Fleming, Collins Seeking Seat on Suffolk County Legislature

Heather Collins, left, and Bridget Fleming, right, are seeking the 2nd Legislative District seat in the Suffolk County Legislature. Courtesy photos
Heather Collins, left, and Bridget Fleming, right, are seeking the 2nd Legislative District seat in the Suffolk County Legislature. Courtesy photos

By Christine Sampson

For Suffolk County’s 2nd Legislative District, incumbent Bridget Fleming is seeking a second term as a Democrat, while Heather Collins has been nominated by the Suffolk County Republican Committee to face Ms. Fleming in the race.

Ms. Collins of East Quogue, who works for the Suffolk County Board of Elections, did not respond to an email questionnaire seeking more information about herself and her platform. She previously ran an unsuccessful campaign against New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., but did not actively campaign for that role. In addition to running as a Republican, she also has the Conservative Party’s endorsement.

Ms. Fleming is just finishing her first term with the county after serving one-and-a-half terms on the Southampton Town Board. She has also served as a prosecutor with the New York City district attorney’s office, and has volunteered to train attorneys to work with 9/11 survivors. Her private practice has focused on matrimonial and family law. Ms. Fleming says she was initially inspired to get into public service by her experiences serving on the Noyac Citizens Advisory Committee many years ago.

“I find that skills and experience that are required for the role work almost completely with what I bring to it,” she said in an interview. “It’s very satisfying. I’ve gotten a lot accomplished for the district, and I’ve got a lot left to do. I hope the voters will see fit to reelect me.”

Currently, she leads the legislature’s Ways and Means Committee, is co-chair of the Health Committee and serves on the Public Works, EPA and Public Safety committees. In addition to running as a Democrat, she has the endorsements of the Working Families, Independence and Women’s Equality parties.

Her campaign’s major platforms are support for environmental protection, economic development, improving community safety and government transparency and ethics. Included within those overarching goals, Ms. Fleming says, are plans to expand septic system reforms to protect groundwater, harbors and other waterways. She said the legislature is currently working on a way to prohibit “grandfathering” of older septic systems.

“The health department and localities need to make sure these programs are properly funded and have the support they need to move forward successfully,” Ms. Fleming said.

She also wants to advance a tick-borne illness prevention program and ramp up efforts to prevent misuse of prescription drugs such as opiates and keep other dangerous drugs out of communities. Part of the latter issue, she said, is to push forward with the county’s lawsuit against Purdue Pharma and other manufacturers of opiate-based medications to hold them accountable for allegedly underselling the addictive tendencies of drugs like OxyContin while overselling their benefits.

“I hope it will have a similar effect to the tobacco lawsuits of a couple of decades ago,” Ms. Fleming said. “I think there are sort of unconscionable practices in the industry that fueled or even created this problem.”

She also has fought against cuts to bus service in the county. She said she wants to find more support for affordable housing and public transportation in the district and the county and foster balanced economic development.

“It feels like I’ve been able to lay some foundations for getting good results and now I need to follow up, and my team and I need to continue to move on the foundation of the first term,” she said. “We have a very out of balance economy. Affordable housing, economic development, transportation — if we are going to support our diverse community, I see that all as one package.”

Ms. Fleming has been credited with securing over $2.5 million in infrastructure and clean water funding for the South Fork. She is the 2009 recipient of the organization Sustainable Long Island’s “Getting it Done Award.”

Ms. Fleming lives in Noyac with her husband, Bob, who works as a general contractor, and their son Jai, who attends Pierson Middle-High School.