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Upping the ante

Eugene Cook.

Eugene Cook. Credit: James Escher

Daily Point

Cook stirs the Huntington pot

Huntington Town Council member Eugene Cook, long rumored to be mulling a run for town supervisor, still won’t say what his plans are. But he has at least made it clear when he will finally share those plans.

A flyer for a Feb. 18 event at Oheka Castle, to be conducted virtually on Facebook Live by Cook, bears the title, "Councilman Eugene Cook’s Big Announcement Fundraiser!"

Cook, an Independence Party member until that party lost its automatic ballot access in the November election and he switched his registration to Republican, has spoken of primarying current supervisor and GOP member Chad Lupinacci. Lupinacci, a former State Assembly member, has been accused in a civil suit of sexually assaulting former aide Brian Finnegan three years ago in an Albany hotel room.

And Cook’s odds of success may be clarified soon.

Local Republican leaders say pollsters are currently in the field for the town GOP testing the chances of Lupinacci and Cook with prospective voters, and specifically asking how knowing about allegations like those Lupinacci faces might affect voter perceptions.

In a brief phone interview Tuesday morning, Cook told The Point he would not say what the announcement is, playfully adding, "But I hope to see you there!"

And there is at least some suspense, for a few reasons.

Cook has also discussed seeking the 18th District Suffolk County legislative seat since Democratic encumbent William "Doc" Spencer was arrested in October. The popular Spencer, who is a physician, was not considered particularly vulnerable to a challenge until he was charged with attempting to trade the drug oxycodone for sex with a woman he believed to be a prostitute.

Depending on whether and when Spencer, who has stepped down from his legislative leadership posts but continues to serve in his seat, resigns from the county legislature, there could be a special election early this year to fill the post. Either way, the seat will be on the general election ballot in November. Spencer is one of three Suffolk County legislators currently facing criminal charges.

Cook has at times told county Republican leaders he is not interested in the legislative seat, but at other times he has said he’s considering it. Lupinacci continues to insist he will seek reelection even if Cook primaries him.

Regardless of what race he’s running for, Cook would like some big chunks of money to fund his play. The flyer mentions four levels of sponsorship: Event sponsor for $5,000, Platinum for $2,500, Gold for $1,000 and Silver for $500.

And that’s not cheap for a virtual fundraiser where attendees will have to provide any snacks and drinks themselves.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

Heartland is all in the family

When developer Jerry Wolkoff died suddenly in July, speculation started immediately about the fate of Heartland Town Square. Wolkoff pursued grand plans to build a massive planned community on the site of the former Pilgrim State Psychiatric Hospital in Brentwood for nearly 20 years.

But without Wolkoff’s passion and ceaseless energy would Heartland die as well?

Not a chance, his son David says.

"In my heart and mind, nothing has changed," Wolkoff told The Point in an interview Tuesday.

He said he’s been busy building the controversial 5Pointz condominium development in Long Island City in Queens, which he expects to finish within a month-and-a-half. "That will start to open my plate up to focus time and energy on Heartland Town Square," he said.

Wolkoff dismissed pandemic-related concerns that Long Islanders no longer want the kind of density offered by Heartland with its 9,000 apartments, 3 million square feet of office space and a million square feet of retail on 450 acres.

"The single-family homes that everybody is rushing into have pushed up prices on Long Island, but I still believe in our project. I still believe our region, Suffolk County, Long Island, needs our project," Wolkoff said. "Before the pandemic, this was all the rage, you have to have density. Millennials were clamoring for more urban spaces."

And Wolkoff doesn’t think that will change in the long run.

"They’ll be back again. There’s a lifestyle for this type of urban setting," he said.

Wolkoff acknowledged he might have to tinker with some design elements – for example, by having a different type of air filtration system. But the broad parameters of the project will remain in place, he said.

Heartland still needs county approval of a connection to the Southwest Sewer District. And hiring workers and subcontractors could be interesting given Jerry Wolkoff’s bristly relationship with unions.

But that’s small potatoes compared to the larger issue of the relevance of Heartland in a virus-wracked world. And on that note, David very much channels his dad.

"As a society, we’re pretty short-sighted," David said. "This particular type of density, smart growth, is necessary for Long Island."

Whether the project advances remains to be seen. But for now, it’s clear that the heart of his father’s dream is still beating.

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie

Pencil Point

Tired of Trump

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

Final Point

Will Zeldin lose out on PAC funding?

In the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, some prominent companies from Marriott to Morgan Stanley announced a stop to PAC donations to Republican members of Congress who objected to certifying the election results.

The list of wary companies kept growing, including other giants like Marathon Petroleum and Boeing who made similar if more hesitant statements about halting political giving entirely or reviewing the process.

How much those companies actually stick to their statements is an open question. But it could spell a loss of funds to some politicians including Rep. Lee Zeldin, who has been a beneficiary of the PACs affiliated with many of the companies currently rethinking their political giving.

On Jan 6, after rioters stormed the Capitol, the Shirley Republican returned to the House floor and voted to object to both the Pennsylvania and Arizona Electoral College certifications.

He raised tens of thousands of dollars in the last cycle alone from PACs affiliated with Morgan Stanley, Walmart, American Express, Amazon, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Boeing, Marathon Petroleum, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, American Airlines, and JP Morgan.

Zeldin, who allied himself closely to former President Donald Trump to the end, has continued to post fiery tweets even after the inauguration--including one this weekend returning to the loaded issues of voter identification, ballot harvesting, and no-excuse mail-in balloting. Republican officials in many states overseeing the election process did not find evidence of widespread voter fraud in 2020, despite Zeldin and other Trump allies harping on the issue.

That kind of willingness to leap into confrontational subjects could lead to some cancellations from corporate sources, but it has also made Zeldin a high-level fundraiser among individual donors, of the small and large varieties. Of the more than $8 million Zeldin raised last cycle, the vast majority of it came from individuals.

In a statement, Zeldin spokeswoman Katie Vincentz cited those individual funders and said, "Congressman Zeldin's fundraising continues to go strong without missing a beat. He continues to be one of the most prolific fundraisers in the House."

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

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