Democratic Suffolk County Executive candidate Steve Bellone still calls Southold’s party leader, Art Tillman, Mr. Tillman.
That’s because, when Mr. Bellone was just a young high school student, Mr. Tillman was his social studies teacher at North Babylon High School.
Mr. Bellone was the guest of honor at a fundraising event at Southold Democrat Bill Edwards’ house in Mattituck Saturday evening, and between the gentle chiding between himself and his former teacher, he promised Southold Democrats that he would be a county executive who took Southold Town seriously.
Mr. Bellone, who has served for 10 years as Babylon Town Supervisor, said that he plans to govern as county executive in a manner that gives town supervisors broad leeway to decide what’s best for their towns.
“Southold knows what Southold should look like,” he said. “Only the community can determine its destiny.”
Mr. Bellone said that he is in favor of a Peconic Bay Regional Transit Authority, which if ever instituted would give the East End local control over a light rail system that would be separate from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which currently runs infrequent train service on the East End.
“This region has gotten a terrible deal from the MTA,” he said. “You have not been getting the services you paid for.”
Democratic Southold Town Supervisor candidate Robert Meguin echoed Mr. Bellone’s position on the MTA.
“We are seriously reaching the tipping point of it not being fun to come here any more,” he said of tourists from western Long Island who visit the North Fork. “We need to get tourists here an easier way.”
Mr. Meguin said that, in order to push through a light rail system for the East End, Democrats would need to complete phase two and three of a “trifecta” that began with the election of Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo last year, and would continue with the election of Democrats as Suffolk County Executive and Southold Town Supervisor.
“We want to partner with Riverhead and Brookhaven,” he said. “There are things beyond Southold that are significant.”
Mr. Tillman also announced Saturday night that the Suffolk County Board of Elections has validated the party’s “Save Medicare” line on the November ballot, which will allow voters to vote for Southold Democratic candidates based on their platform of keeping medical care for the elderly intact. Southold Democrats gathered petitions all summer to add the line to the ballot.
“Eighty to 85 percet of the people approached said ‘let me sign,'” said Mr. Tillman “You don’t mess with these entitlements. No way!”
Mr. Tillman added that, this year, more new Democrats than Republicans have registered to vote in Southold, while Republicans still have a broad financing advantage, with $17,500 in the bank at the end of the last reporting period compared with just $2,400 in the Democrats’ coffers.