Island Vote: Suffolk comptroller race pits incumbent against town supervisor

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Among the items on the ballot when Suffolk voters head to the polls next week is the job of county comptroller, and the race pits the incumbent against the sitting Southampton town supervisor.

As political offices go, comptroller is not considered high-profile or glamorous. But current Suffolk Comptroller John Kennedy says conducting audits and managing the county's debt is serious business -- and he says he's proud of his record.

"We promised more audits, less debt and better service. In each category, we've delivered," he says. "And we refinanced $640 million of our existing debt for a $35 million savings in interest."

MORE: Island Vote 2018

Like Kennedy, challenger Jay Schneiderman is a former county legislator. A Democrat, Schneiderman previously served as the town supervisor of East Hampton and currently serves as the Southampton town supervisor.

"I took two towns to a triple-A credit rating," Schneiderman says. "The county faces some real fiscal challenges. The problems have continued and I feel like I can lend my skillset to Suffolk County to get through the economic challenges ahead."

Republicans say the race is all about checks and balances. County Executive Steve Bellone is a Democrat, and Democrats also hold an 11-7 majority in the county Legislature. Republicans say it's important that the person in the role of being the county's fiscal watchdog be a member of a different party.

"The statute says that our job is to be an arm's length, independent set of eyes and ears on the operations of county government," says Kennedy.

Schneiderman says, "I have a history of being non-partisan and I understand the role of watchdog.”

Another backdrop to the race is what comes next. Kennedy is considered by some as the Republican's strongest candidate to oppose Steve Bellone, should the county executive seek re-election next year.  

"Some people believe much of Mr. Bellone's help to Jay Schneiderman -- Mr. Kennedy's opponent -- is aimed at eliminating a potential rival next year," says Newsday's Rick Brand, who has covered Suffolk government for nearly four decades.

Voters will head to the polls on Nov. 6.

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