Today, former Legislator Kate Browning announced a campaign run in an effort to return to the 3rd Legislative District seat. Her announcement came after Suffolk County Legis. Rudy Sunderman (R-Mastic-Shirley) announced last week he would be stepping down as of March 21 to pursue a career in the fire/EMS field as the Suffolk County Fire Academy director.
“The 3rd district demands a full-time legislator who can hit the ground running and fight day in and day out for its working families. I worked as a school bus driver while my kids were in school and I know what it’s like to struggle to make ends meet on Long Island,” Browning said of her reasoning behind first deciding to run for legislator and her reason to return after three and a half years out of office. “As a full-time Legislator, I’m proud of my record – I made Suffolk County safer by passing one of the toughest sex offender laws in the country and ensuring that we graduated one of the largest police classes in Suffolk County history. I focused on quality-of-life issues, rehabilitating foreclosed zombie homes and selling them to first- time homebuyers, keeping them away from speculators and absentee landlords. And I secured historic funding for clean water infrastructure to protect our drinking water and our shorelines.”
Browning was term-limited in 2017 after 12 years in office. However, she has previous told this publication that it was possible to interpret the county term-limit law as permitting a lawmaker to come back after sitting out for two years. She went on to run in a Democratic primary to challenge Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin in 2018. She is currently the director of code enforcement for the Town of Babylon.
According to the Suffolk County Democratic Committee, she will now run for Sunderman’s vacated seat in a special election scheduled for likely sometime in May, after the resignation is official.
“With the news that Sunderman will be resigning, we’ve had conversations with former Legis. Kate Browning and are excited about the possibility of her running for her former seat,” Keith Davies, the spokesman for Suffolk County Democratic Committee, told the Long Island Advance last week. Davies will now serve as Browning’s campaign manager.
According to the Suffolk County Democratic Committee, Browning held the seat for 12 years before being term limited in 2018 by Suffolk County’s law which state no one can serve for more than 12 consecutive years.
“With a proven track record of delivering results, Kate will hit the ground running and bring stability to a district that demands a full-time legislator,” the committee’s release reads.
Browning served as Suffolk County legislator since 2005. Over 12 years, Browning has worked on a diverse range of issues including the environment, community revitalization and the opioid epidemic. She also fought for the ShotSpotter implementation in North Bellport and secured funding for sewers in the Mastic-Shirley. Browning was born and raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She and her husband, Steve, have lived in Shirley for over 25 years.
“The needs of the communities of the 3rd Legislative District are great and there is no time for a learning curve,” Browning continued. “I know the issues, I know the community, and the community knows me. No one will fight harder or be a more effective advocate for this community. With the support of my family, I’m excited to knock on doors, hear from the residents of the district and continue fighting for the 3rd Legislative District.”
According to Jesse Garcia, Brookhaven GOP chairman, he is currently meeting with stakeholders of the community and the Republican party before announcing the candidate to fill his seat.
“Rudy is a firefighter first and always, and this is a first responder; this is his dream job to be director of training. We should all [give a] small sigh of relief that this is the man that will be training our future first responders for generations to come,” Garcia said of Sunderman’s stepping down. “It is very important that the Republicans retain this very important seat. It was Sunderman who saw important passage of sewers and focused on tearing down hundreds of zombie homes that have plague that neighborhood,” he added, noting that the party is prepared to win the special election. “We have a stable of candidates in that community.”
“Those who know me well know that this field has been my passion and with many years’ experience,” he wrote in a letter announcing that he will be vacating his seat. “I will continue to serve as your local fire chief. It has been an honor and privilege to serve as legislator of the 3rd District and I am proud of the many goals and accomplishments we have reached together as a community. I am so honored for the overwhelming support I have received. It has been great to meet the many local community members in the district as we all worked towards many common goals.”
For now, he said, he will be focused on fulfilling his duties as legislator as he transitions to serve his community in his new venture. During his tenure, the Mastic-Shirley Sewer District vote was approved, sidewalks at William Floyd Elementary School were constructed, the funding for Mastic Beach Downtown Revitalization and Violets Cove future plans were secured, the fish ladder in Yaphank is in the final steps (bids are out), new construction of the road on Yaphank Avenue, and road work was done to upgrade Longwood Road and more.
“I will be here to support our future elected officials on a smooth transition,” he added, noting that this is not the end of his political career. “I will be back again running for local government and I hope I have earned your trust, support and dedication.”
Sunderman was also indited on perjury charges in 2019 for continuing to work for the Centereach Fire District even after an ethics board told him he would have to quit after accepting his role as legislator. Sunderman has said he was innocent of those charges and has since fought them.
He is a lifelong Mastic resident known to have revolved his life around family and community. He began his 30-year volunteering career early on as a member of the Mastic Fire Department since 1987 and even served as chief of the department twice, from 1999 to 2003 and 2015 to present. He began a career as a CVS district manager before going on to follow his dream career in community service. In 2003, he was hired as a deputy chief instructor for the Suffolk County Fire Academy. In 2004, he became assistant chief fire coordinator of the Suffolk County Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services. In 2010, he became district manager/deputy treasurer for the Centereach Fire Department. He also served as the Mastic Fire District commissioner from 2004 to 2013 for two five-year terms. He served as the Suffolk County legislator in the 3rd District since 2017.