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    Inreased Number of Democrats Could Bolster Lesko’s Bid for Town Supervisor

    Republican Tim P. Mazzei and Democrat Mark Lesko are currently campaigning to be the next town supervisor of Brookhaven in the upcoming special elections on Mar. 31.

    The town supervisor position opened up when Democrat Brian X. Foley won the election for state senate in November, defeating Republican Caesar Trunzo in a historic victory. Although the Democrats won several key positions in Brookhaven, they still have to work diligently to garner support.

    And even though the Republicans still have the majority in Brookhaven and have an opportunity to recapture the seat, they are facing a tough challenge as the number of Democrats soars.

    Although Brookhaven has traditionally been a Republican town, in recent years the number of registered Democrats has skyrocketed. According to Democratic committee chairwoman and former Stony Brook University faculty member, Marsha Laufer, the total number has increased by more than 20,800, an increase of about 31 percent, since December 2001. In the same time period, Republicans have only been able to increase their number by less than 1 percent.

    Democrats are now the majority in two of the six council districts in Brookhaven — part of a growing trend on Long Island. According to the New York State Board of Elections, the Democrats have encroached on Republican counties for years. Since 1996, the number of registered Democrats in both Nassau and Suffolk counties increased by more than 43 percent, a surge of nearly 200,000 registered voters. Republicans, on the other hand, have only increased by 2 percent.

    According to Laufer, the growing number of Democrats is part of a national trend. Populations in suburbs are changing drastically.

    Suburbs across the nation have experienced population shifts. A study by the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech shows that 15 of the top 20 metropolitan area suburbs had an increased number of Democrats, which includes the New York metropolitan area.

    Despite the population shifts, Republicans still have the majority in Brookhaven town. According to Inez Birbiglia, campaign coordinator for candidate Mazzei, the GOP still has the majority in four of the six council districts.

    Republicans also maintain nearly 35 percent of total registered voters in the town with more than 101,000 total registrants. Support for the campaign is also up, Birbiglia said. It has more than 500 volunteers.

    The GOP in Brookhaven is concerned with polling sites at Stony Brook University. Statistics at the state’s board of elections show that the university has an overwhelming number of Democrats with almost 1,500 actively registered Democrats who live on campus.

    Republican state senator John Flanagan expressed concern about voter registration of Stony Brook students. In the North Shore Sun, a local paper covering the eastern part of Brookhaven Town, he said many students are not permanent residents and should only have one address.

    Stony Brook University is in council district 1, one district in Brookhaven with a Democratic majority. Voters at Stony Brook University have major influence on the town. Many students have not followed up on the special elections.

    Psychology student Chris Santiago, 19, felt that the presidential election has overshadowed other elections. “I’d still vote Democrat though,” Santiago said when questioned about whom he was leaning towards.

    Laufer stressed that the upcoming elections are vital to Stony Brook students. Even though students may not live in Brookhaven, they still enjoy the town’s services. University students drive on roads maintained by Brookhaven. Town resources are also used for snow removal and maintaining the parks and beaches.

    Rebecca Aisdale, 56, a registered voter from Lake Grove felt that it was the Republicans’ chance to take back the supervisor position. She explained that Mazzei is the way to go in these tough times.

    Mazzei is a fiscal conservative, supporting cutbacks in government spending. The business owner encourages tax cuts. As Brookhaven councilman of district 5, he kept taxes low. Mazzei also promises to develop the economy by changing town regulations on small business to promote growth, creating jobs and increasing the tax base.

    Democrat voter Maureen Purt, 42, believed that the upcoming election is a chance for the Democrats to continue reforming Brookhaven. The voter from Gordon Heights referenced passed corruption in Brookhaven Town under Republican control.

    “Newspapers called the town ‘Crookhaven’, and I don’t think I want that again,” Purt said.

    Laufer agreed and felt that a victory for the Democrats would be critical. “It would determine the future, and we can move forward,” the former Stony Brook faculty member said. She said that town residents are fed up with corruption under Republican control, and believed that Lesko has the character to fight it.

    Lesko is focused on stabilizing taxes. Like Mazzei, he plans to cut spending. The former assistant U.S. attorney promises to improve quality of life in Brookhaven with several reforms in policing and prosecuting incidents. He said he will zero in on working towards anti-corruption reform.

    The town’s highway superintendent, Patricia Strebel, was charged with grand larceny in 2003, and county legislator Fred Towle accepted nearly $10,000 in bribes in the same year.

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