Those of you who pay attention to what goes on over the East Hampton Town line have no doubt heard of Bridget Fleming, a Southampton Town councilwoman. Having now won a Democratic primary to run for the New York Senate, however, she has to think about name recognition.
The First Senatorial District is big, reaching from Montauk to Brookhaven, and her opponent, Kenneth P. LaValle, has been the district’s senator for 36 years! I’m the last person to suggest that someone who has been in a particular post for a long time should move on (I’ve been at The Star since 1960), but in this case I think it’s warranted.
Ms. Fleming’s credentials are remarkable. She has 16 years of courtroom experience and was an assistant district attorney for nine years in Robert Morgenthau’s Manhattan office, where Linda Fairstein, the attorney and author, was a colleague. Her work as an A.D.A. was on weighty issues like welfare fraud and sex crimes, and she is obviously brainy. Her law degree is from the prestigious University of Virginia, and she graduated summa cum laude from Hunter College, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Alpha Theta, the history honors society.
These are some of the professional facts. On the personal side, Ms. Fleming has lived on the East End for the last 10 years and is married to a building contractor. She was a stay-at-home mom for six years, and her son is now a fourth grader at the Sag Harbor Elementary School. You would expect her to be strong on women’s issues, and she is. She describes having been the only woman “at the table” time and time again. She points out that Mr. LaValle is anti-choice and against same-sex marriage. But when she campaigns the issues she is apt to talk about — taxes, state spending, the environment, education — are broad.
Senator LaValle is the head of the Senate’s Higher Education Committee. Ms. Fleming is quick to fault him for the state-aid formulas that she believes are unfair to eastern Long Island, and for failing to secure Southampton College’s outstanding “sustainability” curriculum when the college became part of Stony Brook University. She argues that Mr. LaValle has allowed the Long Island Power Authority to extend its contract with National Grid, which she claims abets the rise of electric rates here to almost twice the national average level. She also accuses her opponent of wasting “more tax dollars on office expenses, including campaign-style mailings, than any other legislator in Albany, spending $510,598 in just six months.”
That people will be heading to the polls next month to choose a president will no doubt improve voter turnout, in general. It is unclear which candidate for State Senate will benefit from the coattails of the man the First Senatorial District supports for the Oval Office. Ms. Fleming is realistic. If she doesn’t make it this time around, she said, “I’ll be coming back in two years.”