Election 2011: Who will be the next Suffolk County Executive?

Two candidates are vying to fill the Suffolk County executive position that incumbent Steve Levy will vacate at the end of the year in an election to be decided today.

Democrat Steve Bellone, 42, of West Babylon, and Republican Angie Carpenter, 68, of West Islip, are both longtime politicians seeking the four-year term.

Mr. Bellone has been Babylon Town supervisor since 2002, and he was a Babylon Town Councilman for four years before that. He is an Army veteran and claims he has made government more efficient in Babylon, reduced debt there and brought about consecutive tax cuts.

Ms. Carpenter has been Suffolk County treasurer for four years and was a member of the Suffolk County Legislature for 13 before that. Before her election to the Legislature, she owned her own typography business, which her sons now run.

She claims her experience in county government is valuable because she knows the workings of the county.

Both candidates have recently made overtures toward East End voters.

In a press conference Tuesday, Ms. Carpenter called for the reopening of several county offices on the East End that have been closed for years, such as the county executive and consumer affairs offices in the Riverhead County Center.

“Many people on the East End feel that they have been ignored,” she said.

Mr. Bellone said at a recent News 12 debate with Ms. Carpenter that he supports putting forward a transportation plan for the East End, as well as supporting the East End’s agricultural economy.

“We cannot forget the East End,” he said. “The East End is too often looked at as a piggybank by the MTA and New York City officials who think the East End is just a place to go to in the summer time.”

The two candidates have been slamming each other in campaign ads.

Ms. Carpenter’s campaign has been running a “Big Tax Bellone” website accusing Mr. Bellone of big tax increases and saying that an Empire Center for New York State Policy report states that Babylon has the biggest tax burden in the county, Mr. Bellone says that the report refers to school taxes, not town taxes. Ms. Carpenter insists that town taxes in Babylon have skyrocketed under Mr. Bellone.

A chart on the “Big Tax Bellone” website shows Babylon town taxes have increased by 53.5 percent since 1998, when Mr. Bellone first became a councilman in Babylon. However, the same chart shows that Babylon taxes have increased only 18 percent since 2002, when Mr. Bellone became supervisor.

Mr. Bellone said county debt has doubled in the last seven years. Ms. Carpenter says she was not a policy maker when this happened, and that the bulk of the debt was for a state-mandated new jail in Yaphank.

The “Big Tax Bellone” site calls him “King of Patronage,” shows a picture of him wearing a crown and says foreclosures and unemployment rates are high in Babylon.

Mr. Bellone accuses Ms. Carpenter of trying to get a “six-figure job” for a political advisor when she first took office as county treasurer.

Ms. Carpenter said she has an economic plan that calls for an expediter in county government to help businesses through the permit process and for meeting with businesses to try to find ways to help them retain customers and grow.

Mr. Bellone says he has an economic plan that calls for creation of a “research triangle” that will try to create jobs in Suffolk based on the research at Stony Brook University, Brookhaven Lab and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

He so far has a big lead in campaign funding, having spent more than $2.6 million on his campaign in the last month compared to Ms. Carpenter’s total campaign expense of $307,892, according to recent campaign disclosure forms.

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