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Spoken with conviction

Sayville Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino at a Seaford where

Sayville Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino at a Seaford where law enforcement union officials endorsed him for the Congressional seat long held by Peter King, left, who is retiring. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Daily Point

Garbarino backs the blue with TV ad

CD2 Republican candidate Andrew Garbarino is up with his first TV ad of the general election. Unsurprisingly given the subjects that have animated GOP voters and politicians this cycle, it’s titled "Back the Blue."

"It’s crazy," intones a female narrator. "With crime on the rise, Democrats would defund the police. Republicans, they’ll defend the blue."

It’s a straightforward pitch separating voters into two partisan camps after a summer of protests and counterprotests regarding deaths in police hands and general law-enforcement issues.

"I grew up here on Long Island," Garbarino says in the ad. "My values are just like yours. Defend the middle class, keep taxes down, respect law enforcement."

Garbarino’s opponent, Jackie Gordon, served as a military police branch officer in the New York Army National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve, and that service is a focus of her own first TV ad — a biographical spot that doesn’t talk directly about policy. The issues pages on her campaign website cover gun violence and veterans and military families, but not the hot-button policing subjects other candidates have embraced. For Garbarino’s part, campaign missive after campaign missive has worked to tie Gordon to the police-critical and "defund" elements of her party.

Police unions are explicitly taking up the mantle of Republicans, with a coalition of more than 20 unions across New York announcing this week a coordinated effort to elect Republicans in tight State Senate races, including multiple on Long Island.

The Long Island police benevolent associations have endorsed Garbarino and are "working around the clock" for his candidacy, according to the campaign, which declined to outline further strategies.

The 30-second ad will run "district-wide on cable TV, connected TV and digital platforms," according to a campaign news release.

Though the exact tenor of this year’s GOP focus on law enforcement is related to the death of George Floyd, months of demonstrations, and the Twitter account of President Donald Trump, the party has often returned to this issue in campaigns on Long Island. That connection to the past was clear in the closing seconds of Garbarino’s spot.

"In Congress," he says, "just like Pete King, I’ll back the blue."

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

Fiery resignation letter adds fuel to Gillen’s building department complaints

Throughout her two-year tenure as the first Democratic Party supervisor for Hempstead Town in more than a century, Laura Gillen aimed much of her considerable energy at the building department, mostly to no avail.

She charged that it was nepotistic, incompetently run, and corrupt. But her attempts to make significant changes there, like replacing John Rottkamp, the commissioner, who she claimed does not meet the technical qualifications spelled out in his job description, went nowhere. The same was true of her repeated attempts to hire an outside auditor to review the department’s operations, moves always defeated by her Republican opponents on the board and their consistent Democratic ally, Dorothy Goosby.

But this week, Gillen, who lost her reelection bid to Republican Donald Clavin in 2019, got new ammunition in the form of a fiery and public resignation letter from seven-year building department code enforcement officer Adam Brinsley. It has reinvigorated her desire to see change in the department.

In the letter, sent to Rottkamp along with several members of the media, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, the Nassau County District Attorney and several state agencies, Brinsley wrote: "The environment created by the gross negligence and corruption within your department creates a hostile and toxic workplace which I can no longer bear."

Brinsley goes on to cite, as reasons for his resignation, "The superstorm Sandy debacle, multiple investigations, countless subpoenas, district attorney search warrants, personal and politically motivated disciplinary actions taken on employees, targeted harassment on constituents, violations of due process and even the grand jury indictments of your deputy commissioner."

And he says Rottkamp is "running the department as nothing more than a pit of political patronage that is used to enrich everyone from your hairstylist to those that are personal friends or politically connected."

The deputy commissioner Brinsley referenced, John Novello, was indicted last year on charges he stole nearly $60,000 from the Cedarhurst Republican Club. At the time, Novello, in addition to his town role, was chief of staff to Assemb. Melissa Miller, executive committeeman of the Nassau County Republican Committee and executive leader of the Cedarhurst Republican Committee.

One Brinsley gripe about the building department that has already been substantiated is its work during Sandy, when the department designated many homes as "substantially damaged" but never informed the owners. The designation demanded costly repairs, including elevating homes in some cases, but many residents knew nothing about the categorization until they went to apply for unrelated permits years later.

The Point reached Brinsley by phone in Wilmington, North Carolina, where he recently relocated. He said he has been working with the Nassau County DA’s office for three years and has heard from the Eastern District in response to his letter, but doesn’t know how much will come from their investigations.

"They look for money changing hands, bribes," he said, "and these people are way too crafty for that. It’s not about envelopes of dirty cash, it’s about tickets to political dinners, favors for friends, jobs for the connected, and these things are a lot harder to prove."

These contentions have a particular resonance this week, as former Town Councilman Edward Ambrosino began serving his six-month sentence after pleading guilty to a charge of tax evasion. That guilty plea led prosecutors to drop charges that Ambrosino had failed to pass on to his law firm money he earned working for two county agencies, and claimed business expenses related to a rental apartment in New York City that were not business expenses.

Asked to respond to Brinsley’s letter, Clavin had no comment.

As for Gillen’s continued ardor in making sure Brinsley’s letter got some attention, it can only add fuel to the rumors that she will take on Clavin in a rematch next November. The Point asked her about it Wednesday, and she said: "Many people are asking me that question, and encouraging me to run, but I have not made that decision yet."

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point

Book storm

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

Final Point

Podcast: A lesson in surviving the virus

Back in the spring, Long Island Rail Road employee Ken Finegan and other Ronkonkoma Rail Yard workers were infected by the coronavirus — before full precautions were in place to prevent the spread of the disease.

Episode 36 of "Life Under Coronavirus" looks at how hard COVID-19 is to trace and how quickly it can spread without strict safeguards, a warning for coming months.

The nine-person spurt of infections took place during a chaotic period in New York, largely before masks were a given. The MTA announced March 27 it would issue masks to employees, and distribution began on April 7, according to a spokeswoman.

A little bit earlier, the MTA said employees could wear a mask if they wanted.

The episode covers some of the changing guidance, including an interview with MTA chief safety officer Patrick Warren.

MTA workers have been hard-hit by the pandemic, with more than 130 dead and thousands infected. One of the dead in April was an LIRR employee who worked at the Ronkonkoma headquarters.

Finegan, who has recovered, said more precautions are being taken now at work and that’s a good thing given the seriousness of the disease.

"I'll tell you the truth, being this sick, this is no joke," said Finegan. "This is the real deal. I've never been this sick before in my life."

Take a look at our new podcast page and listen to all 36 episodes here: https://www.newsday.com/podcasts/life-under-coronavirus

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

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