With the coming retirement of State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, eastern Long Island voters have a renewed opportunity to gain a more active and responsive representative in the New York Legislature’s upper chamber. The choice comes down to current Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo from New Suffolk and Laura Ahearn, a lawyer and victims’ rights activist.
Assemblyman Palumbo comes out of the Suffolk district attorney’s office, where he was a prosecutor. He has focused his energy recently on repealing the state’s bail reform law, which, he says, harms residents and law enforcers. The son of a Suffolk detective, he has strong support among the state’s police unions. He wants more state aid for Suffolk residents to help relieve high property taxes. Over all, though, his pitch for the senate seat, even on red-meat issues like small business, is water-thin.
Ms. Ahearn came to wide public attention as the founder of the Crime Victims Center Parents for Megan’s Law, which works to prevent childhood sexual assault and rape, as well as advocate for victims of violent crime, including sexual assault, and domestic violence, for people of all ages. It provides 24-hour hotlines, counseling, and a sex-offender registry.
She has articulated broad priorities should she be elected. These include improving access to health care and lowering drug prices and delivering incentives to help local economies recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. She is for reproductive and L.G.B.T.Q. rights and promotes “common-sense” gun safety education. She is a backer of workplace protection and “fair” wages. She also wants to promote connectivity between farms, fisheries, wine and beermakers, and waterfront services with the region’s visitors. She gets high marks for her commitment to the environment as well.
Voters in the First District should not miss this opportunity to have a leader of Ms. Ahearn’s caliber represent them in Albany.
Whichever of the two candidates prevail, he or she should have a significantly greater focus on the East End than Mr. LaValle did. The region is an important economic driver for Long Island and beyond and is faced with unprecedented threats from climate change and sea level rise. The state’s helping hand will be needed more than ever.