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Town supervisor, victims advocate win Democratic primaries for state seats

Democrat Laura Ahearn is running against Republican Assemb.

Democrat Laura Ahearn is running against Republican Assemb. Anthony Palumbo for the seat of state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who is retiring. Credit: James Escher

Crime-victims advocate Laura Ahearn and former Riverhead Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith declared victory Wednesday in their respective Democratic primaries for the State Legislature.

Ahearn defeated four other 1st State Senate District candidates after a tally of absentee votes completed Wednesday, according to the county Board of Elections. She had faced Brookhaven Town Board member Valerie Cartright, Southampton Town Board member Tommy John Schiavoni, Suffolk Community College student Skyler Johnson and nurse Nora Higgins.

Ahearn, 56, of Port Jefferson, will run in November against Republican Assemb. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) for the seat of longtime Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who is retiring.

“I look forward to the election in November, where everyone involved in this primary effort can work together and send a forward-thinking, pro-choice woman to represent this seat in Albany for the first time in its history,” Ahearn said in a statement.

On primary night, Ahearn, executive director of Ronkonkoma-based Parents for Megan's Law and the Crime Victim’s Center, a nonprofit victim's rights organization, received 31% of the vote. Cartright, who was in second place on primary night with 27.8%, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon. Absentee vote tallies were not available Wednesday afternoon.

In a race to fill Palumbo's 2nd Assembly District seat, Jens-Smith defeated Democratic challenger William Schleisner, setting her up to challenge her former Riverhead Town colleague, Republican Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, in November. 

Jens-Smith, who had 77.9% of the vote on primary night, picked up 4,645 votes in absentee ballots, while Schleisner picked up 1,475, Democratic county elections commissioner Anita Katz said.

“This was a strange primary election, but I have won elections and I have lost, and I am humbled that the people of the North Fork and Brookhaven have made me the ‘Comeback Kid,’” Jens-Smith, 57, of Laurel, said in a statement.

Schleisner said, “It was a tough campaign, we both fought well. It was a difficult time for anybody to run a campaign and live life, and I wish her well and I hope she beats Jodi Giglio because we need Democratic representation on Long Island.” 

Ahearn raised about $198,000 and spent nearly $128,500, according to campaign finance disclosures filed 11 days before the primary. That was less than the $240,000 Schiavoni raised and the $238,800 he spent in the race, records show. Cartright raised $75,433 and spent $74,425, records show.

Jens-Smith raised more than $14,000 and spent more than $31,000, using some funds from a previous campaign, according to campaign finance records. Schleisner raised $3,321 and spent $3,820, records show.

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