Second District Assembly Member Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) on election night Nov. 6, 2018. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) is running for State Senate.

Palumbo said yesterday he will seek the First Senate District seat held for 44 years by State Senator Ken LaValle, who announced earlier this month he will not seek re-election.

The three-term assemblyman said he will have “a bigger voice” in the State Senate, representing a district that takes all the five East End towns, as well as central and northeast Brookhaven, and has a population of nearly 315,000 people.

Palumbo believes he can help return the State Senate to a Republican majority. The Republicans controlled the upper chamber of the State Legislature for the last several decades — with a brief, tumultuous hiatus in 2009-2010.

“We collectively recognize that one-party rule in Albany has created policies that are so contrary to life on Long Island,” Palumbo said in a phone interview yesterday.

“One party rule has run roughshod over public safety with bail reform and discovery changes too,” he said, referring to two key components of the controversial criminal justice reform package pushed through by the Democratic legislative majority last spring. “They are unfunded mandates that burden local governments with large unforeseen costs. It just wasn’t thought through,” Palumbo said.

“I think there’s going to be a big backlash regarding the progressive New York City agenda.”

Palumbo, 49, said he’s “confident” he will be the Republican Party nominee.

Suffolk County Republican Chairman Jesse Garcia said yesterday Palumbo has the support of Republican Party leaders, who all believe he will be “the best candidate” to retain the senate seat in the Republican column.

“As a former prosecutor, he knows how bail reform has placed our communities in danger and he articulate the dangers,” Garcia said. “As a small businessman he’s delivered for our district, for Main Street business. He has worked to protect the environment and protect taxpayers.”

The Republican Party has to win eight seats to deadlock the State Senate, Garcia said.

“The Long Island six has failed not only Suffolk and Nassau families but all of New York State. They put the politics of the New York City progressive socialist agenda ahead of local interests outside of New York City,” Garcia said.

Plucking an Assembly incumbent to run for an open State Senate creates two open State Legislature seats on the East End in the general election, providing the Democratic Party with an opportunity it has never before had. LaValle, elected in 1976, succeeded a longtime Republican senator, and the assembly seat had always been held by a Republican except between 2005 and 2010, when Democrat Marc Alessi represented the district.

Garcia acknowledged the risk in tapping the Assembly incumbent to run for State Senate but declared “the risk is minimal when you’re doing the people’s business, what’s good for the people.”

Garcia said the important thing is “putting together a slate that advances the legacy of Sen. Ken LaValle: controlling taxes, advancing public education, protecting the environment and clean water.

“We have a good stable of candidates for the Assembly race,” Garcia said, including Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner and Riverhead Town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio. Others have also been contacting GOP headquarters, Garcia said. The party will be screening candidates on Feb. 6 and will announce its decision “shortly thereafter,” he said.

On the Democratic side, there are four declared candidates for the First Senate District so far: victim’s rights advocate Laura Ahearn of Port Jefferson, founder of Parents for Megan’s Law; Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni; Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright; and college student activist Skyler Johnson.

Suffolk Democratic Party leadership has said the party will not be making an endorsement in the State Senate race, setting the stage for a party primary election in June.

The Second Assembly District race has drawn two Democratic candidates to date: Will Schleisner of Sound Beach, a live events coordinator for ViacomCBS and former Riverhead Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith.

Libertarian William Van Helmond of Jamesport has also announced his candidacy for Assembly. He said he will seek the Republican Party endorsement but will run on the Libertarian line in November either way.

The Assembly district, like its Senate counterpart, has always been a Republican stronghold. Alessi’s win in 2005 filled the unexpired term of Patricia Acampora (R-Southold), a six-term incumbent (1993-2005)  who left the post for to become a state public service commissioner.  Joe Sawicki (R-Southold) also held the seat for six terms, from 1983-1993. 

Prior to 1983, the First AD encompassed both the north and south forks, as well as eastern Brookhaven. John Behan (R-Montauk) represented the First AD from 1979-1982. (Behan became the Second AD representative after the redistricting in 1982 and held that seat until 1995.) Before Behan, Perry Duryea (R-Montauk) represented the First AD from 1961-1978. He served as the Assembly’s Minority Leader and then Speaker of the Assembly, the last Republican to hold that position to this day.

Dan Losquadro, then the minority leader of the Suffolk County Legislature, defeated Alessi in a tight race in 2010, returning the seat to Republican hands. Losquadro stepped down after winning election as Brookhaven highway superintendent in March 2013. Palumbo was elected in a special election in November 2013 and then re-elected by wide margins in 2014, 2016 and 2018.

In 2012, legislative redistricting following the 2010 federal census changed the boundaries — and the names — zzzzof the East End’s Assembly districts. Assembly District 1, which took in the North Fork and portions of eastern Brookhaven, became Assembly District 2. The South Fork District, which had been Assembly District 2, became Assembly District 1. Following the redistricting, The Town of Shelter Island became part of AD2.

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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.