William Spencer, Democratic incumbent candidate for Suffolk County Legislature 18th...

William Spencer, Democratic incumbent candidate for Suffolk County Legislature 18th District, poses for a portrait during a party meeting held at 370 Motor Parkway.(May 20, 2013:) Credit: James Escher

Huntington Town voters could get confused about who's the incumbent in this contest because of new district lines and familiar names are on the ballot.

Democrat William Spencer, 46, of Centerport, a pediatric ear, nose and throat surgeon, is seeking his second term.

His Republican challenger is Robert Conte, a member of a well-known Huntington Station family that owned Conte's Burger Haven and whose older brother was the late James Conte, who represented a good chunk of the district as an assemblyman for 24 years.

Robert Conte, 48, now the operator of a video-game store, said watching his brother's career, combined with his unsuccessful run as the town's receiver of taxes, gives him political chops.

Conte is concerned that Suffolk County is getting too deep in debt and the budget is balanced through too many one-shot deals. He thinks ShotSpotter technology used in the Station to detect gunfire is not effective and more police outreach in the community would be a better approach. He opposes consolidation of the county treasurer and comptroller offices because accountability and independence would be lost.

Spencer is running on his considerable record of achievements in his freshman term, especially on environmental issues. He was a key player in the recent partnership among the town, the county and a nonprofit group that preserved 27 acres of the former DeForest Williams estate in Cold Spring Harbor, a new model for conservation. Spencer was also a tireless advocate for $4.68 million in funding to upgrade the sewage treatment plant in Northport Village.

In a second term, he wants to work with the Brookhaven National Laboratory to develop cheap geothermal energy to reduce business costs and attract new firms.

Spencer has developed a comprehensive understanding of county government and its challenging finances. He wants to tackle these problems creatively by finding new ways to spur economic grow that better positions Suffolk for the long term.

Newsday endorses Spencer.

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