Bookending many questions 20th Assembly District candidates, incumbent Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) and Republican challenger Dr. David Sussman of Lawrence, fielded at last week’s candidate forum at Long Beach Library were their opening and closing statements. Both men touched on their reasons for running.
“My desire and my goals are, as we were brought up to do in my family, is to do public service,” said Weisenberg, a lifelong Long Beach resident who has been a state assemblyman for the past 23 years.
Weisenberg won the lottery to speak first at the forum, hosted by the Long Beach League of Women Voters Oct. 18. He used his opening statement to recount his work as a police officer and PBA president in Long Beach, a special education teacher and school administrator in East Meadow, and a Long Beach City Councilman prior to his election to the assembly, where, he said, he’s had “the ability to change people’s lives and save people’s lives.”
He said his most important political goal is to work in Albany on a bipartisan basis for the success of Long Island, in a political arena that he characterized as a “regional war” between New York City, western New York and other parts of the state. He told the audience of about 50 attendees that he would work to maintain the “quality of life that we’re entitle to.”
Sussman, a first-time candidate who is a 18-year member of the Lawrence Board of Education, opened with a tale about meeting his future wife, Sandra, in Miami and convincing her to move to his native Five Towns, after he graduated from Stony Brook University and became a physician. Sussman moved to Lawrence in 1962, about a mile from his parents’ home in Cedarhurst, where he grew up.
“The reason I’m running is because I don’t think that opportunity any longer is available to my children,” said Sussman, who raised four children. “The taxes are too high. We have the highest taxes in the country. … Businesses aren’t coming, and businesses that are here are having a hard time staying.”
He suggest that the 20th district — which covers the entire Long Beach barrier island, Five Towns, Oceanside, Island Park and parts of East Rockaway and Valley Stream — and Long Island in general, must become more business-friendly and bring back more money to the area. “I’m running because I believe in this area, and I believe our future is in jeopardy and I want to fix it,” he said.
After the candidates answered about fifteen questions from constituents, Weisenberg noted in his closing statement that of the 30 Long Island members in the senate and assembly, 75 percent are Republicans, after which he read a campaign brochure from the office of Sen. Dean Skelos, the Republican senate majority leader from Rockville Centre. It stated that income taxes are at their lowest rate in 58 years, Standard & Poor's raised New York’s credit outlook from stable to positive, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranked New York among the top 10 states in economic performance this year, 11 spots higher from last year.
“And I’m sitting here [next] to a Republican — he should be running against Senator Skelos,” Weisenberg said. “He’s a Republican. You want to change government; you want to do things in New York state. Then do them. But you know what? In the assembly we’re doing everything for people, and in the senate, we can’t get that cooperation.”
Returning to his theme of bipartisanship, Weisenberg said the Assembly passed the Save New York Call Center Jobs Act, to address 5,000 U.S. jobs lost due to companies relocating overseas. “The senate never did that,” Weisenberg said about the legislation.
Weisenberg noted that he is the highest-ranking assembly member on this “train to success.” He continued:
“I see us as moving forward. And you know what: we’re moving and we’re going to be successful.”
In his closing statement, Sussman too reiterated certain points from the question period, including that the state has dropped from 34 to 27 Congressman since Weisenberg was first elected, indicating that decline in constituents is due, in part, to high taxes and regulations.
“We are in crisis and we can’t meet it with complacency,” Sussman said. “Our seniors can’t stay because of property taxes. Property taxes are high to a great extent because New York uses us as a piggy bank, it has for a generation, and hasn’t been stopped.”
Sussman predicted a permanent downhill course if the district sticks with the status quo. He asserted that if Long Islanders have the courage to stand up to Albany and say that they will return to “the principles of competition and common sense, which we call practice at the kitchen table, and force our legislators to do the same in Albany, we can have a future here for our children and for our seniors and for ourselves.”
The candidates will square off in a final forum at the Island Park Library, 176 Long Beach Road, at 7 p.m. Oct. 30.