Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) was first elected to the New York State Assembly in 2013 after a successful run as a prosecutor in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.

As an assistant district attorney in Suffolk, Mr. Palumbo handled major crimes, including narcotics prosecutions, and was trial supervisor for cases in the five East End towns.

“I used to say I got tired of yelling at the television,” he said, explaining why in 2013 he ran for and won a seat in the Assembly. “I enjoyed my time as a prosecutor; it was a very rewarding time for me. But I wanted to do more and now I can see the effect I can have on everyday lives is so critical.”

In 2021, Mr. Palumbo won a seat representing the state Senate’s 1st District, which covers all five East End towns plus a large swath of northern Brookhaven Town. Last week, Mr. Palumbo said he would seek reelection to another two-year term in the Senate. The election will be held Nov. 5.

On Monday, former Suffolk County legislator Sarah Anker, a Democrat from Mt. Sinai, who served six terms there before she was term-limited, announced she would challenge Mr. Palumbo for his 1st District seat. 

In a statement, Ms. Anker said: “I am running for the New York State Senate because we need a strong voice in the majority to put people above politics and deliver for Suffolk County. For close to 13 years, as a full-time Suffolk County legislator, I have listened to the concerns of my constituents and took action to address them. From working to reduce our county deficit to focusing on public safety issues, I’ve taken an active role in improving the quality of life here in Suffolk County. Now, it’s time to take on Albany. I will continue to fight for our Long Island families and be a loud and resounding voice in the state. The reality is, the state Senate has a 42-21 Democratic supermajority, and the only way Suffolk County can get its fair share, is to have strong voices in the majority who will fight for our Long Island values.”

Ms. Anker will be the subject of a future question and answer interview.

We recently discussed various issues with Mr. Palumbo. The conversation has been edited for space and clarity.

Q: How do you look back on your time as a prosecutor of major crimes?

A: I loved being a prosecutor. My father was a homicide detective in Suffolk County. He was a cop’s cop. Crime victims and their families are close to my heart. I remember my dad saying to me, Just have compassion as a prosecutor, be reasonable.” It was very good advice.

Q: Did you carry that philosophy with you into state government?

A: The most important thing government can do is protecting people.

Q: What are some of the legislative initiatives you are most proud of?

A: For sure, the Peconic Bay Community Housing Fund we passed that was adopted in four towns. Along with that, I pushed through the first-time home buyer’s exemption for the taxes that go into open space preservation. I remember a single mom out here. Her husband was killed by a drunk driver. She had a little girl. That exemption saved her $4,000. That felt really good.

Q: What do you see as the critical issues in your district, particularly in the five East End towns?

A: Clean water, the environment — that’s all one package. Then jobs, taxes and affordability. We are the least business-friendly state in the country and regulations that go with it impact our agriculture industry.

Affordable housing is a big concern. We have to come up with creative ways that fit in our communities for workforce housing. The use of the word “affordable” doesn’t sit well with people. Each town can come up with their own ways of dealing with it. We would need smaller buildings that are well done and a reasonably priced group of houses.

Folks who work out here come from way up west. We did a community meeting in East Hampton and a teacher in the district stood up. She said, “I teach here. I am one of two teachers in the district under the age of 35 who live in the town.” So recruitment and retention are huge needs.

Q: What do you want to work on if you win another term in the Senate?

A: There is desperate need for balance in state government. One-party rule is not successful and there have been changes that have not benefited Long Island as a whole. Public safety and bail reform are two big ones. Look at the story of the people who beat up the cops in the city. They were released before the officers even left the hospital. Another key issue statewide is aid to our school districts.

The governor took $168 million from our schools even as she found $2.4 billion for New York City. In my Senate district alone, the schools are losing $20 million. Where are our priorities? What we don’t get in state aid comes out of our pockets out here. We cannot leave our kids behind. We are already under a heavy tax burden, some of the highest in the country. We will fight to get that money back.

And the issue of undocumented individuals is very real. Gov. Hochul can put a stop to it. Gov. Cuomo made this a sanctuary state. She can rescind that. We want to take care of these individuals; they are human beings. The situation now is not compassion. The influx in the city is unsustainable. What happens next year?

Our state budget is $233 billion, more than last year. We can’t run at a deficit. We can’t deficit spend as the federal government can.

I am really starting to settle in. I am in a leadership position now. I have good relationships on both sides of the aisle. In my three years in the Senate, we passed 25 bills that I sponsored. I am proud of that.

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