The race for the 18th District Suffolk Legislative seat features two vastly different candidates whose fierce fight has produced accusations of threats against a third party, and complaints about doctoring of a candidate’s image.
Democrat Mark Cuthbertson, a member of the Huntington Town Board since 1998, is a lawyer and active in the community. Republican Stephanie Bontempi, a private-school teacher, is new to electoral politics. Both she and her husband, Robert, have been involved in business and philanthropic activities for more than 25 years and she is a member of the town beautification committee.
Cuthbertson, who can talk agricultural development rights, tax policy, sewers, land development or myriad other matters, points to his experience in Huntington as a reason he should be elected. He cites his efforts in June 2019 to have a qualified engineer named to run the building department; instead, a retired judge was appointed which was followed by many complaints from the public on how the department functioned until the judge, Dan Martin, stepped down this year.
Bontempi says her fresh voice and approach matter and that voters will benefit from someone with a new look at Suffolk County issues, such as finances.
HuntingtonNow spoke last week with both candidates:
Q. Why are you running for the Suffolk Legislature?
A. I love public service and it’s a way to further my public service with new challenges and issues.The town has been great but this has new challenges, environmental and others. I’ve been involved in many facets of local government, including environmental, liability and legal issues, and have a complete understanding of the landscape. There are projects I’ve worked on that I can work on in another capacity. Opioids is another; sewering in Huntington Station. The wheels are in motion for a sewer study that will allow certain parts to hook up with th southwest sewer district in light of the fact that there is significant federal money available.
Q. What are other key topics?
A. Finances. It’s a unique times to come into the county; there are huge projected surpluses. I think it is time to create reserve funds and alleviate the dependency of sales taxes.
There’s a bunch of good recommendations for police reform such as body cameras, which are the low hanging fruit. I want to make sure that gets done. There are further things, such as dashboard cameras for basic traffic stops.
On marijuana sales, that decision will get made post election. I am leaning toward opting out for now. That decsion should be made by the incoming board.
State law requires towns to opt in or out of allowing marijuana sales by the end of the year.
Question. Why are you running?
A. I am running because I love our community and have lived here 30 years. Like most of us here we see a decline while the cost of lving goes up and up and up. People who are supposed to represent us–I don’t know how much integrity they have. I am doing it for the right reasons. People are sick and tired of politicians and rather than just sit home, I want to do something about it.
Once elected, she hopes to sit down with each department in Suffolk County government and review its finances.
“One of my biggest issues is the environment,” she said. “I want to protect our shoreline and acquifier, but all those things can’t happen if we don’t take care of our financnes.
She said she also wanted to see the area receive sewers, and make more housing affordable. “The term affordable somehow has a negative connotation but people need to be able to afford living here,” she said.
And she says she will “throw myself into (the job); I want to know everything, i want to learn everything.”
“I am simply the voice, representing the voice of the people and I want to hear from people who are engaged.”