Edmund Smyth is shown in this July 3, 2020 photo...

Edmund Smyth is shown in this July 3, 2020 photo taken in Huntington. Credit: James Escher

For the past decade, the Town of Huntington, where Republican Edmund J. Smyth is a board member, was vexed with a property-tax appeal lawsuit filed on the Northport Power Plant. The plant was taxed $86 million annually, a hugely inflated figure, but the revenue held taxes down in the Northport-East Northport school district, and any court-ordered reduction approaching the 90% cut LIPA sought would have sent school taxes skyrocketing. The town would have been on the hook for a refund of past overcharges that could have hit $800 million.

Smyth, 49, of Lloyd Harbor, played his role in the LIPA negotiations with canny courage. He held out for years until LIPA was forced to sweeten the deal as much as possible. Then, in the face of furious opposition, he agreed to vote for the settlement before a judge’s ruling smashed the town and district, giving the deal the momentum it needed to pass.

Democrat James F. Gaughran, 63, of Eaton’s Neck, never came out for or against the offer. Instead of helping build support for the difficult but necessary agreement, Gaughran tried to pass an unworkable law in the State Senate to ban the refund LIPA sought. It was a disappointing lack of leadership that ill-served almost half of his constituents.

During his first term representing the 5th Senate District, Gaughran fought successfully to make the state property tax cap permanent and amend the controversial bail reform changes, adding to the new law crimes for which suspects could be held in jail. Both were worthy efforts. But when Gaughran’s voice was needed to push for the right solution on the power plant, he did not lend it.

For his part, Smyth should hew less closely to the party line on issues like criminal justice reform and absolutism on opposing new taxes. His openness to placing homeless families in vacant single-family homes in district neighborhoods suggests he can, although his outright opposition to the proposal for transitional housing for homeless families in Jericho is unfortunate.

Smyth also evinces a firm dedication to fighting for the interests of small businesses that are the lifeblood of this district, restaurants in particular. And he has vowed to dedicate himself to preserving the Island’s drinking water as well as its bays, harbors and estuaries, by prioritizing state-of-the art septic systems and filtration systems for stormwater runoff. Smyth’s evolution, leadership and vote on the LIPA settlement demonstrated political fortitude and his ability to lead.

Newsday endorses Smyth.

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— The editorial board

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