July 15, 2024
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July 15, 2024
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State Election Results Still Not Final

Republicans appear to have more winning races than losses as results slowly emerge from last month’s contests. Even though the outcomes of a few key contests remain undecided as of the deadline for this week’s edition, one race in Brooklyn could even be determined next month after the new session begins.

When the next legislative session begins in January, 12% of the state Assembly, 19 members (three being Republicans) will be Jewish. In the state Senate, five lawmakers out of 63 members will be Jewish, all Democrats. This is down from last year’s totals with the defeat of two incumbent Jewish senators. While several Jewish members of the Assembly bowed out from seeking reelection, there is one new Jewish Democrat, and two new Jewish Republicans. 11% of both houses will include Jewish members.

Helene Weinstein, a 41-year incumbent from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, is the most senior member in the state Assembly. She had an easy time beating her nominal opponent this year but the reelection fortunes were not so kind to two senior members of the lower house: 35-year incumbent Peter Abbate of Brooklyn and 30-year incumbent Steve Englebright of East Setauket, Suffolk County.

Staten Island Republican Sam Pirozzolo, 59, an optician by profession, flipped a Democrat-held seat for the past 40 years, the last 20 years by Democrat Michael Cusick, who did not seek reelection. The district encompasses the Mid-Island area and part of the North Shore. Pirozzolo defeated Democratic candidate Vincent Argenziano. Pirozzolo joins two other Republican Staten Islanders in the Assembly, Michael Reilly and Michael Tannousis.

In an open seat in northern Westchester County, to replace Kevin Byrne (R-Mahopac, Putnam County) who is moving on to become the Putnam County executive, Matt Slater (R-Yorktown Heights, Westchester County) has won that race against Kathleen Valletta-McMorrow (D-Carmel, Putnam County). Slater told The Jewish Link his father is Jewish, but he is a practicing Protestant.

Slater, 36, said he has three priorities as a freshman and discussed the committees he wants to serve on.

“People with disabilities is a great passion of mine and something I’ve worked on the local level in the town of Yorktown, where I’m ending my term as town supervisor,” he said. “Affordability to be able to just survive in this state, whether you’re a young family, a business owner, a senior, everyone is really struggling in a big way to be able to afford to call New York home,

“In my district, one of the big things we’re focused on is transportation. That’s a priority of mine. We have state roads that are arteries for all the municipalities I represent. Being able to have a voice for my district when it comes to investments in infrastructure, especially our roadways, it’s critically important for me personally, so that’s going to be a priority of mine. That’s one of the first places I’m going to be looking to put my attention to.”

The Assembly Republican conference is not all white male lawyers anymore, as it might have seemed 20 years ago, with a few exceptions.

The Republican conference boasts Irish and Italian Catholic and Protestant lawmakers, three Jewish lawmakers (one Orthodox), one Chinese-American member and one whose ancestry is from Trinidad and Tobago.

Meanwhile, the counting is still going on in two Assembly races.

In southern Queens, Republican challenger Tom Sullivan is ahead of three-term incumbent Stacey Pheffer Amato by a mere three votes. It shows that sometimes every vote does count when large numbers of people turn out to vote. Pheffer Amato’s mother, Queens County Clerk Audrey Pheffer, previously held this Assembly seat. Upon Pheffer Amato’s election, they became the first mother-daughter team to hold the same seat in the New York State Legislature. The district encompasses the neighborhoods of Ozone Park, Lindenwood, Howard Beach, Hamilton Beach, Broad Channel, Breezy Point, Roxbury, Neponsit, Belle Harbor, Rockaway Park, Rockaway Beach, Arverne, Edgemere, Bayswater and Far Rockaway.

