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Election 2012: Newsday's endorsements for New York State Assembly

Members of the New York state Assembly hold

Members of the New York state Assembly hold a session at the Capitol in Albany, N.Y. Credit: AP, 2011

Once again, the struggle for control of the State Senate, where Republicans cling to a precarious majority, is the dominant narrative this year in state politics. As usual, expectations for the Assembly are for more of the same: easy Democratic dominance.

There's little chance of an erosion of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's power base. His Democratic conference has 100 members. Of those, 62 are from the City of New York and seven from Long Island -- eight when you count Assemb. Fred W. Thiele Jr. of Sag Harbor, an Independence Party member who caucuses with the Democrats.

What that dominance produces from candidates is a dreary repetition of two mantras: Democrats -- either incumbents or challengers -- argue that they'll do the best job for their districts because they would be part of the powerful majority. Republicans acknowledge that they would belong to the powerless minority, but they can get past that crippling obstacle by "crossing the aisle" and getting Democrats to sponsor their ideas.

But members of both parties are no more empowered now than in the past. Three men in a room still decide the major issues: Silver, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. The governor has an almost hypnotic, bipartisan ability to get legislators to praise him for getting things done and changing the way Albany works. But even those who chair committees don't always get a real say on important legislation that gets decided by that powerful triumvirate -- unless they work really hard at it. More than at any other time, these past two years seem to have reduced them to a faint chorus, humming obediently in the background, while the three men in a room sing the solo parts.

What is a little different this year is the embarrassing revelation that Silver doled out taxpayer money in a settlement with alleged victims of sexual harassment by Assemb. Vito Lopez. Until the scandal, Lopez was the Brooklyn Democratic leader. He announced his resignation from that post, but refuses to leave his Assembly seat. As long as the investigation goes on, a cloud hangs over Silver's head.

In some races, the Republican candidate has called on the Democrat to come out in favor of Silver's resignation. Not surprisingly, Democrats have stuck by him, though they have felt free to criticize the use of taxpayer funds in the Lopez settlement. Barring some blockbuster finding in the investigation by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, the chances of a change in the speakership are remote.

Once the election is over, and it's clear again that Democrats are in control, the legislature's incumbents, whether they win or lose, may well be back up in Albany for a lame duck session to vote themselves a pay raise, as part of a mega "reform" deal. The idea would be to make the raise smell sweeter by wrapping it in tougher conflict-of-interest rules, more transparency in legislators' dealings and perhaps even public campaign financing to make corruption less tempting.

Keeping all that in mind, New Yorkers choosing between the incumbent and the challenger would be well advised to cast their Assembly vote based only on their views of the candidates on the ballot, without having to worry about how that selection may change the power equation. It simply won't.

COMING THURSDAY: Endorsements for Districts 11-22


South Fork, Shelter Island, southeast Brookhaven Town

Fred W. Thiele Jr., first elected to the Assembly in 1995, is a former Republican running unopposed on the Democratic, Working Family and Independence Party lines. In the Assembly, he is an Independence Party member who caucuses with Democrats.

Thiele, 59, of Sag Harbor, has been a solid advocate for local causes: land preservation, the environment, improved public transportion and a cap on property tax hikes. In the past few years, he fiercely fought plans to shut down most of Stony Brook University’s Southampton campus. His input will be needed as Stony Brook moves to build a new Southampton Hospital on the campus.

Newsday endorses Thiele.


North Fork, Riverhead, northeast Brookhaven

Republican incumbent Daniel Losquadro, 40, who left his role as leader of the Suffolk legislature minority to become a freshman minority assemblyman, likes his new job. He says Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s agenda has been well aligned with the Assembly Republicans and he’s pleased to share those successes. Losquadro failed to pass a bill that would speed development at the EPCAL site in Riverhead by making the town, instead of the state, the lead agency for environmental review.

Instead of pursuing this flawed bill, Losquadro should work with the Cuomo administration to craft a compromise. His intense local focus is one of hard-working Losquadro’s strengths, and in a district with 100 miles of coastline, he has wisely spent his time on issues involving beach access, erosion and protection of the Mattituck Inlet.

Challenger Nicholas Deegan, 63, of Mattituck, a Democrat, is a Mattituck Park District commissioner who ran unsuccessfully for Southold Town council last year. He did not respond to an invitation to meet with Newsday’s editorial board.
Newsday endorses Losquadro.


