New York State down ballot elections

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Frank Rizzo

Meiling Laurence, Staff Writer

Time and time again, presidential elections have dominated the national spotlight.  Campaign spokespeople make the rounds on television flacking for their candidates, political pundits deliver commentary on the latest reversals in swing-state polls, and candidates compete toe to toe in live debates.  

Presidential politics has felt especially topical this year, as our country roils amid a global pandemic, an economic downturn, a struggle for racial justice, and a new Supreme Court appointment.  It is all but impossible to consume the news, or even engage in mundane conversation, without being barraged with chatter about the upcoming election between incumbent Republican President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden.  

However, when Port Washington voters cast their ballots this year—either during early voting, by absentee ballot, or in-person on election day—they will have far more than just the presidential ticket to consider.  They will face an entire slate of lesser-known down-ballot candidates running to represent their constituents in lower-level offices such as the House of Representatives, the New York State Senate, and the New York Assembly.  

“Down-ballot elections often hold more sway over our lives than we’re cognizant of, yet voters, especially younger ones, tend to pay less attention to them,” said junior Natalie Parker.

So, who are the candidates running to represent Port Washington?

First, in the contest for New York’s third Congressional district (of which Port Washington is a part) are incumbent Democratic Congressman Tom Suozzi and his Republican challenger George Santos.  Representative Suozzi is the former Nassau County Executive and Mayor of Glen Cove and was first elected to Congressional office in 2016, after his predecessor, Democrat Steve Israel, left office.  

In 2016, Suozzi campaigned on a promise to work across the aisle with members of the opposing party; in keeping with this, he currently serves on the House Ways and Means Committee and is the vice-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus—a group of fifty Representatives from both parties who convene to introduce and propose modifications to legislation.  

Representative Suozzi’s cornerstone positions include repealing the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction cap enshrined in President Trump’s 2017 tax bill.

This year, Representative Suozzi’s message resembles that of his 2016 campaign,touting his experience and record of bipartisanship.  

Running against Congressman Suozzi is Republican nominee George Santos, a financial professional who has worked for Goldman Sachs and is currently a regional director in the NYC office of Harbor City Capital.  Santos has campaigned to support stricter immigration laws, end bail reform, and protect the right to bear firearms.  

While not entirely out of the woods, Representative Suozzi will most likely emerge victorious.  He enjoys strong support among his constituents, who in June turned out in large numbers to vote for him in New York’s Democratic primary.  District 3 leans Democratic—in the 2017 Cook Partisan Voter Index, it was ranked one percentage point more Democratic than the national average.  In 2016 and 2018, Suozzi defeated his Republican opponent, earning a more significant margin of victory in the 2018 midterm elections than when he was first elected.  

This year, New York State Senators, who represent their constituents in Albany, are also up for re-election.  Port Washington is part of the seventh New York State Senate district, represented by Anna Kaplan since the start of 2019 after she ousted incumbent Republican Elaine Phillips in the 2018 midterms.  Kaplan was elected as part of a wave of incoming Democrats who flipped the New York State Senate into their party’s hands for only the third time since World War II.   

Before acceding to office, Senator Kaplan pledged to enact more stringent gun safety laws, cut middle-class property taxes, and sponsor legislation to protect the environment and women’s reproductive rights.  During her tenure in the State Senate, she has introduced legislation to close ghost gun loopholes and helped pass a 2% property tax cap, as well the Reproductive Health Act (which codified Roe v.  Wade in New York) and the Child Victims Act (which strengthened legal recourse for child victims of sexual assault).  She also co-sponsored the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which passed in 2019.  Kaplan serves as chair of the Commerce, Economic Development, and Small Business committee.  

“In the two years that I’ve worked with Senator Kaplan, I have seen her go above and beyond daily, and I have seen her do the real work of investigating the issues and hearing the perspective of her community before making a decision.  The passion, dedication, and heart she brings to this work is a constant source of inspiration to me, and every day I volunteer my time to support her re-election because she’s a once-in-a-generation public servant,” said Sean Ross Collins, Senator Kaplan’s Director of Communications.  

Senator Kaplan’s challenger is Republican David Franklin, the former police commissioner of Port Washington.  His platform’s fundamental tenets include his support for the police force, his opposition to bail reform, his aim to reduce administrative red tape, and his advocacy for school choice.  

“Running for Senate is a chance to give back, a chance to serve the people. I’ve always been about the people. I hate politics—I’m about public service,” said Franklin in an interview on North Shore TV’s “From the Source.”

Finally, Democrat Gina Silitti and Republican Ragini Srivastava contend in New York’s Assembly District 16 for the seat of current Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso, who will retire after completing his term in 2021.  Silitti’s primary aims include election reform, gun safety, and environmental protection, while Srivastava’s critical stances include repealing bail reform and investing in infrastructure.  

“I’m excited to vote for the first time and finally have a real voice to help make our community and state change.  This is especially important with the difficulties New York is facing right now with coronavirus and crime,” said senior David Weiner.