With Democratic state Senator Diane Savino not seeking re-election this year, her 23rd state Senate district seat is up for grabs for the first time since 2005.
Two candidates are vying for the seat, which covers the North Shore and parts of Brooklyn: Democrat Jessica Scarcella-Spanton and Republican Joseph Tirone.
A first-time candidate for public office, Scarcella-Spanton is Savino’s former deputy director of operations and also worked for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority as deputy director of government and community relations.
Tirone is a real estate broker and business owner who has been active in the community, including in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. He ran for State Assembly in 2014, losing to Congressman Michael Cusick (D-Mid-Island).
In a meeting with the Advanced Editorial Board, Scarcella-Spanton and Tirone both spoke about the need to change criminal justice reforms put in place by the state legislature, including cashless bail.
Tirone would dismantle the reforms. Scarcella-Spanton said judges need more discretion to decide when to deny a suspect bail.
The contestants disagreed on whether to bring the casino games to the old New York Wheel site.
Tirone said gambling was not a good way to create business while Scarcella-Spanton said Staten Island should apply for the casino license.
Tirone and Scarcella-Spanton agreed on other points.
The two talked about the untapped potential of the North Shore waterfront, including the wheel (a scaled-down wheel project is still underway).
The two oppose the docking of cruise ships at the former home port of Stapleton to house migrants and agreed that the migrant crisis, which spawned the state of emergency in New York, was a failure of the federal government.
Tirone and Scarcella-Spanton are each against congestion pricing.
Given his experience with Savino’s office, the Advance believes Scarcella-Spanton is the right choice for the seat and we encourage voters in the state’s 23rd Senate District to throw their support behind him.
We applaud the emphasis Scarcella-Spanton would place on constituent services, which was her bailiwick when she served with Savino. His desire to bring government to Staten Islanders who may feel that reaching out to their elected officials is not an option for them, including public housing residents, resonated strongly with us.
Scarcella-Spanton will have big shoes to fill if she wins. Savino was one of the most prominent and effective lawmakers Staten Island has seen.
Savino brought a wealth of field politics and political savvy to the state Senate, having previously served as vice president of the Social Services Employees Union Local 371.
Savino was also a leader of the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference, where Senate Democrats teamed up with Republicans and pushed through a host of Democratic priorities, including same-sex marriage, the SAFE on gun control, paid family leave. and an increase in the minimum wage.
Scarcella-Spanton doesn’t have the experience that Savino had when she took office, and we think Scarcella-Spanton needs to flesh out the policy proposals she presented to the editorial board. That said, we believe Scarcella-Spanton is firmly rooted in district issues and dedicated to the Staten Island community.
We also encourage Scarcella-Spanton to follow through on his promise ahead of time to be a moderating voice in Albany, where Democrats control every upper office and both houses of the Legislative Assembly. We believe that this type of party dominance needs to be tempered by alternative viewpoints, especially within party ranks.
Tirone brought a lot to the race, including a significant outside perspective as a business owner and real estate broker familiar with the details of development issues (though Tirone’s support of high-rise development on Staten Island makes us reflect).
We also commend Tirone for his work on the Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts and encourage him to remain a vocal activist in the community and in politics if the election does not go his way.
But government experience is the deciding factor here, which is why Advance is endorsing Democrat Jessica Scarcella-Spanton to be the next senator from the state’s 23rd Senate district.