Riverhead voters in the 2020 general election will be casting ballots for President of the United States, representative in the First Congressional District, State Senator in the First Senate District, Member of the Assembly in Second Assembly District and Riverhead Town Justice.

See: Early voting begins tomorrow in New York.

In the First Congressional District, incumbent Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) is challenged by Nancy Goroff (D-Stony Brook). Zeldin is seeking his fourth two-year term in the House of Representatives. He defeated six-term Democrat Tim Bishop in 2014. Goroff, a chemistry professor and former chair of the chemistry department at Stony Brook University, is making her first run for political office.

The presidential race looms large in the NY-01 race. President Donald Trump carried the district by 12 points in 2016, a year in which Zeldin, in his first re-election bid, defeated challenger Anna Throne-Holst by 16 points.

Over the last four years, Zeldin has been a staunch, vocal supporter of the president and a frequent Trump defender on cable television news shows. He was chosen by the president to be a member of his defense team in the impeachment trial in the Senate earlier this year.

Goroff has gone after Zeldin for his strong support of the president, particularly on issues of the COVID-19 pandemic, health care, climate change and gun violence prevention.

More information about the candidates and their positions can be found on their websites: Zeldin for Congress and Goroff for Congress

As of February, the most recent publicly available voter enrollment numbers published by the N.Y. State Board of Elections, there were 531,797 registered voters in the First Congressional District. The district enrollment is 33% Republican, 32% Democrat, 27% unaffiliated, 5% Independence Party, 2% Conservative, with the remaining 1% divided among the Working Family, Green and Libertarian parties.

Zeldin entered the last month of the campaign with cash on hand of nearly $2.8 million. He raised $6.6 million in the current election cycle, according to the most recent campaign finance disclosure report, filed with the Federal Election Commission Oct. 15 and reporting contributions and disbursements through Sept. 30.

Goroff entered the last month of the campaign with cash on hand of $423,443, according to her October quarterly report, filed with the FEC on Oct. 15. Her campaign has raised $4,552,218 this election cycle, as of Sept. 30.

The First Congressional District includes the five East End town and nearly all of the towns of Brookhaven and Smithtown. The term of office in the House of Representatives is two years. The salary is $174,000. There are 435 members of the House of Representatives. Currently there are 232 Democrats, 197 Republicans and one Libertarian. There are three vacancies.

The race in the First Senate District features two lawyers, one who is a former prosecutor in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office and the other who has spent a career advocating for crime victims.

Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) is in private practice and was elected to the New York State Assembly Second Assembly District in a special election to fill a vacancy in 2013. He served three two-year terms in the Assembly and is now seeking to succeed longtime State Senator Ken LaValle in the First Senate District.

The district covers the East End and the north shore to Port Jefferson. It had 242,332 registered voters, as of February. The district enrollment is 33% Democrat, 32% Republican, 27% unaffiliated, 5% Independence Party and 2% Conservative, with the remaining 1% divided among the Working Family, Green and Libertarian parties.

Palumbo is running on a platform that includes repealing “bail reform” – a legislative reform package that took effect in January, eliminating cash bail for misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies. He says it’s time to open up New York’s economy by lifting COVID-19 restrictions more quickly. Read more about the candidate on his website, PalumboforSenate.com

Laura Ahearn (D-Port Jefferson) is the founder and executive director of the nonprofit Crime Victims Center. She is a licensed social worker and an attorney in private practice. This is her first run for elective office.

Ahearn says she will prioritize making sure Suffolk County gets its “fair share” of state aid to education and will focus on economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis by extending unemployment benefits for those who need them and supporting investments in infrastructure to create more jobs. Read more about the candidate on her website. AhearnforStateSenate.com

The term of office is for two years. The salary is $110,000 plus a per diem of $175 for every day they are in the Capitol. They are also reimbursed for round-trip travel expenses for one trip from their district to Albany. There are 63 members in the State Senate. Currently there are 40 Democrats and 20 Republicans. There are three vacancies.

The Second Assembly District contest is a three-way race.
Seeking the seat being vacated by the incumbent Palumbo, who is running for State Senate, is former Riverhead Town supervisor Laura Jens-Smith (D-Laurel), Councilwoman Jodi Giglio (R-Baiting Hollow) and Jamesport businessman William Van Helmond, running on the Libertarian line.

