chairman, said when Angela and Phil Ramos first approached him about running, “Phil did all the talking.” Schaffer said that when he asked Angela Ramos about her reasons for challenging an incumbent, “all she said was she was doing it for the community.”

Schaffer said he was “sad and I’m mad,” about the situation.

“I’m sad for communities like Brentwood and Central Islip that need to have their leaders united,” he said. “But when I’m mad, it makes me focus all my energy on winning a victory for Monica.”

Schaffer and Phil Ramos have not made the fight personal.

Schaffer said Ramos does a “great job in Albany.”

Ramos said, “this is not anything against Schaffer. The chair automatically looks to protect incumbents . . . but there’s a better choice. You can‘t sit around and wait for crumbs, you have to fight hard to bring home the bacon.”

Among Angela Ramos’ complaints is that Martinez was silent when Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) suggested that President Donald Trump might visit Brentwood in the aftermath of gang killings. Martinez at the time declined to comment, saying a Trump visit was only a “hypothetical.”

Angela Ramos said Martinez should have taken a stand: “The community doesn’t want him to come here and bring his hate,” Ramos said of the president.

Martinez emphasized that she “was on the street” protesting when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared in Central Islip on April 27 to discuss anti-gang initiatives. “When he came, I was there,” she said.

Martinez labeled Angela Ramos’ run a “self aggrandizing quest,” noting she did not live in the district until changing her voting address June 2. Phil Ramos called that “pure political spin.”

On paper, Martinez should have an edge in the race. She is backed by the town and county Democratic organizations as well as County Executive Steve Bellone. “The community is standing behind me because they have seen a difference,” Martinez said.

But Phil Ramos said his wife has been a partner in his political career, is widely known throughout the district and should be helped by his coattails. Ramos forces, for instance, in May helped elect three new members of the Brentwood School Board, taking control.

Ramos said his wife’s bid will build, not divide the community. “Democracy can be messy at times, but in the end the community converges on a consensus and moves forward to a better place,” he said.

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