SPINCYCLE: Newsday's guide to politics and politicians

James T. Madore on Long Island; Reid J. Epstein on Long Island; William Murphy on Long Island; RICK BRAND

November 13, 2006
Fewer women lead in Suffolk

Suffolk women have lost ground since 2002 in the county legislature, compared with Nassau County and New York City, according to a new study.

Women make up only 16.7 percent of the Suffolk Legislature, or three seats out of 18. That is an 11 percent decline from four years ago and earned the county a grade of "unsatisfactory" in a report from the University of Rochester's Susan B. Anthony Center for Women's Leadership.

In Nassau, women make up 26.3 percent of the legislature, or five of 19 members. And 35.3 percent of the New York City Council is female.

The Nassau ratio represents a gain of 10.5 percent from the center's 2002 survey and earned a B+ grade. The improvement was credited to the election of legislators Denise Ford (R-Long Beach) and Diane Yatauro (D-Glen Cove), and the presiding officership remaining in the hands of Judith Jacobs of Woodbury.

New York City received an A+, posting a gain of 9.8 percent in four years, including the selection of Democrat Christine Quinn of Manhattan as council speaker.

"The progress of women is not that straight line up on the graph," said Nora Bredes, a former Suffolk legislator who has directed the Rochester center since 1999. "But there are areas where women are doing quite well, such as district attorneys; we have 11 female DAs [out of 62] across New York, including Kathleen Rice in Nassau."

Bredes and others speculated that the continued dearth of female legislators was because of nasty campaigns, high-profile corruption cases and greater attention on security issues following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota's aggressive pursuit of public corruption, Bredes said, "may have turned off women from becoming engaged because politics looks to be more about cronyism than idealism." Bredes, a Democrat, opposed the Shoreham nuclear plant, served in the Suffolk Legislature in 1992-98 and ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1996.

County Clerk Judith A. Pascale, who last week won her first election, said some women may be discouraged from public office "because campaigns are dirty ... you have to have the stomach for it and a lot of people don't." She defeated Bredes' successor in the legislature, Deputy Presiding Officer Vivian Viloria-Fisher (D-Setauket).

The other female lawmakers are Kate M. Browning (WFP-Shirley) and Lynne Nowick (R-St. James).

Despite Suffolk's discouraging numbers - there were five legislators in Bredes' day - she remains optimistic. "It's a slow revolution, but it's a revolution nonetheless."

- James T. Madore on Long Island


Looking forward, with hope

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) celebrated the Democrats' high hopes Tuesday night when it became clear that her party would win control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 12 years.

In between verses of "Ain't No Stopping Us Now," McCarthy, flanked all night by grandchildren Denis, 8, and Grace, 7, tried to tell the Westbury crowd of Democratic supporters what they wanted to hear.

"It's going to be wonderful to go to the Rules Committee and offer an amendment and watch it have a chance," she said. "On homeland security, we can do as good a job - if not better - than the Republicans."

- Reid J. Epstein on Long Island



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