When a senior lawmaker rises to the status of respected authority in Albany, there's always the risk that local issues can get short shrift.
That's not the case with Republican Kemp Hannon, 68, of Garden City, who has earned top credentials as a health care policy expert, but still keeps a keen eye on the concerns of his central Nassau district. Topping his list are improved safety and repairs for Hempstead Turnpike and accelerating the state's cleanup of toxic plumes from old industrial plants, including the Grumman site in Bethpage.
Now more than ever, Hannon's expertise is needed as New York's hospitals merge into large regional systems and more care is provided in smaller, community-based clinics. Knots of federal and state regulations and reimbursement plans must be navigated to make sure medical care is top quality and readily available.
The mishandling by a Dallas hospital of the first Ebola case diagnosed in the United States highlights the need to ensure that states' health care systems are prepared to respond to all infectious-disease emergencies, and Hannon is the best person to monitor it the legislature.
In 2012, Hannon oversaw the passage of the I-STOP tracking system to reduce the overprescribing of prescription painkillers. Although Hannon says he supports the use of marijuana for medical treatment, he voted against it because he had not seen enough evidence on what doses and in which forms marijuana would provide the best pain relief, and for which illnesses.
His challenger is Democrat Ethan D. Irwin, 40, of Levittown, a lawyer. This is a second run for Irwin, who wants a career in politics. In 2011, he lost a bid for the Nassau County Legislature.
Irwin, a Marine veteran who advocates free tuition for veterans at state colleges, has a sharp mind and manner. He's trying to overcome Hannon's seniority by arguing that he's been there too long; he would cap terms at 10-12 years. Irwin says he would be more aggressive in pushing the Navy to clean up the Grumman plume.
Irwin supports the Dream Act, a higher minimum wage and public campaign financing, all of which Hannon opposes.
If Hannon wins, he would be wise to take a more hands-on approach to addressing the myriad problems in the Hempstead school district.
Newsday endorses Hannon.