The other seat still being contested includes nine towns in Orange County, and Stony Point in Rockland County, where 20 votes separate the two challengers for an open seat. The contest is between Woodbury town Councilwoman Kathryn Luciani, a Republican and New Windsor resident, Democrat Christopher Eachus, a former Orange County legislator and former high school teacher. Eachus is leading in the battle for this Assembly district, which includes the town of Palm Tree and village of Kiryas Joel, a 1.1-mile enclave of Satmar and Haredi Jews.

Going into this next session, Democrats will hold at least 99 seats and Republicans will hold 49 seats. If the Democrats win any of the two contested races they will have a psychological advantage of a veto-proof supermajority.

Assembly GOP Leader Will Barclay (R-Pulaski, Oswego County) told The Jewish Link that the reason for the Republicans’ success is the messaging from the Democrats—he gift that keeps on giving.

“We need to continue to recruit great candidates. The Democrats need to keep giving us great messages to run on; we’ll continue to have success,” Barclay said. “You can’t pass so-called bail reform bills, raise the age, all these social justice type bills and not expect there to be some negative impact. Voters recognize that. They’re not stupid. As a result, some of the Democrats paid the price at the polls. We’ll continue to do what we’ve been doing, continuing to point out where the other side is moving in the wrong direction. We’ll fight for the things we believe in. If the Democrats continue doing what they’ve been doing, we’ll be successful in elections.”

In the Senate, there is one seat, in central New York, that is too close to call between incumbent John Mannion and challenger Rebecca Shiroff, who told The Jewish Link, “I absolutely identify as a proud first generation American Jewish woman, daughter of Cuban immigrants.” Mannion leads Shiroff by 27 votes.

Democrat incumbent Senator Anna Kaplan, an Iranian Jew, lost her race in Nassau County to former Senator Jack Martins. William Weber (R-Montebello, Rockland County), a Catholic and a CPA, defeated Elijah Reichlin-Melnick (D-Nyack, Rockland County), who identifies as being Jewish. Republicans flipped five seats in this past election cycle giving them 21 seats to the Democrats 41 seats. The outcome of the Mannion-Shiroff race will determine whether the Senate Democrats can have the psychological advantage of a veto-proof supermajority where 42 seats are necessary.

The main issues that catapulted Weber to victory were affordability, high taxes and crime.

“I’m here to represent everyone equally and fairly in the district,” Weber, 53, said. “That’s my commitment. I will work as hard as anybody every day to make sure that we get the money we are entitled to in the district. We pay a lot of taxes. My number-one goal is to bring as much money back to the district to support the residents in Rockland County.”

Weber revealed that his wife, Lisa Gravitz, is Jewish and comes from a conservative Jewish home in Westchester. When her family visits, the Webers shop for kosher food from area supermarkets. The couple has four children, two boys and two girls.

The main concern Weber heard from the Orthodox Jewish community was education.

“What we heard more about was the ruling from the state education department related to the substantial equivalency that came down in September and that bubbled up as a big issue within Ramapo and the Monsey community,” Weber said. “That was the big issue we heard about from our residents and neighbors here in Ramapo. People in my area, in Monsey, are very concerned about that and they have a right to be. I’m … against unfunded mandates. That was not only considered a bad ruling but also an unfunded mandate. Essentially, they want the local school boards to monitor the private schools. That’s not the function of public schools and that shouldn’t be the function of public schools—to have to increase their budgets and increase taxes to monitor the private schools.

“The issue is, you have a state aid formula that is not working for our area. It’s something that has been talked about for more than a decade and is continually failing the district in East Ramapo for sure,” Weber concluded.

While Weber wants to fight the ruling by the state education department, he did not know who represents Rockland County on the state Board of Regents, the governing body for public and private schools. The answer is Frances Wills, a resident of Ossining, Westchester County.

Weber said he is seeking to gain a seat on these Senate committees: education, finance, mental health, veterans and transportation.

The new legislative session begins on Wednesday, January 4, 2023. Governor Kathy Hochul gets sworn into office for her first full term in her own right on Sunday, January 1.

By Marc Gronich


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