With national attention focused on the 2020 presidential race, local political candidates are campaigning hard in the final weeks before Election Day to counter the oft-lower voter turnout in such off-year elections.
In the most high-profile race on Long Island this year, Democratic Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is seeking a third term to finish the work he’s started and Republican Suffolk County Comptroller John M. Kennedy is touting his fiscal background as what the county needs. In the most pivotal race across the county line, Democratic Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas is running for re-election for the first time against Republican attorney Frank McQuade. That’s in addition to dozens of seats on ballots in both county legislatures, towns, and the judiciary — elected offices that often hold more sway over daily life on LI than the presidency.
The races come amid the first general election since New York State election reforms — most notably, enacting early voting that allows voters to cast ballots over nine days starting Oct. 26 — went into effect. The goal of early voting is to improve the state’s ranking as 41st in the nation in voter turnout, according to a 2018 report by the New York State Senate Democratic Policy Group.
“For too long, people have been disenfranchised by limiting voting to one day per year,” said Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville). “The more opportunity people have to participate, the more they will. Allowing early voting and extending the number of days and times to vote will address low voter turnout and bring more people into the process.”
Among the races to watch in Suffolk, Republican former Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabor, whose 2009 re-election bid was undone after she was arrested for driving while intoxicated — a charge of which she was cleared — is challenging Legis. Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac). Additionally closely watched in Suffolk is Anthony Piccirillo, who’s running a rematch against Legis. William Lindsay III (D-Bohemia) and won a Conservative primary against Lindsay as a write-in.
Democrats have an 11-7 majority in the Suffolk legislature, meaning the GOP would have to flip at least three seats to regain control for the first time in 14 years. In Nassau, Democrats have to unseat two Republicans to regain the majority of that GOP-run chamber first the first time since 2009.
Races to watch in Nassau include the contest between Legis. C. William Gaylor III (R-Lynbrook) and Democratic challenger Laura Burns of Rockville Centre. Also eyed in Nassau are two town supervisor races. GOP Oyster Bay Town Clerk James Altadonna switched to the Democratic side in a bid to unseat Republican Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino. And freshman Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen — the first Democrat to hold the post in more than a century — is facing off against Republican Hempstead Town Tax Receiver Don Clavin.
Seven Libertarian candidates are also running on the minor-party line for various county offices — three in Nassau, four in Suffolk — including Gregory Fischer for Suffolk executive, and anti-red-light camera activist Stephen Ruth, who’s running against Legis. Thomas Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) and his Democratic challenger David Bligh. Fellow Libertarian photo traffic enforcement opponent Lynda Frego is running against Legis. Rudolph Sunderman (R-Mastic), who pleaded not guilty to felony perjury and misdemeanor ethics charges in July, and his Democratic challenger Daryl Edelstein. By comparison, the only other county-level candidates running on a sole minor-party line are the Conservatives, who have three in Suffolk.
Election Day falls on Nov. 5 this year. To find your local polling place, contact the Nassau or Suffolk county board of elections.