Taylor Raynor, 34, from Uniondale, challenged incumbent Earlene Hooper, 79, from Hempstead, in the 18th State Assembly District’s Democratic Primary, and won. Hooper has represented the district, which encompasses Freeport, a section of Merrick and Baldwin, since 1988 and served as deputy Assembly speaker.
“This community is going to have an even louder voice,” Raynor said the morning after the Sept. 13 primary, at her campaign headquarters on East Merrick Road in Freeport, “Because I am there.”
Surrounded by her campaign staff, family and friends, Raynor celebrated in Freeport after the primary at Hudson’s on the Mile, and then again Friday morning. Now she will prepare for the November election. Her priorities, she said, are to focus on education, affordable housing and community beautification in Hempstead, Uniondale and Freeport. She also plans to establish transparency throughout the district.
One of her biggest concerns is ensuring that members of the community are aware that she will be easily accessible to anyone who wants to contact her. After 30 years of an absent assemblywoman, according to Raynor, she wants to earn her district’s trust and said she has no problem giving out her personal cell number to anyone who asks for it. Raynor also attributed Freeport voters for possibly being the reason she won the primary.
“I love Freeport,” Raynor said. “Freeport feels like a real community; everyone here is together, and they want to work together. The support that I received from Freeport, I felt that was [how I won] the race, honestly.”
Hooper has faced criticism for years over her use of taxpayer money for expenses, time spent in Albany rather than her district and inaccessibility to constituents. This summer, following the release of a video in which Hooper used racially charged language and referred to the county Democratic Party as a “plantation,” Nassau Democrats chose to support Raynor’s campaign.
“Based on her racist tirade and lack of apology, I have no choice but to back her opponent,” Chairman Jay Jacobs told Newsday. “The county organization has discussed it, and we will be backing Taylor Raynor … and give her the financial backing she needs.”
“The fact that the people have chosen me to handle the work, it’s beautiful,” Raynor said. “I feel chosen. I feel special. And I feel like I definitely need to keep my energy up because we have a lot of work to do. I am willing to collaborate with anyone who wants to ensure that District 18 rises to the excellent status that it deserves.”