Two battle for  Women’s Equality line
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Two battle for Women’s Equality line

Story By: TARA SMITH
9/7/2017


With no primary races for major party lines in both Brookhaven Town and Suffolk County Legislature elections, two town clerk candidates are competing for the Women’s Equality line for November’s election.

Incumbent Donna Lent is an Independence Party member who is cross-endorsed by the Republican Party. Cindy Morris is a Democrat cross-endorsed by the Working Families Party.

The primary race is slated for Sept. 12; only members of the Women’s Equality party can come out and vote.

Here’s a look at both candidates:

Donna Lent

First elected in 2013, Lent streamlined procedures in the clerk’s office to increase efficiency and decrease waste. She also oversaw the implementation of the town’s Electronic Content Management System, which digitized over 18 million pages of records. Additionally, Lent reorganized the town’s Archived Records Center, bringing the town’s records into compliance with New York State Archive and Record Administration guidelines. 

Last month, in commemoration of Women’s Equality Day, Lent visited the NYSE with a group of women to help ring the NASDAQ opening bell. “Achieving gender equality is our collective responsibility,” Lent said in a statement. “It requires the engagement of each one of us, women and men, girls and boys.” Women’s Equality Day is celebrated each year on Aug. 26, the anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

“Women’s Equality is not just a party line to me; I’ve worked for women’s equality for the last 35 years,” she said, referencing her involvement as the president of the National Women’s Political Caucus, a bipartisan organization. “When it comes to being town clerk, it’s really not about politics but rather about service. The clerk’s office is the heart of the town; we are the closest to the community. Every marriage, birth and death recorded goes right through my office.”

Lent served as the chief deputy town clerk for four years prior to being elected town clerk. This would be her second time being elected to the four-year term.

Cindy Morris

Morris told the Advance that she never considered herself to be overtly political until last fall’s election. “I got more active and started to volunteer a lot of time in response to the election,” she said. “I put on the activist hat. That work was really eye-opening to me.”

A Florida native, Morris first came to Long Island several years ago to work in the burgeoning tourism industry. In 2011, she left the corporate world to start the Benson Agency, a consulting firm that works exclusively with local nonprofit organizations. “I have focused on many issues important to women, including domestic violence, empowering young girls and creating better job opportunities for women in the science and tech industries,” Morris said. 

She lives in Stony Brook with her two young sons.

In May, Morris accepted the nomination to be the Democratic Party candidate. Her decision to run comes from a belief that change nationally begins at a hyper local level. In running for town clerk, Morris said her focus will be on offering more efficient constituent services without increasing costs.

One example she offered is the accessibility of town meetings, held at an hour where most working people are home with their families. But it’s an issue she says can be easily addressed by simple changes such as streaming the meetings on Facebook Live, allowing users the ability to react and comment live.

She also believes the clerk’s office should be “open for business when and where our residents can do business.” She noted the frustration that often comes with visiting town hall to file something or request a document. “Most people can’t afford to take half a day off of work to visit town hall,” Morris said. To make these services more accessible, Morris suggests extending office hours or even going mobile. “I want to put in evening and weekend hours, even Mobile Town Halls to bring the town to those who are elderly, disabled or rely on public transportation,” she said.

Noting that the current board is primarily Republican, Morris hopes to even out the disparity. “Our town isn’t Republican, and we’re not all Democrats,” she said. “It should be more representative of all of us.” 

Nicole Allegrezza contributed to this story.