HICKSVILLE, NY — The general election is less than two months away, and President Donald Trump isn't the only elected official on the ballot. In New York, state and federal elections will also be decided.
At the state level, Republican Assemblyman Michael Montesano seeks re-election against Democratic challenger Joseph Sackman, III in District 15. The district includes parts of Hicksville, Bethpage, Farmingdale, Syosset, Muttontown, Brookville, Oyster Bay, East Norwich, Locust Valley and Bayville.
Montesano, of Glen Head, was elected to the state Assembly 10 years ago. He was a police officer and detective for the NYPD for a decade and also served as an EMT supervisor and investigator for the NYC Emergency Medical Service, according to his biography on the state's website. He is a former president of the Nassau County Criminal Courts Bar Association and former President of the Nassau County Magistrates Association. He has also served as president, vice president and trustee of the North Shore School District Board of Education.
Montesano is a member of several committees: Ways and Means, Codes, Ethics and Guidance, Judiciary and Oversight, Analysis and Investigation.
Sackman's career experience includes working as a research coordinator in veterinary medicine. He previously served as a volunteer activist for five years at the left-leaning super political action committee Wolf-PAC, which aims to amend the U.S. Constitution to mitigate corruption stemming from money in politics. He served as a rank-and-file member, organizer, state director, national coordinator and advisory council member at the organization.
Patch has reached out to both candidates to fill out our 2020 candidate questionnaire. Here are their responses, lightly edited for clarity.
Age as of Election Day (Nov. 3): 43
Town of residence: Hicksville
Position Sought: State Assembly
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Family: Currently single, no children
Does anyone in your family work in politics or government? No
Education: Associates in Liberal Arts from Nassau Community College, Bachelor of Science SUNY at Stony Brook
Occupation: Research Coordinator
Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office: No previous office held.
Campaign website: www.Sackman2020.com
Why are you seeking elective office?
I have spent the last five years as an activist fighting corruption in government because our government on the local and federal level has become less accountable to the people. Legislators are more concerned with the needs of big corporations and special interests. I was inspired to run to bring representation that cares about all the people in the district. I want to see our community flourish and grow, to be safe and secure. This means we need someone who is willing to fight for the community. To make sure we have the funding we need for our schools and community programs. I will make sure Long Island gets back the revenue it needs to clean up our water and invest in our local economy. I want to make sure that our utility companies are held accountable to the residents and that those who have polluted our waters pay for the cleanup. I want to see that no one goes bankrupt because they get sick and no one goes hungry because they are underpaid or lose their job. We need real solutions for the COVID-19 recovery and prevention for future outbreaks. We need an end to do-nothing politics, we need someone who stands up for the community and is a champion for everyone in the district.
The single most pressing issue facing our nation/state/community is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.
One of the most pressing issues we face in our community is the environmental catastrophe called the Grumman Plume. Known about since the 1970s, and very little has been done to clean it up, the plume has been a detriment to many families on Long Island. It is now a toxic lake that is 2 miles wide, 4 miles long, and 900 feet deep. Starting in Bethpage, it travels down to Massapequa. It grows bigger every day and exists under 250,000 homes. This catastrophe needs to be fully addressed along with all the other toxins like 1,4 Dioxane, PFOS, and PFAS that we find in our drinking water.
NY State is currently heading up the remediation of the Grumman Plume, and we are waiting on filtration systems for 1,4 Dioxane. The solutions for these carcinogens are costly, your home water filter won't do the job. We need to make sure that Grumman and the Navy pay for this and that we have the funding we need for the cleanup. I plan to apply political pressure on these polluters to make sure the cost of the cleanup doesn't fall on the backs of the community. In addition, we need protection for our water so that future contamination is avoided. I would also explore possible alternative clean water sources such as the Pine Barrens in Suffolk County or New York City's water which we can bring into Nassau County. Both sources are clean, toxin-free, drinkable water. Clean water is right and as a member of the Assembly, I will fight to ensure that for all of New York.
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?
I have several years of experience advocating for anti-corruption legislation in Albany. I have learned how to work with legislators from all over the state. I know when compromises are needed to be made and I am willing to work with those who are willing to do the people's work. I am determined to do what is best for everyone in the district regardless of party affiliation. I also do not believe in conspiracy theories, I base my decision on facts and science. I am someone who rather builds relationships with colleagues and get the work done. I do not complain about every decision that is made by the opposition or make up false narratives. I believe in building coalitions and bringing people together. I will serve the community better as I belong to the party who is the supermajority in the Assembly and will have more influence than someone who is politically obsolete in Albany. I take action and I have a desire to serve the community.
