State Senate 2nd District Preview: Flanagan vs. Cleary

Republican State Sen. John Flanagan of East Northport is the incumbent state senator in the 2nd district; Democrat Kathleen McClearly, also of East Northport, is challenging him.

Kathleen Cleary

East Northport resident Kathleen Cleary, a Democrat, is also running on the Women’s Equality party line. She is a horticulturist at Bayard Cutting Arboretum, and also manages a volunteer greenhouse in East Islip. Cleary earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Adelphi University and an associate’s degree in horticulture from Farmingdale State College. She previously was a contract manager with a consulting company, handling multiple client contracts. She managed a team of international contract managers for a Fortune 100 telecommunications firm. She aims to provide better representation by standing by important issues such as reproductive health care, sensible gun restrictions, ethics and campaign finance reform.

Q: Is protecting air, water and land a fundamental government responsibility and is the current system in use succeeding in protecting them?

A: I do believe it’s a fundamental job of the government and while I do believe the government has been working towards it, I feel there are some things we could be doing better. Specifically, I would like to call out into the issue that we have with nitrogen flowing into our groundwater and into our harbors.

Q: What are one or two things you’ve done with and for our community’s youth?

A: I was assistant coach for my daughter’s track team and a coach for her volleyball team. I manage a greenhouse in Islip for volunteers and we grow plants for some of the youth in the Islip area, such as some schools in the town of Islip and Cub Scouts. As volunteers, we grow the plants for these community groups, including children’s groups, and they would use those plants to maintain and learn about growing and planting and things like that.

Q: Everyone wants safe neighborhoods for their children. Now that the state received a $500,000 grant for the Project Safe Neighborhood Initiative, what are some of your intentions for the community?

A: Well, one of the things that I think worked in our neighborhood is community groups being together. We had a convicted sexual predator move into our cul-de-sac. Our neighbors really got together as a group and we joined together in making sure that this predator has been doing what he was supposed to be doing. You know, he’s not allowed to have children there and such, but that has grown into areas of just fostering great communication within the neighborhood, which has been great. If someone’s bicycle is missing or someone’s house is broken into, that neighborhood is more aware, and I think that [process] should be spread to other areas. I found that to be very effective for communications because people don’t always know all their neighbors, especially in a larger group — you may know your immediate neighbors, but not blocks over. There used to be meetings every couple of months just to get a chance to talk about what’s happening in the neighborhood and I feel that’s made people more aware of what’s happening. So I’d like to see if that could be sponsored as some sort of training by the government to—I mean, our group is working great, but I don’t know if we could spread that out to other areas who might need some more support.

Q: Regarding the Trump tax plan, what is your position on a property tax cap?

A: I agree with the property tax cap, but in addition I think we need to review how we are using our tax system, how we’re being taxed and see if there are other ways we should be funding our schools in response to the cap.

Q: When did you know you wanted to represent this community?

A: I would say maybe beginning of January this year. I wanted to make sure that we had somebody, a strong choice, for a Democratic person to run against Senator Flanagan. And it was when I started researching his issues that I felt that most of our people in the district agreed with but Senator Flanagan was holding up, such as the Child Victims Act — that’s when I knew I wanted to run. Especially after having, like I said, a sexual predator moving into my neighborhood. In talking to victims of sexual predators, I realized they really needed a voice for somebody to fight for them and seek justice for them up in Albany.
(The Child Victims Act is proposed legislation to make it easier for molestation victims to seek criminal charges or file lawsuits against their abusers. It passed in the Assembly in 2018 but stalled in the Senate.)

John Flanagan

Editor’s Note: we did not receive a response from Sen. Flanagan for this article.

Flanagan is also running on the Conservative, Independence and Reform party lines. He was first elected to the Senate in 2002 and was elected by his colleagues to serve as majority leader of the Senate in 2015. Previously, he served 16 years in the state Assembly.

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