County Legislator Jay Schneiderman of Montauk will face off against Cornelius Kelly of Westhampton Beach, a Republican, this fall in his re-election bid for the Second District seat, one he has held since 2003.
The Suffolk County Republican Committee nominated Mr. Kelly, who is 39, on May 25 at its convention in Hauppauge.
The challenger describes himself as a former bond analyst. He managed billions of dollars in securities at firms like Credit Suisse, and worked at Standard and Poor’s. He graduated with an M.B.A. in finance and economics from New York University and in 2005 founded Liberty Property Services, an insurance company he continues to own and operate. He said he comes from “a strong Republican family.”
Mr. Kelly believes in “strong, efficient, limited government” and low taxes as a mechanism for job growth. He made the case his work managing cash flows was sure to help him take a prominent role in righting the county’s finances. He called Mr. Schneiderman too comfortable an incumbent.
“It has to be said this seat has not seen a challenge in many years, and that fact has not been in the best interest of the voting public,” Mr. Kelly said. “So I am excited for the opportunity to give voters a real choice. I have a strong track record of working hard in the private sector and getting positive results. I am a small-business owner and father, and I understand the needs of families and our community. I will bring new energy and a fresh set of ideas to the debate.”
Mr. Schneiderman, for his part, said he knew little of Mr. Kelly and expected voters to reward him for his record.
“He doesn’t have a record; I’m running on mine. I don’t know anyone else who has as long of a streak of tax cuts as I do,” he said.
Mr. Kelly argued that a key rationale behind his candidacy is that Mr. Schneiderman’s relationship with the rest of the Legislature has been strained by his repeated changes of party affiliation over the years.
“Jay has talked a big game when it comes to solving our homeless sex offender issue, and talked a big game on revenue sharing, but he hasn’t gotten any legislation signed into law. He hasn’t gotten the job done. The reason for this is simple — Jay has been a political opportunist since he entered office and isn’t viewed as trustworthy or dependable by his fellow legislators,” Mr. Kelly said, referring to Mr. Schneiderman’s pet causes: ensuring that countywide sales tax revenue for public safety is distributed evenly to eastern Suffolk, and spreading the burden of housing homeless sex offenders to communities outside his district. They have been housed in trailers in Riverhead, leading to many complaints from residents.
The incumbent was not registered with any party when he was East Hampton Town supervisor, though he ran on the Republican and Conservative Party lines, before registering with the Independence Party a few years ago. This time around he intends to run on the Independence, Democratic, and Working Families lines.
When asked whether his history of party changes had made him less effective, Mr. Schneiderman insisted that the opposite was the case.
“I have great working relationships with both sides of the aisle. I’m considered a swing vote that makes legislation happen. Since I’ve been independent, I’ve passed more bills than before,” he said, indicating a law to phase out the sex offender trailers that he passed over County Executive Steve Levy’s veto not long ago. The bill, which establishes a new program to house the offenders in supervised shelters throughout the county, has had its implementation held up by Mr. Levy, though additional veto overrides have allowed it to move forward.
“The best way to get rid of the sex offender trailers is to get a new county executive,” Mr. Schneiderman said. Mr. Levy announced earlier this spring that he will not seek re-election. Steve Bellone, the town supervisor of Babylon, a Democrat, and County Treasurer Nancy Carpenter of West Islip, a Republican, are the two front-runners to succeed him. Both have said they support sharing the burden of housing the sex offenders more broadly.
Mr. Schneiderman went on to say he has a bill on the floor of the Legislature to codify equal revenue sharing for public safety that has the support, for the first time, of the Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association. He said his recent procurement of more than $1 million to widen County Road 39 in Southampton was an example of his effectiveness.
Mr. Kelly “can make the case that my party switch somehow made me less effective,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “I think it made me more effective. I seem to be able to work with both sides. He sounds very partisan to me.”