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Democrats, GOP pick candidates in Assembly special elections

Special elections in the 5th, 10th and 16th Assembly districts are scheduled for April 24.

Former Democratic Suffolk Legis. Steve Stern will square off against Republican Janet Smitelli, a Huntington attorney, in a special election for the 10th Assembly District seat vacated by Republican Chad Lupinacci when he took office Jan. 1 as Huntington Town supervisor.

Republican Doug Smith, former GOP Assemb. Al Graf’s longtime aide, will face local union leader Peter Zarcone, a 12-year member of the Suffolk Industrial Development Agency, in a special 5th Assembly District contest after Graf exited to become a District Court judge.

Democrats chose their candidates in a meeting Saturday, while Republicans made their picks in a convention Monday. The special elections are scheduled for April 24.

Smitelli, 56, was selected over Rob Conte, brother of the late Assemb. James Conte. John Jay LaValle, Suffolk GOP chairman, said Smitelli polled well, has strong community ties and Lupinacci’s strong support. Smitelli ran unsuccessfully for Suffolk County Legislature in 2013.

LaValle said Stern was “responsible for higher mortgage fees, red light camera fines” and the five-cent fee on shopping bags enacted by the legislature’s Democratic majority.

Suffolk Democratic Chairman Richard Schaffer said Stern’s record, particularly on senior citizen and veterans issues, is “well known to the local community.” Also, “as a member of the Assembly majority,” Stern would be “able to deliver more for the district than a minority Republican,” said Schaffer.

Of LaValle’s comments, Schaffer said, “It’s the same line LaValle has used for seven years. The public doesn’t buy it.”

Stern, 49, of Dix Hills, was term-limited at year’s end after 12 years in office. He made a bid for Congress in 2016, but came in second to Tom Suozzi in a five-way Democratic primary. Suozzi won the general election.

In the 5th District, Zarcone and Smith are making their first runs for public office.

Zarcone, 59, of Holtsville, is on the executive board of Laborer’s Local 66, which has 1,000 members in Nassau and Suffolk.

Smith, 27, of Holbrook, a part-time Islip Town Board aide, said he helped more than 2,000 constituents working for Graf and has raised $25,000 for the race.

Schaffer said Zarcone, “has already proven himself as a job creator working on the IDA . . . and he’ll be a great voice for working men and women.”

William Garbarino, Islip GOP chairman, said Smith had the “pulse of the community” working for Graf. “He knows the issues and helped a lot of people,” Garbarino said.

Nassau Republicans, meanwhile, have selected John K. Mikulin, a Hempstead deputy town attorney, to run for the 16th District seat of former Assemb. Tom McKevitt, who became a county legislator Jan. 1.

Joseph Mondello, Nassau Republican chairman, called Mikulin, 29, “a bright, young enthusiastic candidate, who will work 24/7 to achieve his goal. He’s really bent on being an elected official.”

A Nassau Democratic spokesman said the party has yet to name a candidate in the race. The deadline for filing candidate paperwork is Thursday.

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