Democratic Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright on Tuesday announced she would seek her party's nomination to run for the State Senate seat being vacated by longtime Republican incumbent Kenneth LaValle.
Cartright, 43, of Port Jefferson Station, the only Democrat on the seven-member Brookhaven Town Board, is the fourth member of her party to declare her candidacy in the race to succeed LaValle. The Port Jefferson Republican, 80, who has held the seat since 1977, announced two weeks ago he would not seek reelection in November.
Cartright, who serves on the Town Board with LaValle's cousin, Republican Kevin LaValle, was reelected to her fourth term in November. She represents a North Shore district that includes Port Jefferson and Setauket.
"I am proud to announce my candidacy for the First Senatorial District of New York State," Cartright said in a news release. "My experience as an attorney, town elected official, and constant advocate for community involvement in government uniquely positions me to effectively deliver for the residents of the First Senatorial District. I am excited and energized by the opportunity to continue to serve my neighbors and the communities of Eastern Long Island."
Suffolk County Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer called Cartright "a terrific candidate. She has done a great job as a councilwoman and before that as an attorney in private practice. She brings a great deal of experience and knowledge to the race.”
Schaffer called LaValle "an icon” and “a very tough person to take on,” adding it has been easier to recruit potential challengers with LaValle announcing his retirement.
Besides Cartright, Democrats in the race include Laura Ahearn, a lawyer and founder and executive director of Ronkonkoma-based Parents for Megan's Law; Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Sciavoni and Skyler Johnson, a 19-year-old student at Suffolk County Community College.
Potential Republican candidates include Assemb. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), Brookhaven council members Dan Panico and Jane Bonner, and Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio.
Suffolk Republican chairman Jesse Garcia said the Democratic contenders are part of the party's “far left wing” and carry an “anti-Long Island agenda.” He said Republican candidates share Kenneth LaValle's political values on issues such as environmental protection and economic development.
“Our slates have all been mentored in one way or another by Sen. Ken LaValle in 40 years of public service," Garcia said, adding the potential GOP nominees "have demonstrated the ability to get things done in difficult situations sometimes.”
Brookhaven Democratic chairwoman Lillian Clayman said Cartright should be considered the favorite in the Democratic campaign, citing her record on the Town Board and years spent meeting party leaders and voters.
"She knows Brookhaven and she knows the issues,” Clayman said.
Republicans plan to pick their nominee Feb. 20, Garcia said. Schaffer said the Democratic nominee will be announced in early April after nominating petitions are circulated.