Thursday, February 23, 2006

Specical Election In 17th Assembly District

McKevitt and Zahid Vie for 17th Assembly Seat


The following candidate profiles are reprinted from the Mineola American:

Thomas McKevitt

By Margaret Whitely

Thomas McKevitt, of East Meadow, has been tapped by the Republican Party to run for the 17th Assembly District seat vacated by Nassau County Clerk Maureen O'Connell.

The special election for this seat will be held on Feb. 28 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Voting will be held at regular polling places throughout the 17th Assembly District.

McKevitt, for the last nine years, has served as the deputy town attorney for the Town of Hempstead. He is a lifelong resident of East Meadow. He attended both grade and high school there and it is where his parents still live. He is a graduate of Hofstra University and of Hofstra Law School.

He believes so strongly in the East Meadow community that after he and his wife Samantha were married, four years ago, they bought a house not far from his folks.

If elected, McKevitt said he will concentrate his efforts on making sure that Nassau County receives its fair share of state funding for schools and will make sure that aid goes directly to the classroom. In addition he would look into expanding the STAR tax relief and preserving the EPIC prescription program. He said he wants to protect the suburban character of the area and would fight against any plan that would hurt the quality of life of residents in the district.

McKevitt said, "I think the best part of the campaign is going from door-to-door to meet the residents. People are only too happy to meet with you. I have found they are very frank and more than willing to discuss the issues. Without a doubt the biggest concern they all have is taxes and the fact that they are being assessed on a regular basis which is driving up taxes. This problem has to be addressed and perhaps now it should go to the state level. I feel my job will be to look into that problem in order to give some relief to our residents."

McKevitt said he believes strongly in community service and because of that he is involved, through the Nassau County Bar Association, in moderating the Mock Trial Club at Holy Trinity High School.

Further, he is also a mentor at the Woodland Middle School in East Meadow, in a program that makes sure children in need of the mentoring skills, receive them from volunteers such as McKevitt. "Consequently," McKevitt added, "I'm up and out by 8 a.m. to make sure I meet with those students before we both start our busy days."

McKevitt said, "My entire career has been involved with public service, which is what I love, and being a member of the New York State Assembly will bring that service to a whole new level."

He is a long-standing member of the East Meadow Kiwanis Club and a member of the East Meadow Chamber of Commerce and is a member of American, New York State and Nassau County Bar Associations.

His family also believes in service to the community. His wife is a social studies teacher in the public school system and before his retirement his father was a New York City police detective, his brother is currently a New York City police sergeant and his mother is the secretary at St. Anne's School in Garden City.

If elected McKevitt will complete O'Connell's term of office and then run again for the seat in the November election.

Zahid-Ali Syed

By Joe Rizza

Zahid-Ali Syed is the Democratic candidate for the special election to be held on Feb. 28 for the 17th Assembly District, which includes the areas of Garden City, New Hyde Park, East Meadow, Mineola, Williston Park, East Williston, Carle Place, Westbury, Floral Park, Albertson and Uniondale.

Syed is looking to fill the seat that was held by longtime Republican Assemblywoman Maureen O'Connell, who left the Assembly to become Nassau County Clerk. Since the seat was held by a Republican and the district is comprised of a majority of Republican voters, Syed faces a difficult task, but nevertheless feels he has a chance.

Syed said that as a labor and civic leader, he feels he is in touch with the needs of the constituents of the district. He describes himself and a working class man who works to support his family of his wife, son and two daughters.

"Most of the people who are working class people don't participate in politics. If you don't participate and you don't get active, you don't know what's going on," said the East Meadow resident.
Raising a family and living in Nassau County as a working class person, Syed feels he knows the problems facing residents. "I'm from the same family. The way they are suffering, I'm suffering the same way," he said.

Syed said he has been a political, labor and civic leader for the last 15 years. He presently serves as a commissioner in the Nassau County Human Rights Commission and as labor union representative for RWDSU Local 338.

"I have been involved in many different issues such as minimum wage and workman's compensation," he said. "I am a working class person and a family guy."

Syed said he would like to see the working class better represented in the state. "The people that come into political office don't know so much about the issues and problems of the working class," he said.

One issue that Syed is well aware of is property taxes especially when it comes to school taxes. On his inaugural address following his re-election, Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi stated that Long Islanders send $3 billion more to Albany that they get back in state aid.

"We don't get our fair share back from the state. If you compare us to Westchester, we're not getting the same back as Westchester is. Elected officials talk about property taxes but there is no legislation. If elected, I want to see what I can do," Syed said.

Syed also wants to focus on increasing oversight for school districts to avoid additional scandals and creating more jobs for county residents.

If elected, Syed will join a Democratic majority in the Assembly, something he feels will help the constituency. "I'm sure I can get more benefits for District 17. I already have so many contacts with the Assembly members. Many of them know me personally," he said.

Although Syed may be the underdog in this race, he points out that the residents of the county elected a Democratic County Executive, a Democratic Comptroller and a Democratic District Attorney. "I think the county is changing. The people are realizing they need new people to represent them. Let the working class people come out and run for office because they know what the problems are," he said.
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Tom McKevitt knows community. Not only the East Meadow community, in which he grew up and now lives, but the entire community which he now hopes to represent in the New York State Assembly.

Tom knows, and more than this, understands, the problems and issues facing community, in the 17th AD, in the Town of Hempstead, and in Nassau County, on the whole. In fact, you can say that Tom McKevitt faces these concerns, and tackles them, daily.

As a Deputy Town Attorney for the Town of Hempstead, Tom McKevitt has taken on many of the battles in which our communities have been engaged. The quality of life issues that frustrate and, too often, confound us, are Tom's bread and butter, consumed regularly before the courts and in the trenches. Win some, lose others, no one can say -- at least not with a straight face -- that Tom McKevitt is not out there, day in and day out, fighting for the people of Hempstead Town.

Sure. We know what you're thinking. "Hey, this McKevitt is part of the Republican Machine -- the folks The Community Alliance campaigned fiercely to expunge from Town Hall." A Republican, yes. A Machine politician, hardly.

At The Community Alliance, we believe in good government, fair government, and full representation of the people who place their trust -- and their tax dollars -- in the hands of our elected officials. True, we've had our gripes with the powers-that-be at Hempstead Town Hall (and they continue, mostly unabated and unaddressed), but we refuse to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Tom McKevitt is known to us as a listener, absorbing the needs and wants of the community, and a doer, achieving positive results in an environment that can (and often does) stymie the best of us.

We take absolutely nothing away from Tom's Democratic challenger in this special election, Zahid-Ali Syed. His efforts as a civic and labor leader are to be applauded, and are, most certainly, appreciated.

Perhaps it is simply a matter of not knowing Mr. Syed -- the "up close and personal" that makes the real difference on the community scene. Going forward, we hope to get to know Zahid-Ali Syed better, and to see more of him on community's front lines.

We do know Tom McKevitt, and we like what we've seen and heard over the years. A more dedicated, personable, compassionate and hard-working public servant you will not find in these parts, and we feel assured that residents of the 17th Assembly District will be exceedingly well-served when they send Tom McKevitt to Albany.

On the merits of the case the candidate has made in the community, The Community Alliance wholeheartedly endorses Tom McKevitt for Assembly.

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