Schneiderman to Run for Suffolk Comptroller

Jay Schneiderman said Tuesday that he will run for Suffolk County comptroller this November. Taylor K. Vecsey

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman announced his candidacy for Suffolk County comptroller on Tuesday. 

Mr. Schneiderman, who is six months into his second term as the town supervisor, is seeking the Democratic nomination to run against Republican Comptroller John M. Kennedy in November. It is a four-year term.

“This is an unprecedented time in the history of Suffolk County. Our finances are in critical condition and Suffolk County residents need a comptroller who will help get the county back to fiscal health," Mr. Schneiderman said in a statement Tuesday morning. 

Running against an incumbent is always challenging, he said by phone Tuesday. Mr. Kennedy has served since 2014, and was previously a county legislator for 10 years.

"I have the support of the leadership. I have the support of the county executive. I have the support of the governor," Mr. Schneiderman said. "I wouldn't do it if I didn't think I had a reasonable shot of winning."

Mr. Schneiderman, a former Republican, won election as Southampton's supervisor as a member of the Independence Party with support from the Democratic Party. In the midst of his campaign for a second term in October 2017, he filed paperwork to switch his political affiliation to Democrat. He had been a registered Democrat in the past, but has never been elected as one.

In a county with 1.5 million residents, Mr. Schneiderman said, "it's never been easy for East End people to win countywide, so it's going to be a challenge." 

However, he said he thinks he has the right background for the position. He served as the supervisor of East Hampton until 2003, before becoming a county legislator and the Legislature's deputy presiding officer. After moving from Montauk to Southampton, he was elected Southampton Town supervisor in 2015. The town has since gained a AAA bond rating. He was re-elected in 2017.

"I will be an independent voice and vigilant fiscal watchdog for the taxpayers of Suffolk," he said.

"Year after year the county’s expenditures greatly exceed its revenues, to the point where we now borrow nearly half a billion dollars from the following year’s revenues just to get through the current year. The practice is unsustainable and must change," he said. "I will work with the Legislature and the executive branch to develop a plan to establish a structurally balanced budget. I will participate in regular meetings of the county’s audit committee, and work with all the stakeholders to identify areas where we can save taxpayer dollars. I have the experience of delivering 18 consecutive years of not raising property taxes."

If he were to win the race in November, he would continue to serve as supervisor until the end of the year. Then, Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone would run the meetings until a special election could be held, probably in March of 2019. The winner would serve the remainder of Mr. Schneiderman's term. A regular election would be held in November 2019 for the two-year term.

If he is not successful in his bid for county comptroller, he said is "quite happy running the Town of Southampton." He also said he would run again for supervisor in November 2019 if he is not serving as county comptroller. 

The supervisor also said that the campaign would not effect his ability to run the town.