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Young Dem Challenging Sen. Flanagan For 2nd District Seat

Jano Tantongco
Long Islander News

Peter Magistrale, a 24-year-old accountant and Democrat who says he’s ready to tackle corruption in Albany while closing tax loopholes that could translate to relief for middle class taxpayers, is challenging incumbent Sen. John Flanagan for his seat in the state’s 2nd District.

Flanagan, of East Northport, a Republican and majority leader of the senate, was first elected to the seat in 2002.

His challenger, Magistrale, of St. James, announced his campaign last week, filing nominating petitions with New York State Board of Elections on May 17. The Hofstra University graduate earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting in 2012, and a master’s degree in taxation the next year.

While he said experience is, no doubt, important, Magistrale said he values “political courage” more.

“It’s more important in an environment where corruption is so systemic,” he said. “I’m going to bring the courage of ending what is quite simply just an unacceptable condition.”

Rich Schaffer, chairman of the Suffolk County Democratic Committee, said on Wednesday that the committee endorses Magistrale for the 2nd District.

Schaffer said he told Magistrale that the race would be “daunting” since Flanagan has long held the seat and is now majority leader, but Magistrale was undeterred.

“He’s a very bright energetic young man,” Schaffer said. “I’m excited about him as a candidate and as a future leader on the island.”

Magistrale’s platform is based on four primary points.

Magistrale aims to close a “carried interest loophole” that he claims allows investment firm managers to pay half the taxes they should be. He claims that, by closing the loophole, it could raise $3.7 billion each year, which, he estimates, would be enough to fund a tax cut of about $1,000 for middle-class families in the state earning between $75,000 and $220,000.

Second, he hopes to establish a publicly-financed campaign system that provides public funding based on a 6-1 ratio -- $6 in public money for every $1 in private contributions -- similar to New York City’s Matching Funds Program.

“The whole point of this is to combat the influence of big money donors, which is a real problem in the state government,” Magistrale said.

Third, he seeks to eliminate the controversial Common Core Curriculum, which he said is both “highly flawed” and forced upon taxpayers. Common Core, a national curriculum was first adopted by the state in 2010. Magistrale said he would support a new method of testing if it was grounded in “evidence.”

“Common Core was never tested,” he said. “It was the first time for everybody, instead of having a pilot program.”

Fourth, he wants to go after “severe amounts of fraud and waste,” specifically citing Medicaid. He claims up to 15 percent of Medicaid payments are fraudulent or wasteful.

“If we were to make a concerted effort to find 10 or 12 percent, we could raise close to $2 billion that’s being lost,” Magistrale said.

With half of those funds, he said the state could cut SUNY tuition for every undergraduate by $2,000, adding that he would channel the remaining billion into public schools.

“We can take common sense action,” he said. “We can reduce taxes by $1,000 for the vast majority of the residents of Northport, Greenlawn and Melville.”

To unseat the incumbent, Magistrale said he plans to rally a coalition that includes local democrats; Stony Brook University and Farmingdale State College students; those who oppose the Common Core Curriculum; and Republicans who oppose corruption and are willing to cross party lines.