Kenneth LaValle, Smithtown Republican candidate for re-election to the N.Y....

Kenneth LaValle, Smithtown Republican candidate for re-election to the N.Y. State Senate 1st District. (May 24, 2012) Credit: David Pokress

Democratic challenger Bridget M. Fleming, 52, says it's time to break through the "boys club" that is Long Island's all-male Republican contingent in the State Senate. And while more talented women are needed in Albany, the Southampton Town Board member is bucking an institution, incumbent Kenneth LaValle of Port Jefferson, first elected in 1976.

Fleming has noble causes: to seek fairer distribution of school aid, to use her experience as a Manhattan prosecutor to help bring integrity to Albany, and to advocate for fair pay for women and affordable health care.

However, in 36 years in Albany, LaValle, 73, has earned clout that would be unwise for voters to abandon. As head of the Senate Higher Education Committee, he brought a rational system of tuition hikes for state universities and increased aid for community colleges. For Stony Brook University, his efforts helped allocate funds for a medical research building and a children's hospital, renovation of an arena, and a marine science center. LaValle also was lead sponsor of a law requiring regular audits of the Long Island Power Authority. In a new term, LaValle's influence is needed to wean Port Jefferson from reliance on tax revenue from its power plant, to facilitate Southampton Hospital's new alliance with Stony Brook's medical center, and to help settle a dispute over tuition for local students at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan.

Newsday endorses LaValle.