BY LYNN EDMONDS
A poised and serious candidate, Democrat Steve Stern at times can lull you into forgetting that he is a politician, especially when he talks about issues like Elder Care and Alzheimer’s disease, where he can come off almost like a technocrat – perhaps one selected by a supposedly neutral power to take over the government for an interim period of time while the Democrats and Republicans eat each other.
That image of capable neutrality and common sense might be exactly what Stern, a Suffolk County legislator, is going for.
He’s in it to win it at the general election level, arguing that he has the best chance of defeating Republican frontrunner state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Nassau) down the line. His basis for this argument is that he is excellent at customer service with his constituents, and that he can’t be pegged as a typical “tax and spend” liberal.
He sees some of his top issues, like finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, as bipartisan.
“You cannot tell me, that I cannot find Republicans, even very conservative Republicans, from somewhere else in the country, that won’t want to work together to solve this problem,” he said.
“Alzheimer’s disease has to be declared a public enemy number one,” Stern said, vowing to put money into the state’s biotech industry.
Stern pointed out that by the year 2050, the government’s spending on older adults with Alzheimer’s will eclipse today’s Department of Defense budget, at $1.1 trillion.
“That has to be a very loud alarm,” he said.
Stern has spent much of his professional career as an Elder Care lawyer, running one of the oldest law firms in Suffolk County and holding leadership positions within that field. As such, he seems to have spent a lot of time thinking about issues around aging.
He wants to expand homecare services, since many seniors prefer that, and homecare is generally more cost effective. He said that staying at a nursing home often bled many seniors dry after a few years, at most.
“It doesn’t matter how much money you have in the bank, at $20,000 a month no one can afford that,” he said.
Stern has also focused his legislation on veterans, infrastructure development and the environment. A successful bill that he said he was proud of was “Housing Our Homeless Heroes Act,” an initiative to end Veteran’s homelessness.
Aside from the issues, the candidate also spoke about his customer service. He boasted of having a responsive office with a reputation for getting things done in his district, which includes parts of Huntington, Babylon and Islip.
“We are very well known, at every level of government in our area, for providing really outstanding constituent service,” he said.
Stern said that if he’s elected, he will open a full-time office in Queens.
While he stopped short if saying that congress should have term limits, Stern admitted that term limits in the Suffolk County state legislature forced politicians to work together across party lines.
“If you want to do something, you know you just have a finite period of time to do it,” Stern said. Nonetheless he said the Suffolk County Legislature had prepared him to handle a hostile, polarized Congress.
“Although I’ve been talking about some of the positives of being in the Suffolk County Legislature, it’s not like we bring each other roses every day, either. It’s rough and tumble. And even though we might be sitting next to the minority leader, and we smile at each other, that doesn’t mean we’re not throwing elbows under the table.”
Stern received the endorsement from the current holder of the seat, U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Queens/Long Island).
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana