Op-Ed: Romaine, Calone Line Up for County Executive Job

The race this year for Suffolk County executive—the top position in Suffolk County
government—is taking shape with a contest between Republican Edward Romaine and
Democrat Dave Calone.

Romaine was first elected Brookhaven Town’s 70th town supervisor in a special election
in 2012, and re-elected with large margins since. He has extensive county experience. Romaine
was a member of the Suffolk Legislature from 1986 through 1989 when he was elected Suffolk
County clerk, a position he held for 16 years. In 2005, he returned to the legislature and was re-
elected three times before running for and becoming Brookhaven Town supervisor.

It was a family tragedy that caused him to depart the legislature and run for Brookhaven
Town supervisor. It was after his son, Keith Romaine, a two-term Brookhaven Town
councilman, seen as moving up and becoming town supervisor, died at just 36. The young
Romaine, of Moriches, suddenly contracted pneumonia and passed away from complications
caused by a virus that attacked his heart.

Ed subsequently ran for town supervisor to do what his son “might have done.” As he explained: “If my son had lived, he would be supervisor.”

As a legislator and town supervisor, Ed Romaine, of Center Moriches, has been highly
active especially on environmental issues and pressing for sound fiscal policies. He was a major
legislative force in battling and stopping the operation of LILCO’s Shoreham nuclear power
plant. As the top elected town official in Brookhaven, Suffolk’s largest town, bigger than Nassau
County, Romaine’s major undertakings have encompassed protecting the Carmans River and
promoting the use of renewable energy. “We have put up solar panels everywhere,” he has said.

Romaine started his professional life as an educator and taught history at Hauppauge
High School. He initially began serving in government as Brookhaven’s first commissioner of
Housing and Community Development and later director of Economic Development.

Calone is a lawyer and a former state and federal prosecutor. In the U.S. Department of
Justice from 1999 until 2003, his focus included both terrorism and corporate fraud. He
announced in July that he was seeking to be the Democratic candidate for county executive.
Calone was chair of the Suffolk County Planning Commission for eight years, a trustee of
the Long Island Power Authority and a board member of the Community Development Corp., an
affordable housing nonprofit. In business, he is president and CEO of Jove Equity Partners, a
private equity and venture capital firm. He serves as a director of several U.S. companies.
There was a “kick-off” in Stony Brook last month for the Calone campaign with 250
people in attendance. Also last month, Calone, of East Setauket, said contributions to his
campaign had reached $1.7 million.

Says Calone: “The county executive role is not about left or right—it’s about moving
Suffolk forward. As a former prosecutor and businessman, I am ready to lead our county to
become safer, more affordable, and with more opportunity for everybody.”

A wrinkle earlier in the Democratic Party’s process of choosing a candidate for county
executive this year was that Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman considered
running. “I’ll be a good candidate,” said Schneiderman in November. He was first elected
Southampton supervisor in 2015 after being a Suffolk County legislator and is the only person to
ever serve as supervisor of two Suffolk towns—first East Hampton and then, after being on the
legislature, Southampton. However, last month he decided not to run, saying that “for a variety of
reasons, I have decided not to enter the county executive race at this juncture.”

If he had gotten the nomination it would have been an interesting pairing considering that
Romaine had been Schneiderman’s history teacher at Hauppauge High School.

Suffolk Democratic Chair Rich Schaffer said following the Calone kick-off: “As
former prosecutor and as a business leader, Dave will lead a coalition to energize Democratic
voters across the county.” That would be important if it happens because a key reason many
Democratic candidates in Suffolk didn’t fare well in the 2022 election was the Democratic turn-
out here—a 7.8 percent decrease from the 2018 election. Meanwhile, Republicans increased their
turn-out from 2018 by 5.7 percent.

And then there is how Suffolk’s huge number of independent voters will ballot.
Regarding voter figures in Suffolk, the latest numbers from the New York State Board of
Election (from November) show most are enrolled Democrats—380,756. The Republican total is
343,940. But then there are the independents, listed by the board as “Blank” voters—312,975.
These independents are often the key in Suffolk elections.

This year is the last for Steve Bellone as Suffolk County executive due to term limits. A
Democrat from North Babylon and lawyer, he was a member of the Babylon Town Board and
that town’s supervisor before his election as county executive in 2011.

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