Laura Gillen.

Laura Gillen. Credit: Jeff Bachner

Daily Point

Rice for Gillen

Long Island Democratic politics was all set for some competitive primaries, with the races to replace Reps. Lee Zeldin and Tom Suozzi in CD1 and CD3, respectively. But most unexpectedly, it’s CD4 where the Dem-on-Dem sniping has been hot.

Kathleen Rice is vacating her seat after four terms, and Nassau County and state party chairman Jay Jacobs has dismissed the chances of former Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen. While he has said that county Legis. Siela Bynoe would be “viable” as a contender, Jacobs clearly seems to have a soft spot for Malverne Mayor Keith Corbett, a loyal legal strategist for the party.

However, after initially not indicating a preference on her successor, Rice now is endorsing Gillen, saying on Monday that she is “the most qualified person to do this job” and noting among her attributes that she “stands up to powerful interests, whether they be political or otherwise.”

Asked whether her endorsement had anything to do with Jacobs’ comments about Gillen, Rice noted that when she had a primary for the newly open seat in 2014, Jacobs had stayed out of the race and said he’d get behind whoever won.

“I was a little surprised that he didn’t do that in this case,” Rice told The Point.

The public back-and-forth began earlier this month when Corbett, a Jacobs ally, entered the race and Jacobs, surveying some of the field, told Newsday that he had offered Gillen a State Senate run. He said Gillen called Congress a dream “since she was a little girl,” and Jacobs’ position was that "I'm not here to help people with their dreams," but rather “to elect Democrats."

The phrasing and dismissal of Gillen drew allegations of sexism from some women’s groups, including the Vote Mama organization, run by former CD2 congressional candidate Liuba Grechen Shirley, which had endorsed Gillen.

“Comments like this are incredibly common, and we are here to stand with women everywhere against the old boys network that tries to sideline qualified women running for office,” Grechen Shirley told The Point.

Jacobs said in an email that the Nassau party hasn’t endorsed in the race, but he does not think “Gillen has the best chance to beat the Republicans in CD4.”

About not getting involved in Rice’s 2014 primary for the seat, he said that was because he thought either she or opponent Legis. Kevan Abrahams could win the seat.

“I only chose to engage here because I believe that Laura Gillen, with her very high negatives, particularly from what I have heard in the minority community, she will have a tough time winning,” he said.

Rice disagreed about her endorsee’s prospects, noting that Gillen’s Town of Hempstead win in 2017 was the first time a Democrat had won the powerful seat in more than a century.

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

Report: Northport VA all but closing

An 82-page report released earlier this month by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs Asset and Infrastructure Review calls for all but shutting down the VA facility in Northport.

The emergency room at the VA would close. All inpatient medical and surgical services would be shifted to hospitals with academic affiliations, with the report identifying Stony Brook University Hospital as one location. Outpatient and urgent-care services would move to a proposed new outpatient clinic in Western Suffolk County.

And the residential rehabilitation treatment program would be moved to the St. Albans VA hospital in Queens.

The report, which studied VA facilities and needs in the Northeast, gave two reasons for its recommendations:

*While Long Island has one of the nation’s largest veteran populations, enrollment in VA programs is shrinking rapidly, depressing the need for inpatient services. Because of the different needs of younger veterans, the need for outpatient VA services on the Island is increasing.

*Another facility for treating those veterans would be better than the 100-year-old one at Northport which does not meet modern VA standards, mostly its physical construction, and the cost of fixing that would take $610 million.

The story of the Northport VA’s potential troubles was first reported in the Northport Observer late last week, and while government reports often don’t translate into action, the wheels of opposition are starting to move quickly. Speaking to The Point Monday, Angelo Roefaro, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, said, “The senator is against this proposal, has already told the VA he opposes it, and plans vociferous opposition in the near future.”

Rep. Tom Suozzi, whose district holds the Northport VA, was angered by both the nature of the push and the lack of consultation or discussion before the final draft of the plan was released.

“The overly bureaucratic VA has issued a report regarding the future of the Northport VA without ever discussing it with me, or to my knowledge, my colleagues or the veterans community,” said Suozzi, who is retiring from Congress to run for governor. “I have continually made it a priority to upgrade the infrastructure of the Northport VA and this bombshell report demands that we rally together to fight for the future of our Long Island veterans and the Northport VA. We must never forget the vet.”

Rep. Lee Zeldin, who is a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves, said in a message to The Point, “Veterans across Long Island rely on the Northport VA and its array of health care services to survive and thrive. Cutting off essential services would be devastating to the people who have been willing to sacrifice everything on behalf of our nation … Access to care for Long Island veterans cannot be eroded in any way, shape or form.”

The Northport VA was long considered a jewel of the system but has been besieged by serious problems of late with the facility, patient satisfaction and staff morale.

— Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point

Commuting costs

Credit: Varvel

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Quick points

Progress or regress?

  • Moves are afoot to suspend or reduce New York’s state gas tax, which would save drivers money but cut funds for road projects, which would worsen road conditions and cost drivers money and, well, you see the problem.
  • South Carolina is ready to begin firing-squad executions, which a state senator there called “humane” and the “least painful” method of administering the death penalty. Humane and least painful for whom?
  • Is it bad news that 22% of New York voters say that America won’t exist as a democratic republic by 2030 and another 38% say it’s only “somewhat likely” to exist, or is it good news that so many New Yorkers realize that our democratic republic is in trouble?
  • Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said President Joe Biden needs to reinforce NATO support during this week’s Ukraine-inspired trip to Europe. So Barrasso wants Biden to show more toughness by doing something he’s done without fail for all 14 months he’s been in office?
  • China is experiencing its worst COVID-19 outbreak in two years — 29,000 cases reported in the first three weeks of March and two deaths, the first since January 2021. In the U.S., that wouldn’t even qualify as the worst hour.
  • The Democratic National Committee is now going to use TikTok to reach young adults, four years after the social media platform exploded in popularity. Nothing speaks to young adults like slow, deliberate reactions and a lack of urgency.

— Michael Dobie @mwdobie 

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