Written by Karen Gellender Friday, 26 October 2012 00:00
Like Labate, Democratic challenger for the 6th State Senate District Ryan Cronin was also without his opponent; this is the second event in Plainview this month where Cronin has appeared in the absence of Republican incumbent Kemp Hannon. In fact, the only race where both candidates were present at the breakfast was that of 13th Assembly District, where Republican challenger Louis Imbroto and incumbent Charles Lavine (D) faced off.
The challengers— Cronin, Imbroto, and Labate— spoke often about their motivations in running for office. Cronin and Imbroto both noted their concern about people in their age group (20s through mid-30s) leaving the Island in droves. “I’m running for the New York State Assembly this year because I’m afraid of what Long Island is going to look like a generation from now,” said Imbroto, a lifelong Plainview resident.
Labate talked about running for the sake of his children, 6-year-old twins, and explained how, in his view, current lawmakers (including his opponent) have abandoned the principle of putting future generations first. “We’re violating the most basic, basic principles that made the United States and the American people who we are. In the past we would always sleep on the floor so our children would have a bed…we always wanted to make sure that future generations are in a better place than we are right now,” he said.
Meanwhile, incumbents Michael Montesano (R, 15th AD), Carl Marcellino (R, 5th SD) and Charles Lavine spoke about how, while there is a lot of work that still needs to be done, state government has been increasingly efficient over the last two years under the leadership of Governor Andrew Cuomo. Lavine stated that there was a much greater spirit of bipartisan cooperation in New York State than currently seen on the national level. According to Lavine, that federal gridlock is due to Tea Party “fanatics who make it impossible to govern in Washington D.C.” Labate later criticized Lavine for name-calling, which he said breeds partisanship.
The topic the candidates spent the most time on was redistricting. Larry Weiss of ACG Telecom (and a member of the chamber’s board) kicked off the dialogue with a question about why his area always seems so divided.
“We find that Plainview seems to be the chopping block whenever there’s any redistricting going on…I found that one of the assembly districts goes down residential streets, somebody on one side of the street is in one district and the other side of the street is another district,” said Weiss.
“Why we don’t have independent redistricting here in New York is because there wasn’t a commitment to it from State Senate Republicans,” responded Cronin, going on to say that Hannon had committed to Ed Koch’s independent redistricting pledge in 2010, then went back on his word so the 6th SD could be redrawn to his political advantage. Marcellino, whose 5th SD now includes Plainview, disagreed strongly.
“To say Kemp Hannon got rid of Plainview, well he gave it to me. And we’re friends. He didn’t give it to me to hurt me,” said Marcellino.
Montesano also noted that the redistricting was done by professionals with their computers, not the representatives themselves. “We find out about it when it hits the newspaper, like you find out about it,” he said.
Labate stated that redistricting was a major problem on the federal level as well, due to the polarization of the two parties. “It seems, quite frankly, that we’ve forgotten how to thread the needle. We’ve forgotten how to work together,” he said, going on to say it was unfortunate there were so few veterans in Congress currently because veterans, like himself, tend to work together. He also expressed dissatisfaction with the configuration of the 3rd Congressional District.
Lavine disagreed, saying there was merit to the way the 3rd Congressional District was drawn by Judge Roanne Mann, whom he called “apolitical.” While ceding that it always could be done better, in Lavine’s view there were far worse examples readily available: “If you want proof of how poorly redistricting can be done, look at what’s going on in Nassau County today.”
For his part, Imbroto said he didn’t care whose fault the current district lines were; he just wants them fixed. “What we really need to do is make sure that the communities that are represented by a single district make sense, have some commonality of interest, and have something to do with each other, so someone can actually go and represent that community instead of 10 different diverse interests that have nothing to do with each other,” he said.
On the perennially popular subject of lowering property taxes, both Cronin and Imbroto stated that Long Island doesn’t get its fair share of aid, and they would seek to fix the school aid formula, ultimately lowering property taxes. Lavine also mentioned the possibility of consolidating some of the Island’s 124 school districts. “Granted, we have the best public education in the United States, but I have to ask: do we need 124 separate sets of superintendents, administrators, counselors, consultants? I don’t think so,” said Lavine.
Cronin placed some blame on his opponent, a 35-year incumbent, for the current high taxes in the region. “You know, Senator Hannon is a very nice man and we’ve had a very respectful campaign, but the reality is that the kind of economic policies that he has supported for the past 35 years are what’s gotten us into the situation we’re in now,” said Cronin.
The other major topic of the morning was the effect of regulations and layers of bureaucracy on small businesses. The incumbents spoke about how they have begun a process of eliminating and consolidating redundant or outdated organizations in order to make it easier to do business in New York State, but there is still a lot of work left to be done. Moving to the national level, Labate cited the Affordable Care Act of 2010 as an example of bureaucracy gone wild.
“Look, I’ll be the first one to say it: I didn’t read the bill. After about 90 pages and two Motrin, I gave up,” said the candidate.
There were some differences of opinion, but in general, all the candidates characterized themselves as pro-business, anti-red tape; at the very least, they did so in front of an audience made up almost entirely of small business owners.
“Small businesses are the engine that drives our economy; you create most of the jobs in the state and in this country. It’s not GM, it’s you,” said Marcellino.