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The hardest-fought battle in Tuesday’s special election is the State Senate race in Westchester County, a bellwether for overall voter sentiment and an early indicator of whether Democrats can take control of the chamber, the last GOP bastion in New York.
The heavy TV and radio buys in the election to fill the seat vacated by Democrat George Latimer, who is now the Westchester County executive, have spilled into the Long Island media market. More than $3.4 million has been spent so far in the race between Democrat Shelley Mayer and Republican Julie Killian. Each candidate has spent about $1 million, with the remainder spent by special interest groups, including charter school supporters who favor the GOP, and a PAC that supports Democrats taking control of the Senate.
State PBA shows muscle in LI Assembly race
However, another special election receiving attention is the 10th Assembly seat in Huntington, which is getting more money and attention than expected, even though the outcome hardly would change the overwhelmingly Democratic chamber. Republican candidate Janet Smitelli wants to keep the seat vacated by Chad Lupinacci, who won the town supervisor job last year.
Democratic nominee Steve Stern, like Smitelli, has been bombarding voters with mailers, telephone calls and door knocks. However, on Friday, the Stern campaign was caught by surprise when an independent group made a last-minute local cable ad buy for the Democrat. The positive ad depicts a smiling, casually posed former Suffolk County legislator wearing bluejeans against the backdrop of an American flag.
The less-than-$10,000 purchase, unusual for a special election, was made by an unknown group called People for Political Responsibility. The group lists Daniel Sisto, an official of the Police Benevolent Association of the New York State Troopers, as the principal. A message left for Sisto at PBA headquarters was not returned.
However, Stern’s campaign confirmed the group did buy the TV time. “Steve Stern is honored to have the support of law enforcement. They know that Steve has fought to protect our communities from the scourge of opioids and violent gangs like MS-13 and that he will continue that fight in Albany,” the campaign said in an email. But no explanation was provided for why the political action arm of state troopers is interested in the 10th AD election, or who in local law enforcement might have asked for the show of muscle. If you know the connection, do drop a dime and let The Point know.
Tracking the tracks
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has begun preliminary work on the Long Island Rail Road’s third track as workers bore into the ground to assess soil and prepare for construction. Some retaining walls may go up in the next couple of months, too. Full-scale construction won’t begin in earnest until October, Mark Roche, the MTA’s project executive assigned to both the LIRR’s double-track and third-track efforts, told The Point on Friday.
A construction office has opened in Westbury, and one for community outreach is open in Mineola. Meanwhile, the MTA hopes to start an education program in schools in neighborhoods along the third track to teach kids about what’s going on in their backyards and why.
The MTA also is working with local officials to prepare for the elimination of seven street-level crossings. The two crossings to be tackled first are Covert Avenue in New Hyde Park and Urban Avenue in Westbury.
As for building the track itself, Roche said that by October, the MTA will start the work on the east end in Hicksville and on the west end in Floral Park, moving toward Mineola, in the middle.
At Thursday’s Long Island Index presentation in Brookville, regional advocates, elected officials and others pointed to the final approval of the third track in July as the ultimate Long Island success story.
Dave Kapell, who headed the Right Track for Long Island Coalition advocacy group, told the audience that the third track would be the “most important public infrastructure project” for Long Island in decades. Rauch Foundation president Nancy Rauch Douzinas said that when the Long Island Index chose to study the third-track project, there was uncertainty about its efforts, but the data proved the advocates’ case.
The completion date of the third track is still more than four years away. But the second track being added between Ronkonkoma and Farmingdale is close. The first three miles at the eastern end are due to open in June. The remaining 10 miles will be opened over the summer. There will be weekend service disruptions on the line as it gets closer to its opening, Roche noted.
Third track’s scheduled opening date is the fall of 2022. If that year sounds familiar, it’s because that’s also the target for completion of the East Side Access connection to Grand Central Terminal.
The difference between the two efforts? Major construction on East Side Access started in 2007.
Fifteen years versus four? If all goes according to plan, the East Side Access time zone will make third track seem like it was done in an instant.
Randi F. Marshall
Another opponent for Nixon and Cuomo
As New York’s Working Families Party tries to figure out its general election endgame regarding its endorsement of Cynthia Nixon if she, as expected, loses the Democratic nomination to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, it has become certain there will be another left-leaning candidate on the ballot.
Howie Hawkins has again thrown his oft-tossed hat in the ring. Hawkins was the Green Party candidate for governor in 2010 and 2014, and last week he kicked off his 2018 campaign.
He’s not going to win, but he can take the moral high ground. The electorally pristine Green Party does not allow any candidate to use both its line and a major-party one. That means party leaders can’t trade off the ballot line for jobs and influence, as do the Conservative and Independence parties.
Hawkins is for real, and he has a platform. He impressed in the legendary 2010 gubernatorial six-way cage match debate that also featured Jimmy “The Rent Is Too Damn High” McMillan, and, by garnering 59,906 votes, Hawkins regained automatic ballot status for his party. Then, in 2014, Hawkins brought home 184,419 votes, a statistically significant showing that vaulted the Greens past the WFP and the Independence Party and into fourth position on the ballot.
The current conversation centers on whether Nixon, if she loses the Democratic primary, could allow a Republican to win if her WFP line pulls liberal votes away from Cuomo in November. It’s unclear how Nixon could get off the WFP line.
Meanwhile, though, Hawkins will provide a third-party liberal to vote for — one who pulled more than 5 percent support last time out. That’s a big win for liberal purists — and at least a small one for state GOP head Edward Cox, too.