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Ken LaValle's big decision

Sen. Ken LaValle in an undated photo.

Sen. Ken LaValle in an undated photo. Credit: Randee Daddona

Daily Point

A penny for his thoughts

Elections have consequences almost every day. 

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is not appointing Penny LaValle to a new six-year term as director of the county’s Real Property Tax Service Agency in Riverhead. The move, which surely would not have happened if Republicans still controlled the State Senate, is prompting talk from Port Jefferson to Albany about what Penny LaValle having more free time might portend for the future plans of her spouse, the longest-serving member of the chamber.

Sen. Kenneth LaValle, 80, the prominent Port Jefferson Republican, did not respond to a query from The Point about whether he would step down before his term ends, or seek reelection next year. However, a staff member said that he has “every intention” of running in 2020.

But some political insiders think his wife’s forced retirement, as well as his dismay about losing the considerable clout he had when the GOP controlled the chamber, might make him consider calling it a day.

Bellone’s decision earlier this fall had nothing to do with trying to force Ken LaValle’s hand, sources said. Rather, they said, Penny LaValle, 70, a holdover from the Steve Levy administration, served in the job, which oversees the county’s tax maps, for 24 years, and “it was time.” She leaves in the next week or so and Bellone is expected to name a successor by the end of the year.

When Bellone was first elected, he reappointed LaValle, who is praised for her work in the office, to another term, as he did with Alan Schneider, head of the county’s civil service department. Renewing their terms at the time was presumed to be good politics. Suffolk County Democratic chair Rich Schaffer especially liked keeping Schneider, who was skilled at greasing the wheels of patronage jobs in county government. 

LaValle’s departure won’t be as controversial as Schneider’s, who initially refused to leave. He works for Schaffer in the Town of Babylon and continues his legal challenges to his removal.

Republicans who think the 2020 election with President Donald Trump on the top of the ticket is the last chance they have in an increasingly blue state to make a comeback in Albany certainly need Ken LaValle. He won his first term in 1976, and would be considered the favorite because of his name recognition and endless work for the district. That work includes securing funding for Stony Brook University, an instrumental role in protecting the Pine Barrens and the STAR tax-relief program, and his most recent efforts to ensure a future for Southampton Hospital by getting a bill passed in 2018 that allowed land to be leased for a new facility.

An open State Senate seat, however, could be snatched by the Democrats. Well-known victim rights advocate Laura Ahearn already is fundraising, and has the support of the State Senate Democratic campaign committee. 

Penny LaValle did not respond to requests for comment about her future plans. 

—Rita Ciolli @RitaCiolli

Talking Point

In her own words

If you know two things about Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota Democrat polling behind the top contenders for 2020, it’s that she’s one of the well-prepared centrists ready to step up if others falter, and that she once ate an airplane salad with a comb.

That latter was reported by The New York Times this year in a story about her intensity with staff. She allegedly was angry that a staffer hadn’t procured a fork with the greens, and she later handed the comb to the staffer to be cleaned. 

There are hints of near-maniacal moments like this in Klobuchar’s 2015 book, “The Senator Next Door.” Her daughter calls her a “submarine” mom as opposed to a helicopter one, because she lurks below the surface and pops up from time to time. She makes a bizarre joke to the same 9-year-old daughter regarding the potential that a political opponent will use the child in an attack ad if she doesn’t practice her piano. 

To be fair, there’s a lot of noteworthy material to peruse here because the book is one of the more comprehensive memoirs of the 2020 crew. Klobuchar says she wrote it herself, not with a ghostwriter. That might explain the dutiful tidbits — what was in the gift bags at her “brats and beer” rehearsal dinner for her wedding, which Walter Mondale also attended — and also some great personal stories. Like how she learned to call for political donations during, before or after “The West Wing” was airing. 

What becomes clear is Klobuchar’s slow road to prominence: managing a reelection campaign for a state official in 1988, being a Democratic National Convention delegate in 1992, running for and eventually winning a county attorney seat throughout the ’90s, and finally gaining the U.S. Senate seat she holds. 

It’s interesting to compare that career and this book to those of Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is blocking Klobuchar’s well-established centrist lane. The mayor’s book is more artfully written, but the style allows for some glossing over key moments — like his McKinsey & Co. consulting career, which has recently come in for more scrutiny. 

Klobuchar’s exhaustive chronicle allows more holes to be poked. In dozens of pages on her job as a prosecutor, for example, there’s little hint of the reformist impulse animating many other Democratic prosecutors today. 

Her climb-the-ladder career leaves her open to more criticism, and gives her a bit less star power than Buttigieg — an irony which seems to be giving her trouble as she tries to take the biggest ladder-step of all.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Stand-up comedy at NATO

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/opinion

Final Point

Lasting consequences

The outcry intensified Friday over a video showing Freeport police officers hitting and kicking Akbar Rogers as they tried to subdue and arrest him on Tuesday.

A protest rally Friday afternoon underscored how the response to the incident has stretched beyond Freeport. Besides the Long Island Progressive Coalition and the Long Island Conference of Clergy, the rally included outside progressive groups such as Make the Road NY, Justice League NYC, Citizen Action of NY, and New York Communities for Change, among others.

The rally was a response to a video that spread across social media this week depicting officers dragging Rogers over a fence and onto the ground, and then continuing to punch and kick him as he struggled. Rogers and his family also attended the rally.

Advocates said the event was the beginning of their efforts, adding that legal action against the village or its department was “not off the table.” They said they want a release of the video from the body cameras the officers wore during the arrest, an independent investigation, and administrative leave without pay for the officers involved.

The Newsday editorial board weighed in Friday about what must happen next. Read it here.

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

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