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Elaine Phillips to represent NY’s 7th Senate District

Elaine Phillips of Flower Hill.

Elaine Phillips of Flower Hill. Credit: James Escher

What a difference two years makes.

When Republican Elaine R. Phillips first arrived on the state legislative scene, she was, more than anything else, a naysayer. She was quick to oppose the Long Island Rail Road third- track project and hesitated to favor any project or issue that had a whiff of controversy or community concern.

Phillips, the former mayor of the small Village of Flower Hill, stood in the way of the third track into the summer of 2017, until village mayors in her district received the benefits they sought. The hurdles she created added significantly to the project’s cost.

But her third-track effort, however misguided, showed what Phillips can do when she chooses to lead, and was a clear sign of how well she stands up for her district and what she could do if she chose to work in more constructive ways. Phillips, 58, is now using her advocacy to support the project and address concerns as work is done. Similarly, rather than opposing Belmont Park’s redevelopment outright, Phillips has worked to alter pieces of the project that caused angst, such as the location of a planned electrical substation, and advocated for more community input opportunities. “We’ll get there,” she told the editorial board.

Phillips seems to have found her footing. She has focused on important social and environmental issues, has been able to work with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, and seems far more willing to take a position and defend it even when it’s not in lockstep with other GOP senators.

Instead of a knee-jerk reaction against recreational marijuana or sports betting, Phillips talks of planning carefully to make legalization work. She supports a tolling plan on Manhattan’s roadways as long as there’s a way to address outer-borough concerns, and believes in key reforms like term limits for legislators and some degree of early voting on the weekend. Phillips says she supports the so-called “red flag” bill, which would allow teachers and school administrators to ask for court orders to remove guns from those they think are dangerous. She would enact the protections of Roe v. Wade into state law but doesn’t want non-physicians to perform abortion services.

If Phillips can match the strong voice she has used for her district for the region as a whole, and continues to be willing to stand apart from her caucus, she could be a powerful force who could look out for Long Island’s interests.

Great Neck Democrat Anna M. Kaplan, a North Hempstead Town councilwoman, has emerged as a strong supporter of the Reproductive Health Act, which would allow abortions after 24 weeks when a woman’s health is at risk, or a fetus is no longer viable, and would permit health care professionals other than doctors to perform abortions. Kaplan also advocates for the “red flag” gun bill. But Kaplan, 53, otherwise seems to find it far easier to critique her opponent than articulate positions of her own. Even when pushed, she was reluctant to express opinions on key state issues, often saying she’d have to examine potential legislation before establishing her own views.

Newsday endorses Phillips. — The editorial board