William Van Helmond at an Independence Day ceremony in Jamesport July 4, 2019. Photo: Denise Civiletti

The race for Second Assembly District drew another contender yesterday.

Hours after former Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith announced yesterday she’s seeking the Democratic nomination for Assembly, Jamesport Civic Association president William Van Helmond said he will also run for that position.

Van Helmond joins Jens-Smith and Will Schleisner of Sound Beach in the field of candidates looking to unseat three-term incumbent Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) in November.

Van Helmond said he will be running on the Libertarian Party line. He said he will also seek the endorsement of the Democratic Party and, if incumbent Republican Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo runs for State Senate, he would reach out to the Republican Party, he said.

Van Helmond has run three unsuccessful campaigns for elective office in the past three years. He ran for Riverhead highway superintendent in 2017, followed by a campaign for Jamesport fire commissioner in 2018, and a run for Riverhead Town Board in 2019. In 2017, Van Helmond dropped out of the highway superintendent race a month after receiving the Riverhead Republican committee’s support, forfeiting the nomination. He jumped back in the race as a write-in candidate that October.

“I wasn’t very successful at the town level. After the dust settled, with no local elections, I thought I’d look at higher office,” Van Helmond said in an interview Thursday evening.

“I want to help the community,” he said. “The civic group is wonderful, but I don’t feel like I’m making a big impact.”

At the state level, he said, he would work on issues like elder care, overcrowded schools, statewide pre-K and creating “a New York health act” to make health insurance more affordable.

“As a business owner, I pay for it out of pocket. And it’s expensive,” he said.

Van Helmond is the proprietor of a landscaping and property management company based in Jamesport, where he lives.

He said campaigning for town board last year was “one of the best experiences I ever had.” He loved meeting people and talking with them, he said.

“The result wasn’t what I wanted, but it was a great ride,” Van Helmond said. He polled last of five candidates for two seats, garnering just 1.74% of the votes cast, a total of 288 votes.

He said he is dedicated to the idea of voters having a choice besides the two major-party candidates. If unsuccessful in November, he said he would consider running for town office next year.

Palumbo, whose name has been mentioned by Suffolk Republican Chairman Jesse Garcia as a possible candidate for the State Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Ken LaValle at the end of this year, said yesterday he is “leaning towards” running for re-election to the Assembly seat, rather than seek election to the State Senate.

“It’s a good fit. I’m in leadership now,” Palumbo said. If elected to the State Senate, he’d be starting from scratch as a new member. And chances are he’d still be a member of the minority party, he noted. Democrats, who have long controlled the Assembly by a wide margin, in 2018 took control of the State Senate as well.

Locally, the elections for state office this year are shaping up to be the liveliest they’ve been in a long time. LaValle has had a lock on the First Senate District seat since 1977. His decision not to seek re-election opens up opportunities for both Republicans and Democrats.

Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said she is seeking the Republican nomination for the senate seat. She said if Palumbo gets the nod for State Senate, she would seek to run for the Assembly seat instead. Giglio is now serving her final term as councilwoman in Riverhead, which has a 12-year term limits law for members of the town board.

Other Republicans who were mentioned by Garcia as on the party’s “short list” for the State Senate nomination were Brookhaven council members Jane Bonner and Dan Panico. Garcia said yesterday other people have expressed interest in the GOP nomination for State Senate and the party leaders would soon beginning screenings.

So far, Southampton Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni of Sag Harbor, Parents for Megan’s Law founder Laura Ahearn of Port Jefferson, and college student Skyler Johnson of Mount Sinai have declared their candidacies for the Democratic nomination for State Senate in the First District.

We need your help.
Now more than ever, the survival of quality local journalism depends on your support. Our community faces unprecedented economic disruption, and the future of many small businesses are under threat, including our own. It takes time and resources to provide this service. We are a small family-owned operation, and we will do everything in our power to keep it going. But today more than ever before, we will depend on your support to continue. Support RiverheadLOCAL today. You rely on us to stay informed and we depend on you to make our work possible.

Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.