Much of south Brookhaven and Fire Island

Republican Dean Murray, running for his second full term in the Assembly, has learned a lot in Albany without sacrficing his principles.

He’s a true conservative, but a less contentious presence than a few years ago, when he was launching local tea party groups. The job has matured his views.

Murray, 48, even as a Long Island Republican in the New York City and Democrat-dominated Assembly, has helped get sewers installed in Patchogue and brought home money for road projects. He’s also been relentless in fighting the Metropolitan Transportation Authority payroll tax his constituents hate, and arguing that the agency must eliminate waste, fraud and abuse.

Edward J. Hennessey, 50, is Murray’s Democratic challenger and a former Republican member of the Brookhaven Town Council. He has a firm grasp of local politics, but much of what he wants to work on can’t be accomplished via Albany.

Murray is coming into his own and growing in competence.

Newsday endorses Murray.


Most of northwest Brookhaven

In a rematch from 2010, Republican Deborah McKee, a civilian dispatcher for the Suffolk County Police Department, is challenging

Democratic Assemb. Steven Englebright, who has held the seat for 20 years. McKee, 56, of Mount Sinai, received 44 percent of the vote last time. She sees Englebright as an entrenched denizen of seamy Albany culture, and is campaigning on her promise to help small businesses by changing the tax code.

Englebright, 66, a geologist who lives in Setauket, is one of the Assembly’s most effective advocates for Long Island. He’s done admirable work promoting jobs here through solar-power bills that have put carpenters to work, through the SUNY 2020 plan and, potentially, with his idea to build a college town at the edge of the Stony Brook campus.

Englebright is skillfully mediating between the Long Island Power Authority and the Port Jefferson school district over the future tax revenue from the power plant there. And his training makes him an important voice in the debate over hydrofracking’s safety.

Newsday endorses Englebright.


Northeast Islip, central-west Brookhaven

Republican Assemb. Alfred Graf says he is motivated to keep Long Island’s cost of living down so young people, including his three children, aren’t driven away. Graf, 54, of Patchogue, appears to face easy re-election as he pursues that goal. Democratic opponent Victor E. Salamone, 49, a Suffolk Off-Track Betting Corp. employee from Holbrook, is not actively campaigning.

Graf comes to the job as a citizen-legislator, bringing a gut sense of what’s right, colored by his years as a New York City cop, two terms as a small-town supervisor in the Adirondacks, and current work as a lawyer in private practice.

In his first term, he helped establish a parking violations bureau for Suffolk County. He is pursuing myriad other causes: more funding for local trade schools, college loan repayment for nurses who work in underserved areas, enabling abused women to keep their children. His chief obsession is to channel cheap hydroelectricity from upstate to Long Island. On this point, Graf will need the support of other Long Island legislators because of powerful opposition from upstate politicians.

Newsday endorses Graf.


Brentwood, North Bay Shore, Central Islip

Seeking his sixth term in the Assembly, Democrat Phil Ramos, 56, knows how Albany works, and he’s often made it work for his district.

That’s one of the perks of being in the Democratic majority, and amassing some seniority.

But so much of what Ramos, of Brentwood, seeks are the same things he’s sought for years, albeit with some success. He is deservedly proud of bringing home money to fight gangs and graffiti, and to beautify the downtowns in his district. But Brentwood and Central Islip still aren’t beautiful, and gangs and graffiti are still rampant. Ramos may need to look at new approaches, and bring new enthusiasm.

Republican challenger Manuel Troche, 49, pulses with passion for his community. He cites his experiences as a hometown firefighter in Brentwood as central to his understanding of local problems, and wants to fight gangs, sober houses, sex offenders and foreclosures. But Troche isn’t familiar with the statewide issues he would confront in Albany, and that’s a weakness.

Ramos has the experience, but we hope he can use it to make real progress with the district’s problems.

Newsday endorses Ramos.


Southeast Islip, East Patchogue

Republican Philip Boyle’s decision to run for the State Senate has opened up one of the most competitive Assembly races on Long Island as a well-known figure faces a capable first-time candidate.

Christopher Bodkin, 65, of West Sayville, is trying to make a comeback to public life. After 16 years on the Islip Town Board, he lost re-election in 2009 after changing from Republican to Democrat. Bodkin is a part-time aide to the Suffolk County Legislature’s presiding officer, Bill Lindsay.

