Meeting the Democratic Congressional candidates


Four out of the five current Democratic candidates vying to be the Dems representative in the general election to replace Kathleen Rice attended a Meet the Candidates night hosted by the Bellmore-Merrick Democratic Club at the Merrick Road Golf Course Clubhouse on March 14. Rice announced she would not seek re-election last month.

Nassau County Legislator Siela Bynoe, Malverne Mayor Keith Corbett, former Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen, and first-time candidate Kevin Shakil, of Westbury, took part in responding to questions that were submitted by their potential constituents. County Legislator Carrié Solages, who is also running, was unable to attend.

Each candidate was allotted three minutes to make an opening statement, as well as three minutes to respond to each question. Among the topics discussed were the affordability of living on Long Island and public safety.

The first question asked was: What did the candidates feel was the biggest problem facing the district, and what would be their solution?

Corbett said the biggest issue facing the district is the use and trafficking of illegal handguns. “We need a real comprehensive, federal program, that funds the local police departments so that we can actually put together, and stop the trafficking of illegal guns,” he said. “I don’t know anyone — Republican or Democrat, who is against illegal guns. Let’s finally get something done to stop the illegal trafficking of illegal handguns.”

Gillen touched upon several topics, all relating to lifestyle affordability, whether it be housing, prescription drugs or gasoline. “We need to tackle this problem immediately,” Gillen said of the recent uptick in gas prices. “We should have an immediate gas tax holiday — we should also be working to become energy independent.”

Shakil, the CEO of Islamic Radio, also said safety was his main concern. “We are seeing crimes through the roof, illegal guns — people are getting killed, people are getting shot,” he said. “The only way we can ensure that public safety is taking serious is by funding our police, but ensuring that they have transparency and accountability.”

Bynoe said she agreed “whole heartedly” with the previous responses. Bynoe discussed some of the work she had done with the legislature, such as offering mental health services to public facing employees. “We have to go to Washington, we have to work across the island, and we have to bring common sense solutions to the issues we are facing here,” she said.

The war in Ukraine was also on the candidates’ minds. All four agreed the United States should continue to support Ukraine with resource and place sanctions against Russia, which isn’t always easy, according to Corbett.

“It’s very tough for any local group to find the proper organization that can actually get the goods that you all bring in there,” Corbett said. “We should be in Washington — at least providing resources to our residents that are willing to help.”

“Aside from doing the sanctions and doing all that we are in the current moment, we have to make sure that we are sending arms,” Bynoe added. “That is a basic tenant of who the United States is —and we have to do it well.”

During closing remarks, Corbett noted that while all the present candidates, for the most part, agreed on many of the issues and solutions for the topics discussed, that ultimately, it is up to voters to decide who the best person is to represent the party.

As of press time only one Republican, tech CEO Bill Staniford of Lawrence, has announced his candidacy. Primary elections, which will decide who will run from each party, will take place on June 28.

A full video of the event is available to watch on the Bellmore Merrick Democratic Club’s YouTube channel.