Two years after knocking an incumbent out of office, Lee Zeldin now wears the incumbent hat himself as he aims for a second term in the State Senate.
The Republican faces Democrat Frank Genco in November's election in the 3rd Senate District, which includes Ronkonkoma, Patchogue, Medford, Bayport-Blue Point and portions of Sayville.
Zeldin, 32, spent four years on active duty in the U.S. Army and he's currently a major in the Army Reserves. Zeldin, who holds a law degree from Albany Law School, lives in Shirley, with his wife, Diana, and their identical twin daughters, Mikayla and Arianna.
Patch: Why are you running for another term?
Zeldin: I am running for re-election to build on the success I have achieved in my first term and continue my efforts to cut taxes, reduce wasteful spending and create jobs.
Patch: What do you consider the top 3 accomplishments of your first term?
Zeldin: I made a commitment to the voters during the 2010 campaign: To work as hard as I could to repeal the MTA Payroll Tax, eliminate the salt water fishing license fee, and stop New York State’s runaway spending and borrowing. I am proud to have delivered on these promises. I secured a repeal of the MTA Payroll Tax for 80 percent of all employers who previously paid the tax, a moratorium on the saltwater fishing license fee, and I’ve helped pass two consecutive on-time state budgets with no new taxes of fees.
Patch: You were a big proponent of New York's new property tax cap. How do you evaluate its success so far and how do you address the challenges associated with it (for example, many school districts in the last budget cycle lashed out at the state for continued unfunded mandates being handed down to them)?
Zeldin: The property tax cap law is working and an overwhelming majority of the public supports it. I agree that we need to do more to eliminate existing unfunded mandates. I have worked closely with school districts I represent and Eastern Suffolk BOCES to identify unfunded mandates that impact local school budgets, and I am working with my colleagues in the Senate to find ways to either find the money to fund them, modify them to be less costly, or eliminate them. I’ve also delivered increased state education aid.
Patch: What do you find to be the most frustrating part of being a State Senator and working in Albany?
Zeldin: First I’d like to mention that one of the more pleasant surprises has been the bipartisan partnership my Senate Republican majority colleagues and I have had with Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo. For years, Albany was plagued with hyper-partisan dysfunction, but I’m proud to say we’ve put that largely aside and – without abandoning our principles – worked hard to create workable solutions to get New York State moving in the right direction. I’m not saying there isn’t conflict and disagreement, but I have been part of a real conscious effort to work together and find solutions. At the same time, I want as much progress to be made as quickly as possible, and sometimes consensus can't be reached on goals as quickly as I would like.
Patch: If re-elected, what are your main goals for your next term?
Zeldin: We’ve made tremendous progress, but more needs to be done. My goals for my next term are to support policies that create good paying jobs here in Suffolk, reduce the burden of state taxes on my constituents, and continue to enforce tight control on state government spending.
Patch: Who is your political idol and why?
Zeldin: I was born the year Ronald Reagan was elected president, and grew up hearing about how he restored our economy after the economic malaise of the 1970s and set the stage for ending the Cold War. He kept the commitments he made to the American people, and I’ve been determined to do the same for my constituents.
Patch: In one sentence, why should voters cast their ballot for you?
Zeldin: I am a Senator who has proven that I keep my promises and deliver results for my constituents.
Editor's note: Genco, a former member of the East Islip Board of Education, has not responded to a Patch candidate questionnaire.