Republican Andrew Garbarino, 27, is a Sayville attorney who comes from a political family. Garbarino’s father, William, ran for office against two of Suffolk’s biggest names: Lindsay and former County Executive Steve Levy.

Bodkin would work on environmental issues in Albany, including solid waste disposal, sewer construction and groundwater protection. He is endorsed by the state teachers union and favors taking “baby steps” toward evaluating teachers’ effectiveness. He would explore funding state pensions at less than 100 percent, as some states have, to ease financial burdens on localities. Bodkin would not vote for broader casino gambling in New York.

Garbarino, on the other hand, would expand casinos here to capture gambling revenue now flowing to Connecticut and New Jersey. If elected, he would seek to work on education, aging and banking issues, particularly moving foreclosed properties back on the market.

In education, Garbarino would look to cut costs, including mandates that schools say inflate their budgets each year. He needs more study on this issue to find better ideas on which mandates in particular could best meet the chopping block. Garbarino would encourage schools to eliminate some administrative layers, and he favors evaluating teachers, but not releasing the results to the public.

Both candidates are qualified and thoughtful. However, Garbarino, who has the energy of a reformer and an impressive understanding of how to make Albany responsive to his district, is more appealing.

Newsday endorses Garbarino.


Smithtown and part of north Islip

Michael Fitzpatrick, 55, of St. James, is one of the most conservative members of the Assembly, which inevitably leaves him standing alone in that house. His principled stances and his willingness to challenge orthodoxy, however, have helped bring about a property tax cap and pension reform.

He faces a challenge from Democrat Jesse Safer, 58, of Commack, a senior trial attorney for Geico. Safer opposes public funding of charter schools and using student test scores to evaluate teachers. He would like to revive an idea to invite private investors to build a tunnel across the Long Island Sound.

Fitzpatrick is nearing his 10th year in the Assembly, and has flirted with other roles in politics — Suffolk executive and Congress — but he’s found raising money daunting. Still, his skills and popularity might be best put to use in a more demanding office, such as town supervisor.

While he’s still in Albany, however, Fitzpatrick should push harder to transform the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center into a useful site, a potentially divisive fight but one that would represent a promise fulfilled.

Newsday endorses Fitzpatrick.


Gilgo, southeast Babylon, southwest Islip, south Oyster Bay

From the rapid pace at which he ticks off his accomplishments, to the stack of mailings, pamphlets and pages listing his work in the Assembly, Republican incumbent Joseph Saladino might give residents new to the vastly redrawn 9th District the idea that he is very effective.

He’s not.

Saladino, 50, a lifelong Massapequa resident, tends to sponsor legislation that piggybacks onto the headline of the moment, such as “Jonny’s Law,” a bill that would require all parents to drug-test their children in grades nine through 12. No other member joined him.
Another of his proposed bills reads, “Any bill containing an unfunded mandate shall bear the words UNFUNDED MANDATE on the face of the bill.”

Unfortunately, his Democrat challenger, Jay Cherlin, 60, of Massapequa, displays a shallow grasp of statewide issues. Cherlin, who works for the Long Island Coalition of National Health Planning, is knowledgeable about health care and wants to curb Medicaid costs. But his primary focus, enacting a single-payer health care plan for New York, is unrealistic.

Newsday makes no endorsement.


Western Huntington, Elwood, Lloyd Harbor, northwest Babylon

The winner of this seat will succeed James Conte, the Huntington Station Republican who represented the district for 24 years before his death on Oct. 16. Voters will choose between two impressive 33-year-old lawyers, both Station residents who’ve already made contributions in public life.

Democrat Joseph Dujmic Jr., grew up in Holbrook and is a graduate of St. John’s University and New York Law School. He worked as an assistant county attorney on behalf of neglected and abused children. He has taught at St. John’s, is a Vanderbilt Museum trustee and, now in private practice, acts as a court-appointed advocate for children.

Dujmic wants to focus on family services as well as ethics reform. He supports creating jobs through green technology, a local-preference law for New York employers seeking state contracts, and tax incentives for small businesses. He supports the Avalon Bay project to provide affordable housing.

Chad Lupinacci, the Republican candidate, is a lifelong resident whose family’s Huntington Station roots go back several generations. He holds bachelor’s, MBA and law degrees from Hofstra University. Best known as a member of the South Huntington school board, he is a full-time faculty member at Farmingdale State College and teaches at Hofstra.

