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The struggle to say no
A Thursday morning forum on why women run for office hosted by the Long Island Association’s Women’s Collaborative accidentally captured a central point panelists made — women often struggle with saying no.
The program had to be juggled at the last minute because Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul had to leave early to head upstate for an event, and attorney general candidate Letitia James arrived late because of a scheduling overlap.
Overextending oneself is one of the challenges universally acknowledged by the speakers, including Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter, State Assemb. Kimberly Jean-Pierre, Riverhead Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith, Suffolk County Clerk Judy Pascale and Nassau County Legis. Laura Schaefer. But some of them did manage to say no at least once — when initially asked to run for office.
“No, no, no, no, no,” Jean-Pierre recalled saying when she was approached to enter politics. She said she has no regrets and loves that her young daughter sees women in power, but candidly admitted that nursing a newborn and being a legislator was not easy.
Several on the panel are the first women to serve in their roles in hundreds of years. All offered stories about juggling home life and work, particularly late-night supermarket chats with constituents when they run errands, and family dinners of Domino’s pizza and ham sandwiches. But all said it made them grow thicker skin, and that it was worth it to have a seat at the table.
The late-October date for the event was chosen to coincide with the height of election season, and the panel was selected to include both parties and different levels of government. The breakfast was part of the LIA’s Women’s Collaborative initiative that brings together the region’s businesswomen.
“We invited all LIA members. We treated it just like we would any other LIA event. We emailed the flyer, posted it on our website and social media and encouraged all of our folks to attend,” said Matthew Cohen of the Long Island Association.
Even so, the audience of 125 included only a handful of men to hear about the political journeys of these women.
Long Island is critical to the plan by New York Democrats to take control of the State Senate. And those hopes have been buoyed by survey data in three key districts that show a profound shift among voters about which party voters trust more to reduce local property taxes.
The State Democratic Senate Campaign Committee posed that question in a March voter survey. In Senate District 8, which hugs the South Shore of eastern Nassau and western Suffolk, voters preferred Democrats on the tax-cutting question by 33 percent to 29 percent. In that race, Democrat incumbent John Brooks faces Republican challenger Jeffrey Pravato, the mayor of Massapequa Park.
In SD 5, which includes Glen Cove and the North Shore part of Huntington and Oyster Bay, voters preferred Republicans, 34 percent to 28 percent. GOP incumbent Carl Marcellino is being challenged a second time by Democrat James Gaughran, head of the Suffolk County Water Authority.
And in SD 7, which stretches from Mineola to the wealthiest enclaves of Nassau County, Republicans were favored to keep taxes low by 3 points, 35 percent to 32 percent. That contest features Republican incumbent Elaine Phillips against Town of North Hempstead council member Democrat Anna Kaplan.
The spreads are what’s interesting, because Long Island Democrats typically trail on that question by 2-to-1 or even more. Getting close is a sea change, and leading in one district is remarkable in a historical sense.
Democratic officials say the main reason for the change is last year’s federal tax cuts, which limited the so-called SALT deduction — the amount of local property and income taxes that could be deducted on federal returns — which is expected to hit Long Island taxpayers hard, especially in these districts in 2019 when tax bills come due.
Whether the tax question results in Election Day victories won’t be known until the returns are in.
Zeldin, Gershon show their stripes
Multiple joint appearances between Rep. Lee Zeldin and challenger Perry Gershon on Wednesday showed how far apart the candidates are on national issues.
Both were squarely in their partisan corners about guns, climate, and Medicare for all. (In Riverhead, Zeldin criticized the latter policy, saying it would give health care to immigrants here illegally.)
This has been the norm for the race, and it’s not surprising that the Shirley Republican would stand with President Donald Trump on most positions, given that Trump won the district by 12 percent in 2016.
But it’s also unsurprising that Gershon, an East Hampton Democrat, would look for success in anti-Trump positions, too — because some polls show the district turning from Trump.
That rise and possible fall is the subject of Episode 4 of “The Bellwether,” our podcast on the 1st and 2nd congressional districts.
This episode charts Suffolk County’s path to becoming Trump country, and whether it might shift in November.
The episode features both Rich Schaffer, the Suffolk County Democratic chair, and John Jay LaValle, his GOP opposite. Also, listen for a unique turn of phrase from Sag Harbor Assemb. Fred Thiele, a theory on turnout from Democratic SuperPAC Taking Action Suffolk County and a trip back in time to the halcyon days of duck-hunting, bow-tie wearing Long Island Rep. Otis Pike.