When John E. Brooks beat Republican Michael Venditto by 314 votes in 2016, it was an upset with some caveats.
Brooks was then actually a registered Republican running on the Democratic ballot line, although now he is a registered Democrat. And Venditto was battling the public perception of corruption in the Oyster Bay Republican establishment that included the indictment of his father, John Venditto, on federal charges a month before the election. The former Town of Oyster Bay supervisor was acquitted on the charges he faced then, but he and other town Republicans still face state corruption charges.
But Brooks, 68, of Seaford, earned Newsday’s endorsement two years ago on his merits because he is an imaginative and nuanced thinker on the region and state’s thorniest issues, like high property taxes — and he turned out to be a very fine senator.
He has contributed in his community at every level, from fire department and school board member to Nassau County director of risk management, so there are few issues he hasn’t studied. Like a mathematician, he educates others on the inequities of the property-tax system and his ideas for fixing education funding. And like an emergency responder, he fights for more addiction treatment and rattles off information about how the pressure in fire hydrants is maintained.
On policy, Brooks is no ideologue. When he can’t assure himself of what a well-intentioned bill would do, as with a state plan for single-payer health care, he won’t commit until he’s sure of the cost and the consequences.
On more local issues, like Nassau’s property-tax assessment woes, his expertise could well smooth the way for the county to get the state support it seeks to fix that system. The same is true with district complaints over exorbitant rates charged by New York American Water Corp. Brooks has been a fierce advocate for more oversight or a change to public or municipal service. He says the company should probably be relieved of taxes public water providers don’t have to pay, but then should have to offer prices within 5 percent of other providers.
Republican Massapequa Park Mayor Jeffrey P. Pravato, 50, is deputy public works commissioner for the Town of Oyster Bay. He’s passionate about getting more infrastructure help to communities as the best and most focused form of economic development, and he wants to fight for more state money for roads and other public-works projects.
But his responses are vague on big issues like education funding and property taxes, legalization of sports betting and recreational marijuana, fighting opioid addiction and voting reforms.
While the rolls show nearly 10,000 more Democrats than Republicans in the district, the numbers are deceiving. The GOP is both its history and its habit. It had been a seat of Republican power for four decades when Brooks won, with Charles Fuschillo the predecessor to Michael Venditto, and before that, beginning in 1973, Norman Levy. But Brooks has served well, and his voice, already respected, will be even more so in a new term.
Newsday endorses Brooks.
— The editorial board