Fleming Faces Newcomer In County Race

Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming. PRESS FILE

In the race for the 2nd District seat in the Suffolk County Legislature, incumbent Democrat Bridget Fleming, 61, of Noyac, is seeking her fourth term. She is being challenged by Republican Robert Carpenter III, 39, a resident of Hampton Bays, an employee of the Suffolk County Board of Elections and part-time chef at the Stone Creek Inn in East Quogue.

Fleming is the chairwoman of the Legislature’s Ways and Means Committee as well as the vice chair of the Public Safety Committee and the Public Works, Transportation, and Energy Committee. She also serves on the Health Committee, Environment, Parks, and Agriculture Committee, and Veterans Committee.

“My team and I are working on a number of important issues we want to see through,” Fleming said. Among them is a recently formed group, the Task Force to Assist Retiring Veterans to remain on Long Island.

Fleming has led the effort to establish an on-demand transportation service pilot program in the area formerly covered by the 10A Suffolk County Transit route between Southampton and Sag Harbor. The bus line was discontinued in 2016 due to low ridership, but stranding those people who depended on it.

Fleming said she would like to expand the program in an effort to rethink public transportation and make it more appealing to residents as an alternate to cars.

Combating climate change is another priority, Fleming said. She helped sponsor the creation of a coastal resiliency management process through which the county will identify 25 county-owned sites that are vulnerable to climate change, assess their vulnerabilities, and recommend proactive investments to protect them in the future.

“This will help us get ahead of what is happening with flooding, coastal erosion, and damage to our wetlands with these increased extreme weather events we have been seeing,” she said

She said the county has also made strides to encourage homeowners to replace conventional septic systems with modern wastewater treatment units that remove harmful nitrogen from the wastewater they treat, investing $40 million in the effort. That nitrogen, she pointed out, is the chief cause of harmful algal blooms and can pollute the groundwater as well.

Fleming has raised some eyebrows because even as she is seeking her fourth term in the legislature, she is also waging a campaign to become the Democratic nominee for the 1st District Congressional seat currently held by Republican Lee Zeldin.

Fleming said her main focus remains on her county duties, but said the fundraising requirements of a congressional race force candidates to get an early start. She questioned why her desire to consider a move from the county level to national office should be considered bad. “I’m willing to serve my community in whatever capacity,” she said. “And I think the proof is in the pudding as far as results.”

Carpenter, a first-time candidate, said he was asked to run against Fleming. He acknowledged that he could be considered a simple placeholder on the ballot, but he said if he did manage to unseat Fleming, “I would focus more on out here.”

In a recent debate, Carpenter often offered brief answers or said he was not well enough versed in an issue to comment. “I’m the kind of person, if I get a job, I immerse myself in it and learn as a I go,” he said. “I would listen to the people and see what they need.”

He cited traffic as one issue he would make a priority.

“Traffic is a problem,” he said. “I honestly don’t know if there is an easy solution to it.”

He said the county needs to continue to work on protecting the groundwater and safeguarding the environment.

He cited the eastern jetty at the Shinnecock Inlet and its impact on the barrier beach as the kind of project the county needs to address. “They can fix it or throw millions of dollars’ worth of sand at it,” he said.

Carpenter said it was wrong of Fleming to run for both the Legislature and Congress, saying if she would is elected to Congress, the county would have to bear the expense of holding a special election to replace her.