Twenty-six-year-old Jake Schuster, a Bellmore native, recently announced his bid for Nassau County legislator in the 19th District. The seat is currently held by Steve Rhoads, a Republican from Bellmore.
The 19th District includes parts of Bellmore, Merrick, Freeport, Seaford and Wantagh.
Schuster, a Democrat who graduated from John F. Kennedy High School, said he wanted to take a youthful approach to the seat that puts young residents at the forefront. He is a 2017 Hofstra University graduate, and Long Island’s housing affordability impacts him directly, making it a key issue of his campaign.
“For our generation, we have almost no hope of being able to afford to live here,” Schuster said. “There’s no way you can plan on buying a house and raising a family unless you have a two-family income of above the median right now. The affordability crisis is something that’s definitely a main focus of my campaign.”
Schuster added that by running for the Legislature, he hopes to give young residents in the area an impactful voice. As a candidate now, he added that this is one of the rare times he has felt that he has a significant voice in the political conversation.
“Right now is the first time in my entire life that I feel like I have a voice to actually make a change in my community — and that breaks my heart,” Schuster said. “Every single person, even the kids, should feel confident in their voices, and that their demands and opinions will be heard and taken into account by their local government.”
Schuster said he would also focus on infrastructure, governmental transparency and long-term planning for the future, including potential problems caused by storms and weather.
He is an “advocate for bipartisanship” as well, he said. “I don’t believe local government should be split that way. We’re all in the same community, and we all have the same goal — to have a happy, healthy, safe community. Whatever it takes to accomplish that is what needs to be done.”
On housing affordability, Rhoads said the issue is “complicated” and that he is a proponent of “transit-oriented developments,” such as one built near the Farmingdale train station that affordably accommodates single occupants. Long Island’s high property taxes are what make the burden unsustainable, he said.
In May, Rhoads took to Merrick Avenue to introduce a bill to require utility companies to restore county roads after they have been dug up for the installation of gas and power lines — a common occurrence across Nassau. That bill is now signed into law.
Schuster said he supports that legislation.
Of his time in the seat, Rhoads said he is most proud of his office’s response and outreach to the local community. “If someone calls with questions, they never get, ‘That’s not my problem,’” he said. “My job is to make government work for them.”
If re-elected, Rhoads said he would work to broaden the legislature’s influence in state government. “We need to pressure the State Legislature to assist us,” Rhoads said.
After receiving a bachelor’s in business administration from Hofstra, Schuster attended the College of Law at the University of Tulsa in Tulsa, Okla., where he received his law degree. In 2017, he volunteered for Bellmore resident Jeff Gold’s campaign for the same seat, and then worked for State Sen. John Brooks as a legislative aide.
Schuster explained that he learned a great deal from Gold’s grassroots campaign and Brooks’s office by individually connecting with residents throughout the area. “Going door to door, it really opened my eyes on how to better connect with the individual residents in the community,” he said.
At 16, Schuster also volunteered with the Bellmore-Merrick Emergency Medical Squad, and was licensed as an emergency medical technician at 18. He also volunteered with the Bellmore Fire Department.
“I’m somebody who is going to make [residents’] voices heard — that will hear the demands that they make, hear their opinions and hear what they want to see happen,” Schuster said. “Democrat, Republican, it doesn’t matter. What matters is what should be happening in the county, and what will make the district a more comfortable and safe district.”