Stephanie Bontempi, Republican candidate for Suffolk County Legislature District 18

Stephanie Bontempi, Republican candidate for Suffolk County Legislature District 18 Credit: James Escher

Stephanie L. Bontempi, a fifth-grade teacher at a private school, is seeking public office for the first time, promising a fresh perspective on district problems.

Bontempi, 55, a Republican from Centerport, cites environmental preservation as a key priority, but says the right programs will need to be supported by putting the county on "its best fiscal footing." She stresses compromise and a need to follow input from her constituents, which she says would be her prime responsibility.

Incumbent Democrat William Spencer, a physician, is facing charges in Suffolk County for trading oxycodone pills for sex. The tone of the general election campaign to succeed Spencer became unnecessarily negative, some of it involving aspersions over campaign funding that don't enlighten the district's voters on where their choices lie.

Bontempi wants the county to keep up its staffing levels for police, and speaks of a need to improve and direct more resources to the county's Department of Social Services. She says she would step away from teaching if elected to focus on her public duties.

The Democratic nominee, Mark A. Cuthbertson, 55, of Huntington, has served on the town board since 1998. He’s an inside player with knowledge of how the system works, but far from a reformer. He takes a different view of how to follow the collective wishes of the district, saying that part of an elected official's job is to reassure people about worthy projects, sometimes against loud resistance from the few.

Cuthbertson says he'd continue practicing law if elected to the legislature, playing this as a positive that "helps keep me grounded in the business world" — meaning he wouldn't need to cling to the government job.

Bontempi better offers the promise of openness to new ideas.

Newsday endorses Bontempi.

Suffolk Legislative District 18 covers Northwestern Huntington, Northport, Greenlawn, part of Huntington Station.