There is a certain effect that Town of North Hempstead Republican Chairman Frank Moroney said he expects Port Washington attorney Richard Stiek to soon have on the state’s political landscape.
It is what Moroney described last Thursday as Stiek’s “cleansing effect on politics” that led the town’s GOP leader to select him as the Republican candidate to oppose incumbent state Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel (D-Great Neck) for her 16th Assembly District seat in November’s general election.
“This is the kind of quality representative that North Hempstead has had over the last couple years,” Moroney said of Stiek. “Knowing how dysfunctional the (state Assembly) can be, this is like opening up the windows after they’ve been shut for some time and clearing out the house. He’s like a fresh fall day.”
For Stiek, 38, it is his status as a political outsider, which he said could serve him well if elected to represent the 16th Assembly District. A U.S. Army veteran, Stiek and his wife, Nancy, reside in Port Washington.
“I’ve been ... rather disenfranchised with what I saw as continuing increases in my property tax bill, or my share of it in my co-op building, and just what I saw as fiscal irresponsibility at the local and state level,” said Stiek, who has never run for political office.
Nearly two years ago, Moroney said Stiek reached out to Republican party leaders to become more involved with local politics.
“I started meeting with some of the local Republican leaders, became as helpful as I could be, not knowing much about the political landscape in Nassau County and in New York, generally,” Stiek said. “I really just didn’t pay much attention to it until I really started becoming personally effected by everything.”
In May, Moroney said Stiek was officially tapped as the GOP choice to oppose Schimel for her 16th Assembly District seat, which consists of Great Neck, Manhasset, Port Washington, Herricks, Mineola and East Williston.
The decision came after Schimel’s estranged husband, Mark, originally declared his intention to seek the Republican nomination to run for the 16th Assembly District in November’s general election.
Mark Schimel, who was separated from his state Assemblywoman wife after 32 years of marriage last year, eventually withdrew his candidacy, citing pressure from the media.
Michelle Schimel, 54, has represented the 16th Assembly District since 2007. She originally elected to her seat after then state Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli was appointed state comptroller.
Upon accepting the bid to face Schimel in November’s election, Stiek said he vowed to GOP officials that he would not make his opponent’s political controversy part of his campaign.
“That has no place in government,” Stiek said. “That has no place in politics or elections. Some people will disagree with me, but frankly I grew up where you respect people’s privacy. If I were to go down that road I would be the biggest hypocrite I know. I don’t believe in that. The issues are the issues.”
It is that line of thinking, which Moroney said leads him to believe that Stiek is the right candidate to represent the 16th Assembly District.
“He keeps his word,” Moroney said of Stiek. “He has, I think, the best shot at discussing the issues that effect the North Shore of North Hempstead. He is a bright attorney. He has a grasp, I think, of the basic issues, as far as taxes and the ability of people in this economy to pursue their entrepreneurial goals.”
“I think as the district gets to know him,” Moroney added, “they will think as much of him as I do. Hopefully, they will elect him.”
Stiek graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1996 with a degree in engineering.
After serving in the U.S. Army for nearly five years, Stiek earned a masters degree in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi. He later graduated from law school at Seton Hall University and is licensed to practice in New York and New Jersey.
Currently, Stiek said he is “not engaged with a specific law firm” and works as a special projects consultant.
In addition to his career, Stiek is a board member of the West Point Society of New York, the Long Island General MacArthur Memorial Fund and the Armed Forces Reserve Family Assistance Fund.
Although Stiek said his military service has played a large role in his life, it was not a major determining factor in his decision to run for office.
“That’s a part of my life,” Stiek said of his military service. “That’s what I’ve done. It’s what I do, but my decision to become involved in this race, and politics in general, was born almost exclusively out of my frustration with the direction that our state, our county and our country are kind of headed.”
Stiek said one of his biggest disappointments with Schimel was her vote in opposition to the state’s current 2-percent real estate property tax cap.
“There is a lot of posturing up in Albany that is, frankly, counterproductive,” Stiek said. “You can look at the property-tax cap that was negotiated between the Democrats and Republicans and Gov. Cuomo. That’s the first cooperative, properly governed event that I’ve seen in a while out of Albany.”
Although Stiek said he was in favor of the 2-percent property tax cap, the legislation does not go far enough to cure some of the state’s financial difficulties.
“I think that’s a good starting point, rather than a fixed point,” Stiek said of the tax cap. “I would like to see the property taxes more directly tied to the fluctuations in the values of homes rather than there being this artificial floor that they cannot break through, going down. We should be able to keep in line our expenses based on what our revenue is.”
If elected, Stiek said he will also help to control rising state mandate costs that have been criticized by local mayors and trustees for making the calculation of their budget more problematic.
“Some of these mandates are actually pretty good,” he said. “I agree with some of them, but the bottom line is you’ve got to be able to pay for them. You don’t buy luxury items when you have no money.”
Stiek said that, if elected, he would work to formulate a bill that would require any new state mandates to be completely funded before they could be passed by the state Assembly and Senate.
“If there is nobody in Albany to pay for it, or they force an increase in the tax, then that particular assemblyman, assemblywoman or senator will be held responsible in the next election,” Stiek said. “It’s about their individual responsibilities.”
If elected, Stiek said he would also focus on reforming the pension system for state employees and increasing small business development in the 16th Assembly District.
Through his campaign, Stiek said he hopes to bring “more sensibility” to the financial dealings of state officials.
“We’re running a negative financial circumstance right now in New York,” Stiek said. “I think it’s going to be the realization (for voters) that we’ve got to keep, frankly, a balanced check book in Albany and not force all the expenses down on the municipalities, the towns, the counties and the schools.”
Stiek said his potential to “help transform the way the state operates” sets him apart from Schimel.
“I’m not a politician, particularly,” Stiek said. “I’m just a guy who lives in Port Washington who’s got a little tired of the status quo.”
“There’s a lot that I have to actually learn about the process of Albany, I’ll be the first to admit it,” he added, “but I have people around me who are smarter than I am. I’ve got people who I can reach out to as far as the process goes. I’ll be a quick study.”