Primary Preview: Long Island Races To Watch

Taylor Raynor held a news conference outside the office of Deputy Assembly Speaker Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead) calling on the lawmaker to stop collecting a pension while also earning her salary.(Long Island Press photo)

Political newcomer Taylor Raynor’s Democratic primary challenge to Deputy Assembly Speaker Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead) became Long Island’s hottest race as Raynor appeared to have a shot at unseating the 30-year incumbent.

That’s because Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs made the unusual move of backing Raynor over the Assembly’s fourth in command after Hooper was widely quoted making racially charged comments during a candidate forum. The race was seen as pivotal since the gubernatorial and New York State Attorney General races atop ballots could boost typically low primary voter turnout and sway results in that and a half dozen other races across the Island, including a high-stakes Surrogate Court Judge contest that’s sparked intrigue in Suffolk County. The primaries are Sept. 13.

“White man fooled us out of Africa,” Hooper was quoted as saying, suggesting Raynor is a tool of white power brokers such as Jacobs. Both women are black, as are many of the district’s residents. “Don’t let him fool you out of a seat where you have power.”

Raynor, a psychologist and community activist, responded by continuing to push her message that Hempstead’s Assembly district needs a fresh start. She says Hooper has failed to use her considerable power to help the district, instead using it to collect her $82,435 pension on top of her $79,000 legislative salary — a practice known as double dipping — in addition to her $25,000 leadership stipend.

“If and when elected, I will fight for legislation to close this loophole,” Raynor told reporters during a Sept. 4 news conference outside Hooper’s district office. “It is time we stop Earlene from having her cake and eating it too on the taxpayer’s dime.”

Also in Nassau County primaries, Democratic voters in Long Beach’s 20th Assembly District will decide between the party nominee, insurance attorney Jack Vobis, and business owner Juan Vides, who are each vying for a chance to unseat freshman Assemb. Melissa Miller (R-Atlantic Beach).

And in Nassau’s lone GOP primary, retired NYPD detective James Coll is challenging freshman Assemb. John Mikulin (R-Bethpage) in the 17th district, which covers the central portion of the county.

Across the county line, Suffolk also only has one GOP primary. Accountant Mike Yacubich is challenging Assemb. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk). And Assemb. Philip Ramos (D-Bay Shore), the deputy majority leader, is facing a Democratic primary challenge from Maxima Castro, who is also an accountant.

But the biggest primary in Suffolk is for the Democratic line for Surrogate Court Judge. Since the job involves overseeing wills and handling the estates of those who die without one — cases that can involve appointing administrators to liquidate or disperse millions of dollars worth of assets — it is among the most coveted posts in the local judiciary.

Suffolk County Democratic Chairman Richard Shaffer tapped Family Court Judge Theresa Whelan, reportedly in a cross-endorsement deal with the Suffolk Conservative Party. Challenging her for the Democratic line is attorney Tara Scully, a Republican whose father is a deputy county executive. The race has been described by political observers as a proxy power battle between Shaffer and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

If Whelan loses, she will still be on the ballot on the Independence Party line. But in that scenario, it would be virtually impossible to beat Scully, who would have the Democratic, Republican, Green and Reform party lines.

All of that depends upon how the anticipated spike in turnout from the big-ticket primaries sways races further down the ballots.

Political activist and Fordham University associate professor of law Zephyr Teachout, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, attorney Leecia Eve and U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-Cold Spring) are vying for the Democratic nod in their bid to replace disgraced New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who resigned this spring following sexual misconduct allegations.

City Councilman Jumaane Williams is challenging Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. And at the top of the ticket is Sex and The City actress Cynthia Nixon’s Democratic bid against Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who’s seeking a third term. The tenor of that race was best summed up at their Aug. 29 debate at Hofstra University.

“My opponent lives in a world of fiction,” Cuomo said. Nixon told the governor, “You stand up to Trump about as well as he stands up to Putin.”

Polls are open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sept. 13. To find your polling place, visit suffolkvotes.com or nassaucountyny.gov