Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Republican challenger James O'Connor are scheduled to hold their first televised debate for the county's top job Thursday night, which airs live at 7 p.m. on News 12 Long Island. The candidates are likely to raise the following topics as they make their case during the 30-minute debate.
Democrat, incumbent county executive
1. Things are getting better. Bellone compares the current county budget problems to those he inherited when he came into office in 2012: a deficit that was twice as large and a county government with 1,100 more employees than now.
2. "Connect Long Island." Bellone's push for economic development, affordable housing and to keep young people in Suffolk would be major projects near downtowns and public transportation. He spearheaded Wyandanch Rising as Babylon supervisor and supports the planned Ronkonkoma Hub and Heartland Town Square in Islip.
3. Clean Water. The state and federal governments have committed $383 million to Suffolk to help construct sewers in South Shore communities. Bellone has said expanding sewers would reduce nitrogen flowing from septic systems into the water.
Republican, attorney, former North Hempstead Town councilman
1. Budget woes. O'Connor has focused most of his attacks at Bellone's handling of the county budget, which he says continues to rely on borrowing and one-shot revenue gimmicks.
2. Police contracts. A major driver of the county's budget problems, O'Connor says, are contracts negotiated by Bellone with the three largest police unions. He labels them "sweetheart deals" for powerful labor groups that backed his political campaigns.
3. Immigration. O'Connor has criticized Bellone's policy, announced last year, that the county won't honor U.S. immigration enforcement requests to hold undocumented immigrants unless a judge issues warrants.