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Opinion

Reaching out to the faithful

Jeffrey Pravato, Republican candidate for New York State

Jeffrey Pravato, Republican candidate for New York State Senate 8th District, poses for a portrait at Nassau County GOP headquarters in Westbury on June 1, 2018.

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Daily Point

Pravato makes a religious pitch

In the hotly contested and extremely well-funded 8th State Senate District race pitting incumbent Democrat John Brooks of Seaford against Republican Massapequa Park Mayor Jeff Pravato, identity politics is rearing its head.

Pravato’s wife, Jennifer Gallub Pravato, sent out a letter earlier this month, greeting recipients with “Shanah Tovah!” (the traditional post-Rosh Hashanah greeting that means “Happy New Year!”). She let them know that her husband, if elected, would be the only Jewish Republican in the State Senate. Whether that’s true depends on how you look at it, since Brooklyn’s Simcha Felder is 100 percent Jewish but of commingled party heritage: He is a registered Democrat who caucuses with the GOP.

But what was notable was Pravato’s campaign making such a pointedly religious pitch. The letter highlighted the family’s temple membership and involvement in Jewish schools and organizations, Pravato’s general political beliefs, and his desire to stand up for Israel against any “measures that ban, divest and sanction companies who invest in Israel.”

The letter caused a stir among some members of the district’s Jewish community, who signed a response saying they “bristle when someone tries to politicize Judaism, or use our faith and values as a charged political weapon.” They asked Pravato to apologize.

The Point left Pravato a message looking for a response, and in return got a call from Town of Oyster Bay spokesman Brian Nevin, who said he was handling the political call on a lunch break from governance. Pravato is a deputy commissioner of public works for the town.

Nevin said he’d get back with a response, and when he did, it was a piece of classic Nassau County GOP scorched-earth politics: “It’s disgusting that John Brooks would coordinate such a dishonest attack. Politics is a dirty business, yet criticizing my husband, children and my faith is a new low. Shame on John Brooks and this sham attempt to fool voters.” — Jennifer Gallub-Pravato

For what it’s worth, Brooks said he’d heard some vague talk of the letter but was not involved in informing Newsday or coordinating any response. He also voted for a Senate bill to protect Israel from the “boycott, divestment, sanctions” movement.

And Judaism isn’t the only tool Pravato can claim in the identity politics battle. He also mentions his membership in the Sons of Italy on his election website. Nevin said Pravato is a convert to the Jewish faith.

It’s a powerful combination in a district in that part of Long Island as long as voters don’t mind you using it that way.

Lane Filler

Talking Point

Rick Perry’s big decision

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry visited the Brookhaven National Lab Friday for six hours, his last visit to the 17 facilities run by the U.S. Department of Energy. After touring the lab’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, he will meet with employees and the media.

Perry’s visit to Upton is important because soon the DOE will decide whether the United States will build a $1 billion Electron-Ion Collider and, if so, whether the project will be on Long Island or at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Virginia.

Congress would also have to make a line-item funding appropriation for the machine, which could take up to 10 years to build. That’s a lot of jobs, especially in construction.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommended that the United States build the collider to keep the nation ahead of China and Europe in understanding how matter exists. The collider would be a particle accelerator to bang together ions and electrons, and that’s about the extent of The Point’s understanding of nuclear physics. But we do know politics, and if the EIC gets a green light from Perry, the fight for it between Virginia and New York will make the smashing of atoms seem tame.

Rita Ciolli

Pencil Point

Stop the madness

Final Point

Campaign funds OKd for child care

Congressional candidate Liuba Grechen Shirley’s successful quest to use federal campaign funds for child care has filtered down to the state level.

On Thursday, the New York State Board of Elections unanimously adopted an advisory opinion saying that state campaign funds, too, could be used for child care expenses.

BOE spokesman John Conklin told The Point that the board received requests to consider this issue "as a result of" the Federal Election Commission’s own ruling on Grechen Shirley’s case.

The advisory opinion gave permission to use campaign funds for child care expenses “if the expenses are incurred as a direct result of the guardian’s participation in a campaign activity.” This is more permissive — and potentially more usable for candidates — than a previous opinion that only allowed campaign funds for child care if “both parents of a child are engaged in activities directly related to a campaign or the holding of public office, one as the candidate or officeholder, the other as a representative of or accompanying his or her spouse.”

Grechen Shirley, the Amityville Democrat who is challenging Seaford GOP Rep. Peter King, received a groundswell of national media attention on this issue during her primary, plus the support of Hillary Clinton.

Russ Haven, general counsel to the nonprofit New York Public Interest Research Group, applauded the new state opinion.

“Given the surge in women running for federal and state offices, this will boost candidates who are not wealthy by helping them cover the costs of childcare during the campaign,” Haven wrote to The Point.

Mark Chiusano

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