He wants to bring more small businesses to Route 110 to create jobs, and short-sightedly opposes denser housing in Huntington Station, preferring to see more apartments above storefronts, as it was decades ago.

This endorsement is among the closest calls this fall. Both agree on many things: expanded casino gambling in the state, bus rapid transit on 110, reducing unfunded school programs required by the state, and opposition to the new teacher evaulation system.

But Lupinacci has an edge on at least two counts. His work on Conte’s staff as a college student gives him a head start in constituent services, and his eight years on the school board give him education expertise.

We would like to see him focus on improving New York Avenue and work hard to create affordable housing for young residents.

Newsday endorses Lupinacci.


Much of Babylon

This race pits the leader of the Long Island Assembly delegation against a promising newcomer.

Robert Sweeney, a 63-year-old Democrat from Lindenhurst, serves as chairman of the Environmental Conservation Committee. Rashad Cureton is a 21-year-old from Amityville who switched to the Republican Party to run for office. Cureton, who is pursuing a master’s degree in sports management, speaks passionately about providing educational opportunities for all. He’s also concerned about the lack of jobs.

While we hope Cureton stays involved in politics, he doesn’t make the case to turn out one of our most valuable players. Sweeney is a straight shooter who brings his 24 years of experience and creative thinking to the capital. The environmentally friendly parking lot at Lindenhurst Library he helped facilitate should become a model. Sweeney also voted for the much-needed property tax cap bill. In his next term, we challenge Sweeney to reconsider his opposition to charter schools, in an effort to boost the struggling schools in Wyandanch.

Newsday endorses Sweeney.

This is a corrected version of the endorsement. An earlier version incorrectly stated that Sweeney was the only Long Island Democrat to vote for the property tax cap.


Eastern Huntington, northwest Islip, northeast Babylon

Sometimes it’s hard to be a minority party member working in Albany, but Assemb. Andrew Raia, a Republican from East Northport, fills the role about as well as it can be done.

Raia, 44, is seeking his sixth term, and has no opposition. Two years ago he faced a Democratic candidate who did little more than put his name on the ballot in contesting the seat.

Clearly, the district is happy with Raia’s service, and it should be. He is a detail-oriented, even wonky worker in the legislature, focusing on complicated issues.

Raia has worked hard to focus attention on some of the abuses of the state’s generous Medicaid program, including optional services with overly low co-pays and overspending on transportation for patients. He says that while he and his ally in the fight, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, haven’t had as much success as he’d like, the battle will go on.

Locally, he’s working on environmental concerns, particularly the nitrogen buildup in Long Island’s waters, pushing innovative methods like algae rings and electrolysis of waste water to control the problem.

Newsday endorses Raia.


Glen Cove, parts of Hempstead and Oyster Bay

Charles Lavine, 65, a Democratic incumbent seeking his fifth term, cites the enactment of a property tax cap as a big step toward fiscal responsibility. His effectiveness in Albany, though, is best measured in help he gives to local governments and in the use of his expertise as a criminal defense lawyer on issues such as the recent expansion of the state’s DNA database. More crimes now require a DNA sample from the convicted.

Lavine, of Glen Cove, has been deeply involved in the complex negotiations with the Long Island Power Authority to help the North Shore school district absorb the shock to its tax base from closing the Glenwood Landing power plant.

Republican challenger Louis Imbroto, 28, a Plainview attorney in his first run for office, has an impressive command of the issues. He wants more housing built around transit hubs to keep his generation here, and he says the state should spend more to repair and build infrastructure.

Lavine, a longtime champion of ethics reform, should return to the Assembly as an even more vocal supporter of greater independence for the newly created state ethics board.

Newsday endorses Lavine.


Southeast Hempstead

When Democrat John Brooks challenged Republican incumbent David McDonough in 2010, Newsday endorsed Brooks. This year McDonough gets the nod. What the men bring to the race hasn’t changed, only our conclusion about what’s best for the district and Nassau.

Brooks, 62, of Seaford, still has deep roots in the community and his fire for reform hasn’t cooled. He still has thoughtful plans to improve flawed systems, such as school funding. McDonough, 75, of Merrick, is the same plain-talking, knowledgable, tax-averse Albany veteran he was two years ago.

So why the change? One of Brooks’ promising initiatives — a plan to reform Nassau’s assessment system — is gaining traction in Mineola. He should be here to drive it.

