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Suffolk legislative candidates debate for students at alma mater

Anthony Piccirillo, left, and William Lindsay III, candidates

Anthony Piccirillo, left, and William Lindsay III, candidates running against each other for Suffolk County Legislature, debate at Sachem High School North in Lake Ronkonkoma Friday, Nov. 3, 2017. Credit: Barry Sloan

Two candidates running for the same Suffolk County Legislature seat united Friday to give high school students an inside look at elections.

Incumbent Rep. William Lindsay III, a Democrat, and Anthony Piccirillo, a Republican, debated each other in front of about 150 students in the Sachem High School North auditorium. Lindsay and Piccirillo, both Sachem graduates, are running to represent Suffolk’s 8th Legislative District, which covers parts of Ronkonkoma.

“I want the students to really see a debate and the political process unfold before us as best as we can,” said Chris Vaccaro, who organized and moderated the debate and also serves as communications representative for the district.

Lindsay graduated in 1990 and has served two two-year terms in the position. Piccirillo graduated from the school in 2001. Friday’s event marked their only debate. The election is on Nov. 7.

Over the course of about an hour, the candidates answered six student-submitted questions that ranged in topic from the opioid epidemic to economic opportunities for young people. They agreed on some points, like the need to increase support for drug addiction treatment, and clashed on others.

The candidates were asked whether they thought red light cameras were constitutional and whether they served as an income source for the county, a safety tool or a mix of both.

“It’s not about safety, it’s a money grab,” Piccirillo said.

Lindsay said he thought the cameras did change driver behavior, including his own, for the better in addition to providing revenue.

“You have a huge responsibility as new drivers,” he said.

Tom Cestaro, chair of the Sachem North social studies department, said he was thrilled when he was approached with the idea to hold a debate. Students don’t normally have an opportunity like the one Friday, he said.

“It was a treat, it was so enlightening,” he said. “It was great to show the kids.”

Students Caitlyn Humann and Tyee Miller, both seniors from Nesconset, said they have a deep interest in politics and were excited to watch the debate unfold.

“We both want careers in politics, so it means a lot,” Humann, 17, said.

“We really appreciated them coming out to speak to future voters,” Miller, 17, added. “They care about the future.”

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