ALBANY — Nine new Republican Assembly members were sworn in ceremonially Tuesday, but none brought a larger entourage than Assemb. Joe DeStefano.
DeStefano had worked 27 years in Suffolk County municipal unions and he long served as a volunteer firefighter in Medford. It only sounded like most of his old colleagues were on hand as they let out a roar when his name was called to take the oath of office. In fact, it was only the 60 or 70 of them from the Suffolk County Association of Municipal Employees who had bused north from Suffolk County for the proceedings.
“Words cannot describe how I feel,” DeStefano (R-Medford), 58, said. "It’s been a surprising career turn because running for office," he added, “wasn’t on my agenda.”
The former public safety dispatcher credited union support for his victory in a South Shore district over Democrat Clyde Parker in a contest to succeed Dean Murray (who ran unsuccessfully for state Senate). He thanked his family for understanding all the “recitals and football games” he missed over the years while serving as a firefighter.
DeStefano will be one of 43 Republicans in the 150-seat Assembly, meaning it’s unlikely he’ll get many of his own bills approved. But he said he’d work “across the aisle,” especially for a proposal called “Angelica’s Law,” which would make it illegal to drive with repeated license suspensions.
The 2019 legislative session opens formally Wednesday.
Long Island’s other new Republican Assembly member, Michael LiPetri, said he’d focus initially on protecting aquifers and combating the opioid epidemic.
LiPetri (R-Massapequa) scored one of the few Republican upsets in New York on Election Day, defeating incumbent Christine Pellegrino in a South Shore district that straddles Nassau and Suffolk counties.
“I’m looking forward to working across the aisle to get things done for New York,” LiPetri, 28, said.