McDonough is the ranking GOP member of the Assembly Transportation Committee. He should light a fire under bureaucrats who’ve been slow to fix problems on our roads. His fellow Merrick Republican, Sen. Charles Fuschillo, chairs the Senate committee. The two must drive the Island’s transportation agenda.

With that mission in mind, Newsday endorses McDonough.


Parts of Hempstead, North Hempstead and Oyster Bay

Incumbent Michael A. Montesano, 57, of Glen Head, is a Republican, a lawyer and a former New York City police detective who has served as board president of the North Shore School District.

In office since a 2010 special election, he supports mandate relief for school districts and municipalities and wants to reduce the size of state government by eliminating or consolidating agencies.

He would also like to see the Assembly alter its power dynamics with term limits for its leadership.

His Democratic opponent is Mario Ferone, 19, a junior studying political science and economics at Stony Brook University. A 2010 graduate of John F. Kennedy High School in Plainview, Ferone says he would like to provide a voice for young people who are not being heard by government.

He also believes the state should take further steps to help with job retraining and education funding.

At the same time, he does not appear to be running a full-time campaign.

Newsday endorses Montesano.


Most of North Hempstead

Michelle Schimel, 55, a Great Neck Democrat, has served in the Assembly since 2007 with energy and passion, but without much effectiveness. She is best known for her effort to pass a micro-stamping law, a measure that would make it easier for police to trace firearms through cartridge casings. The bill has cleared the Assembly five times but has always been blocked in the Senate.

Her Republican challenger, Richard E. Stiek, 39, is a West Point graduate, a Port Washington lawyer and a political outsider distressed by property tax hikes and by what he sees as state and local fiscal irresponsibility.

He’s not someone the local party plucked from the ranks and handed their worn playbook. His thoughtful, often nuanced ideas set him apart on many subjects. He would have voted against teacher evaluations based on an “objective metric.” He prefers evaluations done by educational experts.

Schimel’s grasp of issues often seems anecdotal. Stiek is firmer and clearer on many subjects, and an original voice like his would be a powerful addition to a house in desperate need of new ideas.

Newsday endorses Stiek.


Parts of Hempstead and central Oyster Bay

Democrat Kevin Brady, 25, of Levittown, is challenging four-term Republican Thomas McKevitt, an East Meadow attorney. Formerly one of the most gerrymandered districts in the Assembly, this district is 87 percent remade since 2010.

Brady, a FedEx package handler, believes that elected officials can serve as “midwives” to build support for school consolidation. He’s a likable and smart newcomer, but there’s no reason to turn out the solid and forward thinking McKevitt.

As a ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, McKevitt wants to change foreclosure rules to encourage banks to modify loans for people who could stay in their homes if payments were lowered. Foreclosures coming before a judge after two years find homeowners too far behind to catch up; McKevitt would require action within 60 days.

McKevitt is rightly concerned that the new property tax cap might become a vise in a few years. That’s why he is talking about a military-base-closing-style commission to force school consolidation and bring down education costs.

Newsday endorses McKevitt.


Parts of central Hempstead

Earlene Hooper wants a 13th term, which is no surprise, because she seems to really like Albany. Her travel reimbursement filings show she spends more time there than other members and earns even bigger paychecks, too.

Besides her annual salary of $79,500, Hooper gets a leadership stipend of $25,000. And since she is officially retired from the job, she collects an $81,858-a-year pension. Meanwhile, state records show her travel expenses are always among the highest. For 2010 and 2011, Democrat Hooper, 73, of Hempstead, received a total of $61,592 in per diem reimbursements.

Meanwhile, Hooper’s leadership position allows her to stop any legislation involving Nassau County, sometimes for no apparent reason.

Republican challenger Elton McCabe, 46, of Uniondale, is running on many of the same issues he did in his campaign for the Nassau County Legislature, reducing crime and the poor quality of life caused by illegal accessory apartments. The soft-spoken McCabe, an engineering inspector for the Town of Hempstead, is passionate about helping people. Open to new ideas, he’s a breath of fresh air.

Newsday endorses McCabe.


Western Oyster Bay, south North Hempstead, north Hempstead

Republican Edward P. Ra, 30, of Franklin Square, is seeking re-election in a newly gerrymandered district. He is new to 80 percent of the voters.

