The two candidates for Suffolk County's 7th Legislative District - a two-term incumbent and the owner of a Medford advertising agency - both say efforts to curb violent crime is high on their agenda.
The incumbent, Jack Eddington (I-Medford), a former teacher and social worker, said he wants the county to hire 100 new police officers to counter a recent rise in crimes such as robberies, shootings and stabbings in Suffolk. Eddington, chairman of the county's Public Safety Committee, said there is a link between the decline in the number of police officers and the surge in crime.
His Republican opponent, L. Dean Murray of East Patchogue, agreed the rise in crime is troubling, but he faulted Eddington for what he calls engaging in squabbles with County Executive Steve Levy rather than working to make the streets safe. With violent crime up 9.5 percent in the first seven months of 2009, Murray said, Eddington should have proposed more public safety initiatives.
Murray said that Eddington's push for more police officers followed his own call for the county to hire more officers. Eddington called that claim, "ridiculous." The voters will decide Nov. 3 when Eddington, who also has the Democrats' support, defends his seat against Murray, who is also endorsed by the Conservative party.
"Crime is up, and we need more police officers to deal with it," Eddington said, adding that he has worked to add civilian officers and bring anti-gang and anti-drug programs to schools.
Eddington, 62, spent 30 years in the Patchogue-Medford School District teaching social studies and later was a school social worker before he became a legislator. His wife, Patricia Eddington, is a state legislator who is running for Brookhaven Town clerk.
Eddington touted his work with other local governments to try to tear down the Plaza Theater, a long-standing East Patchogue eyesore. He grew up in the Queensbridge housing projects in Queens and has lived in Medford for 37 years.
Of his desire for Suffolk County to hire more officers, he said the police force is "at the point where we're doing less with less."
Murray, 45, a Maryland native who recently moved to East Patchogue after living in Coram for about 15 years, owns D & S Advertising, a company that publishes and distributes employment and real estate advertising magazines.
He said the county should work to attract more environmentally sustainable businesses. The district covers Patchogue, Holtsville and Medford, with 47,894 registered voters, including 14,639 Democrats and 16,650 Republicans.