The two candidates seeking to represent New York State’s first Assembly district introduced themselves to the Noyac Civic Council on Tuesday. The incumbent, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., an Independence Party candidate who has been endorsed by the Democratic, Working Families, Women’s Equality and Reform parties, is facing a challenge from Patrick O’Connor, the Republican and Conservative candidate.
Mr. O’Connor is a Southampton Town resident with an educational background in math and physics and 30 years’ experience in the information technology field, he said. He is the owner of Peconic Bay Software, and said in the past has worked on technology solutions related to environmental cleanup, health care compliance, warehousing logistics and more. He said he is “not a career politician.”
“There’s a lot to say in the work that I’ve done over the years that can be used to help organize things up in Albany,” he said. “I like to find programmatic solutions to people’s problems.”
Mr. Thiele is a lifelong Sag Harbor resident who won a special election to the Assembly seat in 1995 and has served in the role ever since. He is an attorney who has served as Sag Harbor Village counsel, and was also a former Suffolk County legislator and past Southampton Town supervisor.
“I think it’s important to work across party lines,” Mr. Thiele said. “Politics these days — it used to be mudslinging, now it’s knife throwing. I don’t go to Albany to win debating points; I go to try and get things done for the area I represent.”
Mr. O’Connor said he was inspired to run for the Assembly office because he has perceived “neglect in representing people throughout this district.”
“There are people in different communities who feel they have either been neglected, underrepresented or thrown under the bus,” he said, citing Riverside as one example.
Mr. Thiele said he wanted to run for re-election because he believes there is more work to be done, and he has “been able to blend experience with continued enthusiasm and seniority where I can get things done for our community.”
Mr. O’Connor said, if elected, he would work on finding ways to balance the “skewed mathematics” of the state tax structure, and find ways to keep young people living locally instead of leaving the East End for less expensive areas. He also said he is for “smart, clean energy,” and suggested the proposed South Fork Wind Farm has many problems, including implications for the fishing community and the environment.
Mr. Thiele said his priorities include improving water quality and boosting fishing operations out of what he called “the two largest fishing ports in the state,” Shinnecock and Montauk. He said he wants to continue to strengthen the Stony Brook Southampton campus and hospital, for the sake of adding jobs and improving services, and wants to find ways for affordable housing to become a reality for working families.
He fielded a question about the East Hampton Town Airport, saying he is against any expansion. “I feel the airport has been a significant problem,” he said. “It’s not just people who live near the airport. It is that whole north shore route. Because my constituents’ patience has worn out, so has mine.”
He also answered a question about clean energy, saying “solar is so much cleaner” than other forms of energy, and pledged to press Governor Andrew Cuomo to renew a focus on solar energy.
He cited some of his recent accomplishments, including his role in getting the funding and logistics in place for the South Fork Commuter Connection trains and shuttle service system, which will start in March. He helped pressure the State Department of Environmental Conservation successfully to deny a new mining permit on the Sand Land mining operation in Noyac. He has also helped secure state funding for projects including the John Jermain Memorial Library renovation and the Sag Harbor Cinema reconstruction.
“All politics is local and I believe that,” Mr. Thiele said. “I’m in my backyard, this is home to me. I’m here to ask for your vote for another two-year term beginning in January.”
Regarding the East Hampton Town Airport, Mr. O’Connor said he would favor the current rules being enforced before making any plans to expand services there. He also said he would like to see takeoff times limited. East Hampton Town officials had previously tried curfews for takeoffs and landings, particularly for noisy aircraft, as well as other rules, but the United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, struck down those regulations.
He also answered a question about regional transportation, saying he would like to see carpooling, more Long Island Rail Road trains added to East End schedules and putting an emphasis on timeliness for existing bus routes.
“I would like to be someone who doesn’t represent just one segment,” Mr. O’Connor said. “There’s a district that goes all the way from Montauk all the way to Mastic and Shirley. There are different problems in each of these communities, and they need to all be addressed.”