Two state lawmakers from Staten Island have decided not to seek reelection this fall, leaving rare open seats in both the assembly and the senate. The issues facing both districts are similar, but compared to the race to replace Republican Senator John Marchi, the campaign to take the seat vacated by fellow Republican Matthew Mirones has been very quiet. Two Republicans are vying for their party's nomination to take on the Democratic candidate, but neither agreed to be interviewed for this story, despite numerous attempts. Even those who follow Republican politics closely seem unaware that there will be a primary.
The eastern shore of Staten Island makes up most of the 60th assembly district, with a small part lying across the water in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Matthew Mirones has represented the district since 2002. None of the three candidates seeking to replace him have held political office.
Janele Hyer-Spencer, the Democratic candidate, ran against Mirones in 2004, and received 40 percent of the vote. She is the former legal director of My Sister's Place, a shelter for battered women and their families.
Republican Joe Cammarata is making his third attempt at public office; he unsuccessfully ran for city council in 1997 and 2001. Cammarata has worked as a teacher in public and private school, as a police officer and detective, and is a Vietnam veteran. Repeated attempts to schedule an interview with Cammarata for this article failed.
Cammarata's Republican rival, Anthony Xanthakis, is the only candidate making his first run for public office. He has served as Mirones' unsalaried counsel since 2002, and is also a partner in a private law firm.
Xanthakis has received Mirones' endorsement, and has raised $117,000, significantly more than either Myer-Spencer ($47,000) or Cammarata ($1,000). His campaign office said he would not grant interviews before the primary.
GETTING RESOURCES FROM ALBANY
Bringing state money to the district is an issue of importance to all the candidates. Janele Hyer-Spencer said she would like to see budget negotiations bring more school funding; her Republican opponents have also pledged to bring more money to the district's schools. Joe Cammarata has said he wants teachers to have more leeway to discipline students.
Janele Hyer-Spencer also complains that Staten Island receives insufficient service from public transportation while suffering from higher fares, and that the city's Health and Hospitals Corporation, which runs its public hospitals, is neglecting Staten Island. The number of hospitals on Staten Island has dropped from five to two in recent years, and one is not fully functional.
The Republican candidates have both promised to bring more anti-terrorism money to the district. Joe Cammarata's campaign Web site calls for the New York State Guard to take a more active role in fighting terrorism.
As in other areas of Staten Island, overdevelopment is a hot issue in the district, and all the candidates have said they will control it. Joe Cammarata has said he plans to introduce a bill that will halt all building on the island until zoning regulations are abided by.
Janele Hyer-Spencer says that a traffic task force recently set up by the city was a good idea, but that it has taken too long to come up with even simple solutions. She had proposed lowering the fares on public transportation to encourage people to use their private cars less often. During rush hour, she also wants to increase the toll that commercial trucks pay when they cross Staten Island from Manhattan en route to New Jersey.
Janele Hyer-Spencer says that the Bay Ridge portion of the district sets a good example of how to handle the land use issues related to overdevelopment. If elected, she says she will "use what was done in Brooklyn as a template."