Taxes are the main topic in this year's campaign in Nassau County's 6th Legislative District, centered in the Republican stronghold of Lynbrook.
"What people are talking about on the street is the energy tax and the general direction of the county," the incumbent Republican, Francis X. Becker said.
"Taxes are always a problem, but the energy tax - on top of the recession - has increased the anxiety among taxpayers. This is not the time for an additional tax," Becker said.
He was referring to the 2.5 percent sales tax on energy approved by the Nassau County Legislature earlier this year. The tax, in effect for years in Suffolk, imposed the sales tax on home heating sources such as oil and gas.
Becker, 56, a certified financial planner, from Lynbrook, has been in the legislature since 1996 and has easily won re-election six times.
His Democratic challenger is Vincent Grasso, 37, a Valley Stream resident who became executive director of the Nassau County Bridge Authority (the Atlantic Beach Bridge) last year and had been chief clerk of the Nassau County Board of Elections before that.
"The primary issue every voter is concerned about - and every politician on Long Island - is the property tax," Grasso said. "I would take a fundamentally different approach and re-evaluate supply and demand.
"As long as people want what they want from government, they have to pay for it. In order to change, we have to re-evaluate what we ask from government," he said.
He said that might mean fewer police and less in services. "What do we want our police to do, focus on major crime?" he said. "When it comes to school taxes, we should look to consolidate back-office expenses and the back-office function of the schools."
A parallel issue is the fairness of the property tax assessment system in Nassau County, where property taxes are high and where many homeowners challenge the fairness of their assessment every year.
"I'm going to be working closely with the assessor to get it fixed," Becker said. There are 20,980 enrolled Republicans and 15,914 Democrats in the district, which includes Lynbrook, Malverne, North Lynbrook, most of Valley Stream and East Rockaway, south Rockville Centre and portions of North Valley Stream and Oceanside.