Ra needs to present a strong case to these new constituents, but his first-term record is uninspiring. He voted against an amendment to allow casino gambling in the state because there were no details on their location. But, Ra, who sits on the influential Committee on Racing and Wagering, has few ideas on how these sites should be determined or any specifics on how to implement such a major change in policy. Ra supported an expansion of special education that school districts opposed and which Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo vetoed because of the higher costs it would have imposed on taxpayers.

Challenger Gary Port, 50, of West Hempstead, is a divorce attorney who lost a bid for Hempstead supervisor last year. While we didn’t think Port had the management chops to run a large town, he seems better suited as a legislator. He has the take-charge manner of the lieutenant colonel he was in the Army Reserve, and wants to apply his negotiating skills to overhaul unfunded state mandates.

Newsday endorses Port.


Southwest Hempstead and Long Beach

Harvey Weisenberg, 78, has long claimed that experience is what matters in Albany and that with 23 years in the Assembly, he has the relationships to deliver. But Weisenberg’s effectiveness has waned.

Most crucially for constituents in his home of Long Beach, this year he failed to persuade Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos to pass a routine but critical bill to enable borrowing to retire the city’s $10-million deficit. Weisenberg’s justification for returning to the Assembly — that nobody else cares about the people as much as he does — wears thin when considered against the tax increase his constituents face because his legislation failed.

The Democratic Party should begin grooming a successor. And voters should take a serious look at challenger David Sussman, 62, a urologist from Lawrence who has served on the Lawrence school board for 18 years — one of the few members whose children attended the public schools. That controversial board has likely prepared Sussman for the halls of the State Capitol. Sussman says he would focus on school aid, and we hope he would use his medical knowledge to find savings in the state’s Medicaid program as well.

Newsday endorses Sussman.


South and central Hempstead

Republican incumbent  Brian Curran says being in the Assembly minority is a lot easier thanks to the “best Republican governor we’ve had in a long time,” Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. And it’s true that many of the things Curran wanted to achieve in his first term and hopes to work for in a second have also been on Cuomo’s wish list.

Curran, 43, a litigation attorney, served as the mayor of Lynbrook before his election to the Assembly, and has been a reliable fiscal conservative in both roles.

Seeking to unseat him is Democrat Jeffrey Friedman, 44, a nonpracticing attorney and stay-at-home father. Friedman, of Rockville Centre, is an unusually knowledgeable candidate, having done volunteer work with the State Senate for years. He is undoubtedly one to watch, and speaks passionately about reducing the tax burden on Long Island, streamlining and reducing school spending, and limiting unfunded mandates from Albany.

But Curran agrees with Friedman on these issues, and has proved he can do good work on them. He deserves a chance to continue that good work.

Newsday endorses Curran.


Western Hempstead

This is a key time for residents of this newly created Assembly district on the Queens border in southwest Nassau. How the area surrounding the Belmont Park racetrack is developed, as the state moves to legalize casino gambling and reform horse racing, will shape the community for decades to come.

Democrat Michaelle Solages, 27, of Elmont, is a library worker at Hofstra University, where she earned a bachelors degree in athletic training.

Sean Wright, 43, of North Valley Stream, is a lawyer with the Town of Hempstead. He is a registered member of the Independence Party running on the Republican Party line.

The two don’t differ much on issues. Both want the unused Long Island Rail Road station at Belmont reopened and favor family-friendly development in the surrounding area. Wright would like to see a walkable mall and soccer fields. Solages added that the track’s parking fields would also be a good spot for a park-and-ride, offering a 30-minute commute into Manhattan. Both are wary of legalizing casino gambling but say they want to hear from residents before deciding what should be done with the track itself.

Neither supports the much-maligned Metropolitan Transportation Authority payroll tax. To replace revenue that would be lost if the tax is abandoned, Solages suggests selling advertising on MetroCards. Wright favors a zone system, with subway fares based on the length of a trip. They each support legalizing medical marijuana, promise to vote no on a pay raise for legislators, and pledge to fight for more school aid and less unfunded spending mandated by the state.

No freshman legislator will have much clout on such broad, statewide issues. But Wright, as a member of the Independence Party who will likely caucus with the GOP, would have slower time gaining traction in a partisan chamber dominated by a Democratic majority. That would make it difficult for him to deliver for the district. Solages would fare better. As a Democrat, she would be an energetic voice for suburban interests inside that New York City-focused majority.

Newsday endorses Solages.