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Jay Schneiderman seeks Dem nod to run for Suffolk comptroller

Rick Brand

Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman says he is seeking the Democratic nomination for Suffolk County comptroller in this fall’s election against Republican first-term incumbent John M. Kennedy.

“I’m in the race,” said Schneiderman, 56, who said he will also seek the support of minor parties “to make my best case for their nomination.”

Schneiderman cited his experience not only as Southampton supervisor, but also his former role as East Hampton’s top official and his 12 years as a county lawmaker, when “I brought both towns to a Triple A bond rating and held the line on property taxes for 18 years in public office, and will be an independent watchdog for the county.”

Immediately after Schneiderman announced, County Executive Steve Bellone endorsed him, saying Schneiderman has the “integrity, competence and independence to be an outstanding comptroller.”

Richard Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman, also supported Schneiderman, saying he believes his experience makes him “uniquely qualified” and that he has a strong chance of winning. “The calculus has changed since the election of Donald Trump,” he said. “No one can say who’s safe or not safe.”

Schneiderman said that, if elected, he would “work with the legislature and executive in trying to get to a sustainable fiscal model, rather than the current situation of borrowing from next year to pay this year. Borrowing a half-billion dollars is not something that can be sustained. I want to be part of the solution, even though it’s not the traditional role for a comptroller to play.”

Kennedy said he’s run for office eight times and “welcomes the opportunity to put this record before voters” against his former legislative colleague.

Over the last four years, the comptroller said he’s saved $35 million in interest costs by refinancing debt, made $8 million in audit recoveries and shut down two shelter operations that he labeled “criminal enterprises.” He also said his office’s increased enforcement of the hotel-motel tax has raised revenue from $8 million to $12 million.

“Some people talk about great ideas, others deliver. We’re just getting warmed up and we’ll do a lot more in the next term,” Kennedy said. Frank Tinari, Suffolk Conservative chairman, said both Kennedy and Schneiderman, who have have each run at times with Conservative backing, will appear before the party screening committee to seek the minor party’s endorsement Wednesday night in East Islip. The Conservative Party ballot line could be crucial because its draw from 10 to 12 percent of the votes.

“We have endorsed each of them in the past and they will get an absolutely fair screening,” Tinari said.

Four years ago, the Conservative Party ended up backing no one for comptroller in the race for the open seat between Kennedy and Suffolk Water Authority chairman James Gaughran.