Supervisor Ed Romaine, a political heavyweight, was officially nominated by the Suffolk County Republican Committee at the party’s nominating convention on Thursday, February 23.
The nomination marks the first step in a journey Republicans hope will end their 20-year exile from the county executive’s seat. The last Republican county executive in Suffolk County was Robert J. Gaffney in 2003, who was elected in 1992. Gaffney was succeeded by Democrat Steve Levy.
This year, though, is different. The strong headwinds Republicans once faced in Suffolk County following intraparty fighting in the early 2000s have dissipated. Currently, Republicans hold a majority they plan on expanding this year in the Legislature. Concurrently, Republicans have held onto the offices of the county clerk and comptroller while winning the district attorney’s office in 2021.
Presuming Romaine is elected, he would have the support of a legislative majority and the benefit of sharing a party with all but one countywide elected official.
“I have extensive knowledge of the county and understand the challenges the county is facing,” said Romaine, pointing to his past experiences as both a county legislator and county clerk.
It is these experiences, as well as his current role as supervisor of Brookhaven, that motivate him to seek the office. In a conversation with The Messenger, Romaine touched on three areas, amongst others, where he wants a change in Suffolk County: Law enforcement, the Environment and Cybersecurity.
“One of the challenges we face as a society is what to do with people that violate our criminal code,” said Romaine.
“We have adopted a number of measures that have created a turnstile style of justice,” he added in regard to Albany-proposed bail reform measures. Romaine articulated his intention to work with Suffolk’s state representatives to advocate for policies in line with his vision.
“I’m going to be looking to staff our police department,” Romaine continued, lamenting the way the county has not been consistent with police classes. The county has gone “several years without new police classes, then all of a sudden we put in three classes at once.”
“I’m going to be looking at the staffing and looking at the special units we have set up,” Romaine stated.
“We are the fourth largest county in the United States that will be affected by Climate change and rising sea levels,” said Romaine, citing a report.
As a supervisor and county legislator, Romaine has fought to preserve open spaces for quality of life, preserve farmland, and deal with water quality and sewer issues. Romaine expressed his preference toward sewer systems that discharged treated effluent directly into the ground, and was concerned with the amount of treated waste we discharge into the Sound and Great South Bay. As a solution to some of Suffolk’s pollution, Romaine urged the expansion of aquaculture and promoted it as a means to help combat nitrogen in our waterways. Romaine pointed to crustaceans and sugar kelp.
“Not many people realize this, but Suffolk County has some of the worst air quality in the country,” stated Romaine, mentioning that he favored moving to renewable forms of energy and phasing out fossil fuels where possible. The reality of Suffolk’s air quality lends itself to Romaine’s position toward the electrification of Long Island’s commuter rails.
“We seem to be the stepchild of the MTA,” Romaine said of the agency’s continued use of diesel on the three rail lines that pass through Brookhaven. “We aren’t even asking for the 21st century; we are asking for 20th-century technology.”
“When the head of the MTA says ‘Long Island has enough,’ I intend to be the squeaky wheel asking for more money for our region.”
Related to infrastructure, Suffolk’s transit system is also comparatively underfunded when compared to Nassau, despite the larger population and geographic size of Suffolk – a disparity Romaine wants to address.
To fund these environmental initiatives, Romaine is eyeing the $4.2 billion Environmental Bond Act, which he supported, as a source of funding to address sewers in Mastic, St. James, Kings Park, Hampton Bays and West Hamptons.
Romaine was endorsed by the Sierra Club, Long Island, Environmental Voters Forum, and New York League of Conservation Voters in all his previous legislative runs.
“Unlike the county of Suffolk, In Brookhaven, we’ve had cyber security insurance for several years,” when asked about how he would manage Suffolk County given the cyberattack aftermath. The Town of Brookhaven has also “put all its data centers in the cloud, which makes it far less likely to be hacked.”
Lastly, Brookhaven conducts “penetration tests … that list weaknesses and backdoors that need to be closed.” Romaine plans on taking these strategies with him to the county executive seat to mitigate risks.