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Oct 24, 2011 5:57 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Cornelius Kelly Looking To Unseat Incumbent

Oct 25, 2011 1:36 PM

One of Cornelius Kelly’s most cherished childhood memories is of the three elderly ladies who lived on his block in Westhampton Beach and would invite him and his friends into their homes for cookies.

His idyllic childhood, much of which was spent playing freely and safely on the streets of the village—so safe, in fact, that he was allowed to walk home alone after kindergarten—is what, in part, prompted Mr. Kelly, now 39 and the father of three children all under the age of 4, to make his first run for public office.

Mr. Kelly, the Republican candidate who is challenging incumbent Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman in next month’s election, said his desire to preserve the South Fork’s small-town charm for his children—his “Irish twin” daughters, ages 4 and 3, and a son who just turned 1—convinced him to throw his hat in the ring.

“I want to protect what we have left,” said Mr. Kelly, who has been cross-endorsed by the Conservative Party. “I want to maintain our small-town character.”

Mr. Kelly, who grew up in Westhampton Beach and now lives with his wife, Jennifer, and children in East Quogue, attended Westhampton Beach High School and the University of Scranton before obtaining his master’s degree in business administration from New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business. Today, he owns Liberty Property Services Inc., a title insurance agency in Westhampton Beach. He is the company’s only employee.

If elected to represent Suffolk County’s 2nd Legislative District, which encompasses the entire South Fork, Mr. Kelly believes that his business acumen will serve him and his constituents well. “Not being a politician is an advantage,” he said.

His earlier career experience as a bond trader, he said, has prepared him for the political arena. He pointed out that not one of the bonds he bought ever defaulted.

“I was dealing with salesmen, making millions of dollars a year, whose job it was to lie to me, to sell me bonds that might default,” Mr. Kelly said of the time when he lived and worked in Manhattan. “These weren’t used car salesmen; they were people who went to Harvard—but their job was to snooker you. I’ve found a lot of people in politics are shifty with the truth.”

Mr. Kelly, who has never served in public office before, said he decided to make his first foray into politics earlier this year, but originally did not plan to challenge Mr. Schneiderman, a member of the Independence Party. At the time, he wanted to make a run for Southampton Town Trustee. “I grew up enjoying our maritime way of life and want to help to protect it,” he said.

But one day, while shopping at Home Depot with his children, Mr. Kelly’s cellphone rang, and Ernest Wruck, then the chairman of the Southampton Town Republican Party, asked if he would consider challenging Mr. Schneiderman. “Some folks in the Suffolk County Republican Committee felt my business background would be a good fit for county legislator,” Mr. Kelly said.

Mr. Kelly, who was born at Southampton Hospital, said his birth caused a stir: He tipped the scales at just over 13 pounds, making him the biggest baby to be born at the medical center at the time. He also noted that his mother, Suzanne, was in her 40s at the time. “It was a big event,” he laughed.

His brother, Robert, is a judge in Westhampton Beach Village, having followed in the footsteps of their father, also named Robert, who served as a judge in Westhampton Beach for decades. Mr. Kelly also has two sisters, Suzanne Hulme and Mary Celeste Cole.

Active in local charities and a former religious instructor at the Church of the Immaculate Conception on Quiogue, Mr. Kelly said that, if elected, he has a list of goals he hopes to accomplish over the next two years. At the top is permanently closing the two county-owned trailers—one in Riverside, the other in Westhampton—that currently house all of Suffolk’s homeless sexual offenders once they are released from prison.

“I don’t like the treatment that our South Fork is receiving from the county,” he said. “We receive all of the county’s homeless sex offenders. And my opponent hasn’t been able to solve the problem. It’s horrific.”

To address the problem, Mr. Kelly thinks that the county should return to a voucher system; under that system, the county would give the homeless offenders money, allowing them to find their own shelter each night. He notes that data suggests that recidivism rates are highest when sexual offenders are housed under the same roof.

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Corneilius will be a terrific representative. He has substance, and unlike Jay, who is the consummate politician, Cornelius is regular guy and much easier to relate to.

I'm looking forward to a refreshing, down to earth, local change.
By Steven (113), Westhampton on Oct 25, 11 1:57 PM