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Former Riverhead supervisor Laura Jens-Smith to run for Assembly

Former Riverhead supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said she plans to seek the Democratic nod for the 2nd Assembly District currently held by Republican Anthony Palumbo in this fall’s elections.

“I feel that this is a good fit for me,” she said in an interview Thursday morning. “I was on the school board and I served as town supervisor and, having worked in those positions, I can take the skills I learned and bring them up to Albany. A lot of the decisions made in Albany affect not only the local government but also our school districts, and I think having that experience puts me in a unique position in Albany.”

The state Assembly has traditionally been controlled by Democrats, while the state Senate had been held by Republicans until recently, when Democrats gained the majority in that chamber, too.

Ms. Jens-Smith, who plans to formally announce her decision Tuesday, said she has met with Democratic leaders in Southold, Riverhead and Brookhaven towns “and they have been supportive and encouraging.”

Another candidate who has surfaced for the Democratic nod for the 2nd District Assembly position is Will Schleisner of Sound Beach, Ms. Jens-Smith said.

Ms. Jens-Smith served one term as Riverhead Supervisor before losing her bid for reelection in November. She said her decision to run is based both on her own feeling that she can do a good job in the Assembly, and the conviction that Mr. Palumbo has not.

“We need a stronger representative up in Albany,” she said. “This will be my full-time job if I’m elected. Mr. Palumbo has a full-time law practice that has been growing every year that he’s been in office.”

Mr. Palumbo has been mentioned by Republican leaders as a possible candidate to fill the State Senate seat being vacated by long-term incumbent Ken LaValle, although Mr. Palumbo has yet to decide if he wants to run for that position. 

In response to Ms. Jens-Smith’s announcement, Mr. Palumbo said, “We have intentionally scaled down the law practice since I’ve been in the assembly, as reflected quite obviously in the financial disclosure reports,” Mr. Palumbo said.  “And it looks like she might fit right in with the liberal Democrats in Albany by making inaccurate statements to start off her campaign.”

Mr. Palumbo was elected in November 2013 in a special election.

“I certainly look forward to the upcoming race,” Mr. Palumbo said.

Meanwhile, William Van Helmond also threw his hat into the Assembly race this week.

Mr. Van Helmond is the president of the Greater Jamesport Civic Association and owns a landscaping company. He plans to run for Assembly on the Libertarian line, and will seek to screened by both the Republican and Democratic parties. 

Mr. Van Helmond ran for town council last year on the Libertarian line and finished last, with 288 votes. He received the Republican nomination to run for highway superintendent in 2017, but then stepped down, and later ran for that position on the Libertarian line.