Dems back Calcaterra to take on Ken LaValle

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05/27/2010 12:00 AM |

Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) may have to wait awhile for an opponent, but there’s no such uncertainty in this year’s state legislative elections.

Political newcomer Regina Calcaterra of New Suffolk received the Democratic nod last week to take on veteran GOP State Senator Kenneth Lavalle. In the North Fork’s Assembly race, Republican County Legislator Dan Losquadro of Shoreham now stands in the way of Democratic incumbent Marc Alessi’s re-election hopes. (See separate story.)

But there will be no bruising fight to fill the county comptroller’s seat. Not only will incumbent Comptroller Joe Sawicki run unopposed, the Southold Republican has again secured the Democratic line. Suffolk’s Democrats also endorsed Republican County Clerk Judy Pascale.

Mr. Bishop, who is seeking his fifth two-year term, was formally renominated during the Democrats’ May 20 convention in Hauppauge. He may have to wait until September to know the name of his GOP foe. During their convention a few weeks back, the county’s Republicans did not choose a candidate for the First Congressional District, instead opting for an “open primary.” If more than one would-be candidate files nominating petitions by the July deadline, party members will fill the slot during a Sept. 7 primary election.

The list of potential GOP candidates includes businessmen Randy Altschuler and Chris Cox, former Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer George Demos and Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick.

In the race for State Senate, incumbent Republican Kenneth LaValle faces what is arguably the most spirited and organized challenge in his 34-year career. New Suffolk resident Regina Calcaterra, a partner in a New York law firm, has been actively campaigning for the seat since last summer.

Ms. Calcaterra, who grew up in foster homes and homeless shelters, paints the incumbent as the ultimate Albany insider and an example of the entrenched party leadership responsible for a dysfunctional state government.

Mr. LaValle argues that his seniority has only benefited the district and that a vote for Ms. Calcaterra is a vote for the New York City Democratic machine.

Ms. Calcaterra said property taxes are the top issue on the minds of voters she’s met since announcing her run. “The state has been using people’s homes as piggy banks,” she said. “There’s been no effort whatsoever by my opponent to deal with the spike in tax rates or the unfunded school mandates.”

Coming from outside the “bubble of Albany,” Ms. Calcaterra said she is in a better position to be an agent of change.

“The longer our representatives are up in Albany, the less they’re aware of the impacts their votes have on our lives,” she said. “It’s not one party over the other, it’s both parties. Albany really does need to be reformed.”

The incumbent said taxes only went up when Ms. Calcaterra’s party gained control of both houses of the State Legislature.

“The problem has clearly been with the New York City Democrats in the Senate, who have taken our state aid away from us and given us an MTA tax,” said Mr. LaValle. “I’ve worked with groups and communities to solve problems. That’s what being a representative is all about.”

As a former State Assemblyman, Mr. Sawicki has an insider’s knowledge of the rigors of campaigning, but he has no need to tap that experience in his run for another four years as county comptroller. As was the case when he first sought re-election four years ago, Mr. Sawicki is running on both the Republican and Democratic lines.

“Let’s face it, there’s no Democratic or Republican way to watch taxpayers’ money,” he said. “There’s only the right way.”

Mr. Sawicki said he’d developed close relationships with many of Suffolk’s top Democrats, particularly District Attorney Tom Spota.

“When you pool the DA’s investigative resources with my auditing resources, we make a great combo in going after white-collar crime,” Mr. Sawicki said.

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