The Second Assembly District takes in the towns of Southold and Riverhead and portions of northeastern Brookhaven Town. There were 100,183 registered voters in the district as of February. The district enrollment is 28% Democrat, 36% Republican, 27% unaffiliated, 5% Independence Party and 3% Conservative, with the remaining 1% divided among the Working Family, Green and Libertarian parties. The term of office is two years. The salary is $110,000 plus a per diem of $175 for every day they are in the Capitol. They are also reimbursed for round-trip travel expenses for one trip from their district to Albany. There are 150 members of the Assembly. Currently there are 103 Democrats, 42 Republicans and one Independence Party member. There are four vacancies.

Jens-Smith, who served one term as supervisor, is a former nurse who says she will focus on “beating COVID-19” by ensuring people with lapsed health care coverage due to layoffs can keep high quality health care and cutting waiting times for aid and unemployment benefits receive aid and unemployment benefits. She proposes a “suburban caucus” to fight for the needs of suburban residents, who she says have taken a back seat to NYC. Read more about the candidate on her website, LauraforAssembly.com

Giglio, a small business owner first elected to the Riverhead Town Board in 2009, says her focus will be working to “fix the current fiscal disaster.” She says she will fight for small businesses, which she says are finding it difficult to stay in business because of taxes and New York’s rising minimum wage. Giglio opposes the new bail reform laws, which she says has put communities at risk and “tied the hands of law enforcement.” Read more about the candidate on her website, JodiforNY.com

Van Helmond is the owner of WCVH Landscaping and Property Management and a past-president of the Greater Jamesport Civic Association. He ran for Riverhead Town Board last year.

Van Helmond advocates term limits for elected offices and says he wants to bring his skills as a small business owners for 39 years to state government. He advocates for lifting restrictions on businesses, for the end of subsidies to major corporations, for consumer-driven health care reform and for returning bail decisions to judges. Read more about the candidate on his website, VanHelmond4Assembly.com

There are two candidates for Riverhead Town Justice on the ballot this year, to fill the seat held by longtime Town Justice Allen Smith, who died suddenly in July. Former town supervisor Sean Walter (R-Wading River) faces Joe DiBenedetto (D-Riverhead).

Both candidates are lawyers licensed to practice in the State of New York.

Walter, who served as town supervisor from 2010-2017, has a private law practice in Wading River. He is a graduate of St. John’s University School of Law, he was admitted to the New York State bar in 2000.

DiBenedetto is a retired professor of legal studies at Pace University. A graduate of Brooklyn Law School, he was admitted to the New York State bar in 1976.

Riverhead Justice Court has jurisdiction over criminal charges filed in the Town of Riverhead. It also has jurisdiction over landlord-tenant matters and small claims civil actions. The term of office is four years. The salary is $84,571.

Voters will also elect eight State Supreme Court justices in the 10th Judicial District, two Suffolk County Court judges and two Family Court Judges. But the choice in the state and county judicial elections has already been made, since every one of the candidates for judge has been cross-endorsed by the Democratic, Republican and Conservative parties.

Ballot propositions

On the back of the ballot are three propositions. One is to change the term of Suffolk County legislators from two to four years. Another is to change the term of Riverhead Town supervisor from two to four years.

The third proposition authorizes the transfer of excess funds in the sewer assessment stabilization reserve fund to the taxpayer trust fund. It would diminish the sewer assessment stabilization fund by more than $180 million over the next nine years, allowing the transfer of $15 million from the sewer tax stabilization fund to the general fund, canceling the repayment of $29.4 million to the fund, as required by court order, and repeal county charter provisions requiring the scheduled repayment to the sewer fund, pursuant to the settlement of additional litigation, of an estimated $145 million between 2021 and 2029. The measure was proposed by the county executive in response to the fiscal emergency created by the coronavirus pandemic and was approved by the legislature, 14-3.

Editor’s note: Today is the deadline for candidates for state and local offices to file the last campaign finance disclosure report due before Election Day. A separate article on those reports will be forthcoming.

2020 Riverhead Town ballot … by RiverheadLOCAL

Editor’s note: This article has been amended to correct an error in the party identification of Assembly candidate Jodi Giglio of Baiting Hollow, who was originally misidentified as a Democrat.

Support local journalism.
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.