If you are a challenger, in what way has the current board or officeholder failed the community (or district or constituency).
Mr. Montesano has failed the community by not being there for the entire community. For 10 years the current assembly member spends more time collecting a check then passing legislation that is needed. Examples of this are voting against the ban on cat declawing. This law was passed to protect animals from unneeded surgery and cruelty, he voted against it. Then recently he wrote a law to force homeowners to report if they lived within a mile of a superfund site to anyone who was buying the home. The law stated that it was on the homeowner to do so, but if they never filed the report, it wouldn't matter. It never got voted on, so it never passed. It was a waste of time and taxpayer money. When I ask people if they know Mr. Montesano, most people say no, and those that do have said to me they dislike immensely or that he's tired and really doesn't want to do the job.
Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform.
The main issues of my platform are clean water, healthcare, affordability on Long Island, investment into the community, a strong economy that works for all, and a Green New Deal. I believe that all these issues intersect one way or another and that solutions for them can be found as we exam our society and economy and make it work for everyone.
Access to clean water is a right. We can't live happy healthy lives without it. I will work to clean up and protect our water on Long Island. I work for solutions such as investing in cleaning up the Grumman plume, banning the use of certain toxins, better sewage treatment, and protecting our shores.
No one should go bankrupt when they get sick, ration their medicine, or lose their home. I will fight for a single-payer healthcare system that will cover all our healthcare needs and lower drug costs. No one should be worried about the cost of the medication or treatments they need to live.
The cost of living on Long Island keeps going up. Our seniors and young people aren't able to keep up with that cost. We need solutions that will create affordable housing that benefits everyone. More senior and workforce housing, an end to zombie homes, and investment in land banks are possible solutions. Along with developing alternative revenue to help with cutting property taxes.
Community investment is a priority. Increased funding into education, the economy, and employment opportunities can be a strong foundation for any community. Along with the many other resources we need such as health and human services, libraries, childcare, and first responders we can build a better society for all.
We need real investment in small businesses. The local business owners are the backbone of our economy, Covid-19 made that clear. We must make sure that small businesses have a chance to flourish and rebuild. We need a strong economy so our communities can prosper. Wealth does not need to flow up in the 1%, it needs to flow outward into the hands of the middle class to create the economic stability that we need.
A Green New Deal is the opportunity of this century. We can be building our future on a foundation of clean renewable energy and investing in infrastructure and low carbon jobs. Jobs like teachers, nurses, and construction workers. Investment in these types of energy solutions along with the jobs our communities need will strengthen our local economies and communities, making Long Island a better place to live.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
I have been a volunteer activist with a group called Wolf-PAC for five years. It is a grassroots non-partisan organization that works to amend the US constitution to deal with the corruptive influence of money in politics. During that time I went from being a rank and file member to an organizer, a state director, National Coordinator, and Advisory Council member. Before I left the organization to run for office I was overseeing operations of four states, including New York. I learned not only the workings of the state legislature in New York but also Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Arizona.
I understand what it means to be a leader and to make decisions that will affect the lives of many people. I do not take this responsibility lightly and when I say I am going to do something I follow through. We need legislators that will keep to their word and be accountable, as I was accountable to all the volunteers I worked with and the national organization I've served.
I have also been elected to two consecutive terms to a local grassroots organization called Long Island Activists and helped to lead their efforts towards building a more just and equal society. I also served on the board of directors for NYPAN. These were not positions that I sought, I was asked to serve, elected to, and or appointed. I believe because my colleagues and fellow activists trust me to get the job done, to be the leader they wanted, and my willingness to work together with a diverse group of people.
I have done all this while still holding down a career as a veterinary researcher. Working 40 hours a week. It speaks to my dedication to serving the community, self-sacrifice and willingness to do what needs to be done.
The best advice ever shared with me was:
This is not a sprint, it's a marathon. (amending the constitution)
What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?
It's not about ego, it's about the mission. The mission is to serve the people and to do the work of the people. I am someone who looks to find solutions that work for everyone. We aren't elected to play favorites or divide the people and pit them against each other. I believe we have more incommon that what divides us. We all want health, financial security, and a chance to build a life for ourselves and our families. I will do my best to make sure I can help create a society that allows for that to happen for all of us.