With a little under three months to go before elections, the race for Suffolk County's fifth legislative district seat is already in full swing.
Candidates on both sides of the race are busy fundraising and walking door-to-door to get their messages out, whereas other county races have been on the quiet side so far.
"'Early' is subjective. I think it's never too early," said Anthony Moncayo, the Republican running against Democratic candidate Kara Hahn. "However, I think when people really get focused and interested in the campaign is after Labor Day."
Moncayo and Hahn are seeking the seat occupied by Suffolk County Legis. Vivian Viloria-Fisher, D-Setauket, who cannot run again after serving 13 years in the legislature – one year after a special election, and six subsequent full terms.
Hahn has worked for close to six years as director of communications for Bill Lindsay, presiding officer of the Suffolk County legislature, and has also worked for for Viloria-Fisher, deputy presiding officer, and for presiding officer Maxine Postal before Postal's death in 2003. She is also a past president of the . Moncayo is an attorney in private practice and a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Army Reserves, having retired in 2010 with the rank of colonel. He was deployed to Europe in the 1980s and Saudi Arabia and Haiti in the 1990s in various staff legal and directorial positions before serving as a director of operations at Guantanamo Bay between November of 2008 and April of 2010.
According to New York State Board of Elections records, which include campaign contributions filed through July, Moncayo has raised approximately $12,000 since he decided to run in June. Hahn has banked about $59,000 total in donations since she decided to run last summer; she formally announced her intent to run in December. That total includes a small amount she raised in 2006 when Viloria-Fisher ran unsuccessfully for county clerk and Hahn considered running in the special election which would have followed had the county legislator won that race.
When asked if he felt he was playing "catch up" in the race, Moncayo said that phrase really only applied the first week in June when he announced his candidacy.
"In the ensuing two months, my organizational, managment, and leadership skills, which were honed by thirty years in the military, have permitted me to 'catch up,'" Moncayo said.
But Rich Schaffer, chairman of the Suffolk County Democratic Committee, said he feels Hahn may be ahead of the game based on her work with the civic association.
"In Kara's case, you can almost count her as an incumbent because of all the work that she's done, how familiar she is with the district, and how familiar the district is with her," Schaffer said.
Suffolk GOP chairman John LaValle disagreed, saying he believes Hahn has very little name recognition within the community. Moncayo has been in the public eye before, having previously run for the New York State Assembly against Steve Englebright, D-Setauket.
"I think he also presents a more out-of-the-box type of candidate rather than a clubhouse type of candidate," LaValle said.
Both LaValle and Schaffer said this race will be a key one for Suffolk County.
"When you don't have an incumbent, it's considered competitive," Schaffer said. "When you have an incumbent who hasn't done something wrong, they usually have an edge."