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Oct 3, 2018 8:59 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Fischer Challenges Longtime Senator LaValle; Thiele Faces Newcomer Patrick O'Connor In November Election

Oct 3, 2018 9:19 AM

On November 6, East End residents will cast their votes to either replace or re-elect New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and New York State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle.

Local challenger and Republican Patrick O’Connor, 53, of Shinnecock Hills will fight for Mr. Thiele’s 1st Assembly District seat, whereas 62-year-old Democrat Gregory Fischer—a Calverton resident who is no stranger to elections, having made an unsuccessful run for Mr. LaValle’s 1st Senatorial District seat in 2016—will once again add his name to the ballot.

Mr. Thiele, 65, of Sag Harbor, was first elected in 1995 and, in November, will seek his 13th two-year term as a member of the Independence Party. He is cross endorsed by the Democratic, Working Families, Women’s Equality and Reform parties.

Mr. LaValle, 77, of Port Jefferson—a Republican cross endorsed by the Conservative, Reform, and Independence parties—is seeking his 21st two-year term.

Both Mr. O’Connor and Mr. Fischer said this week that their opponents have outstayed their welcome in Albany and argued that fresh faces will lead both the Assembly and the Senate toward the future.

Mr. O’Connor, a Southampton Town Republican Committee member, said on Tuesday that while this will be his first time running for office, he is ready to take on the challenge. His campaign is strongly centered around representing what he described as “the forgotten people.”

“I saw how many people have been neglected, ignored, and thrown under the bus by their legislators over the past several years,” he said, pointing to the Montauk fishermen who he said were not considered when the state approved a wind power farm on the coast of East Hampton. “I like to think that there are people outside Sag Harbor who need to be represented.”

Mr. O’Connor, added that, if elected, he would focus on restructuring the state’s taxes and regulations to make the East End of Long Island more affordable.

“I think that it’s time—23 years has been long enough,” he said.

In rebuttal, Mr. Thiele said on Tuesday that his record speaks for itself. “To me, I’m the incumbent. I have a record and it’s a record that I’m proud of,” he said. “There’s no need to change.”

Over the years, Mr. Thiele has helped secure $30 million in state funds for Peconic Bay and South Shore Estuary improvement projects, which help protect East End watersheds, and has been involved in transportation issues, including the reconstruction of Route 27 from Bridgehampton to Montauk, and Route 24 from Hampton Bays to Riverhead.

He added that he would like to continue working with Mr. LaValle on several projects including the partnership between Southampton and Stony Brook University hospitals, creating more opportunities at the Stony Brook Southampton campus in Shinnecock Hills, and expanding Long Island Rail Road service with the South Fork Commuter Connection, which is on schedule to launch in March.

In addition, he aims to continue working toward improving water quality on the East End. Last November, the public approved a referendum, which was co-sponsored by Mr. Thiele and Mr. LaValle, that allowed the five East End municipalities to spend up to 20 percent of the town’s Community Preservation Fund revenue on water quality improvement projects.

The modification allows the towns to tap the fund to offer various incentives, such as providing financial assistance to homeowners who live near the water so they can upgrade their antiquated cesspools.

“There’s a lot of work that we’ve accomplished, but there’s a lot of things that we’re in the middle of that I look forward to continue working on,” he said.

To date, Mr. Thiele and Mr. O’Connor have faced off twice during debates in Mastic and Flanders. Both candidates were also expected to attend a third debate in Noyac on Tuesday night.

Mr. Thiele’s counterpart in the State Senate, Mr. LaValle, also cited his 40-year-long record as to why voters should re-elect him in November.

On Tuesday, the senator identified his three major accomplishments as the implementation of property tax relief, the continued success of the Community Preservation Fund, and the preservation of the Pine Barrens.

In 2018 alone, he said that he has helped preserve more than 1,000 acres in the Pine Barrens Preserve.

He also pointed to his connection to education, noting that as chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee, he understands what school districts need.

“Education is very important, as is working with and talking to school districts,” he said. “I have a record of being focused and delivering for people.”

However, Mr. Lavalle’s opponent, Mr. Fischer, doesn’t see the senator in the same light. In fact, on Monday he blamed him for the state’s economic collapse.

“LaValle is shot,” he said. “He got us where we are, and where we are is at the brink of disaster. I’m not candy coating it at all.”

With that said, Mr. Fischer, who is semi-retired but still does some business consulting for nonprofits such as Service Corps of Retired Executives—a Virginia-based business mentoring service—pitched what he called a state-wide economic redevelopment plan.

If elected, he plans to work toward restructuring the state’s current trade and transportation system, reducing fuel pollution, and creating affordable housing on the East End.

He noted that more than 170,000 people are moving out of New York every year, adding that if elected he plans to focus on turning around “zombie houses”—foreclosed and abandoned properties that often pose health and safety risks to their communities—so they can be rented or put back on the market. He said he would push for the creation of a vacancy tax—a measure that, he said, would tax those absentee landlords and banks that allow houses to fall into severe disrepair and become eyesores.

“These plans, they’re an economic plan for prosperity and hope,” Mr. Fischer said. “Money solves a lot of problems and we’re going to create a lot of money.”

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Fred Thiele is wonderful -- experienced, hard-working, non-partisan and he has the best interests of his constituents in mind. Vote for Fred Thiele!
By Aeshtron (431), Southampton on Oct 4, 18 3:00 PM
2 members liked this comment
It also doesn't hurt his law practice...but 27 east would never ask about that.
By Preliator Lives (437), Obamavillie on Oct 8, 18 6:28 AM
While I understand that people want to run, Fred gets my vote. Reachable, actionable, loves where he lives and it shows. People listen to him and he gets things does for the east end all the time. He wears the east end on his sleeve.
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Oct 4, 18 7:49 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By even flow (1023), East Hampton on Oct 5, 18 6:49 AM
Even flow, you are the glowing example of your post. Thanks for pointing out your history and shortcomings.your a brave man for coming clean.
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Oct 5, 18 7:46 AM
Sorry but Dems cannot be trusted. The Kavanagh spectacle and witch hunt are proof of that.
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Oct 5, 18 12:41 PM
LocalEH, the leader of the Republican Party accused of multiple sexual indiscretions and assaults, all lies right? A documented tax dodger, all lies? So you can follow a low moral person who couldn’t tell the truth if his life depended on it. Try to give a little better example.
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Oct 5, 18 12:59 PM
1 member liked this comment
Fred S are you talking about Al Sharpton? Mrs. Ford is a lying female and ruined that mans life. Go google the duke lacrosse team in 2006 and see how their lives are ruined from a miserable female. Can’t wait to see what your pathetic party tries to dig up now and get shut down once again but keep digging. I think your gonna need a bigger shovel.
By watchoutnow968 (56), Southampton on Oct 7, 18 11:38 AM
Perhaps you should reach out to the Central Park Five. Y'know, the ones who were falsely convicted and Trump spent nearly 100k in advertising to make sure everyone knew they were guilty. FYI, they were falsely accused and exonerated.

Perhaps you should sell your steam shovel...
Oct 8, 18 6:56 AM appended by Mr. Z
Prosecutor Nifong was justly disbarred for his conduct in the case. Were this woman not enabled by him, well...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Oct 8, 18 6:56 AM
Watch out, what are you babbling about? Sharpton?whos life was ruined? Kavanaugh is now on the Supreme Court .Go google how many women’s lives are ruined by sexual assault.thanks for using the shovel analogy, I believe you borrowed it from me. “Ruined that mans life”, your a real jokester.
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Oct 8, 18 6:41 AM