If you want to know where Assembly District 16 candidate Byron Divins stands on an issue, you’ll have to look beyond his party label.
Though Divins is running as a Republican against Democratic incumbent Anthony D’Urso, he says he sees his party affiliation as more of an afterthought, despite the fact that so many of November’s races are set up to be battles of the parties in the first major election since Donald Trump assumed the presidency.
On many issues Divins leans more left, others right, and the best bet for figuring out which way he’ll tilt on a particular one may be to consider a couple of key parts of his identity: veteran and father.
The district he is running in covers much of the Town of North Hempstead, excluding parts of Roslyn, New Hyde Park and Williston Park.
Divins, a lawyer, sat down with Blank Slate Media to discuss his positions on issues in New York politics and his priorities should he be elected.
Divins firmly opposes marijuana legalization, he said, an opinion ingrained in him during his 20 years of military service.
“It’s just based on my beliefs seeing the dangers of someone being on marijuana and being on a nuclear aircraft carrier,” Divins said. “It’s just something that’s not compatible.”
His military background has also made supporting veterans a priority, he said. As an assemblyman, he wants to address veteran homelessness on Long Island.
Regarding abortion, he said he supports Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision permitting abortions, and New York’s Reproductive Health Act, with the one exception that he thinks it should only permit doctors to perform the operations.
He formed an opinion on the Child Victims Act after speaking with state Sen. Elaine Phillips, he said, and now does not support it and is instead in favor of a related Republican bill. The Republican bill would compensate victims with a state fund and eliminate the criminal statute of limitations while the Child Victims Act would expand the criminal and civil statute of limitations and create a one-year window for filing civil lawsuits.
When it comes to gun control, Divins says his opinions have a lot to do with the solutions that make the most sense and his role as a parent of two children in Roslyn Public Schools.
He doesn’t think New York’s gun regulations are too restrictive, he said, but he also doesn’t feel the need to eliminate guns entirely. He said he has to look more closely into New York’s gun-related bills, such as one that would disqualify people with domestic violence convictions or protection abuse orders from owning guns, but he would not make a decision about gun legislation, or any other legislation, based on the party that introduces it.
“If legislation comes through and it makes sense to protect our kids and to protect us, I’ll vote for it,” he said.
Then there are the positions that Divins has formed or deepened throughout his campaigning, based on what residents have expressed to him while he’s canvassed door to door.
He’s been campaigning with the promise of fighting to make the 2 percent property tax cap permanent.
“I was in Port Washington and I must have knocked on five or six houses of people telling me they were literally leaving, and they’re leaving because the taxes are way too high,” he said.
As for the environment, “what people have been talking to me about on the trail is water,” Divins said.
So now, that’s what he too is worried about – purifying water when it comes to chemical runoff.
Divins doesn’t seem concerned about making voters dig a little to see if he’s the candidate who suits them.
“You can look at my website and see what I’m running on, and I’m walking door to door,” he said. “They can ask me. I’m not necessarily identifying strongly with any political party.”
Nearly all of his campaign finances come from individual contributions, according to Vote Smart, a web database that collects and publishes a variety of records about candidates nationwide. The $25,050 Divins contributed himself is currently about half of his total finances.
D’Urso, who is finishing up his first term, has over $30,000 more than Divins in the bank, which includes support from groups such as law enforcement associations and Friends of Judi Bosworth.
Divins suggests that voters choose him because of his “fresh eyes,” a quality he finds valuable in Assembly members and that has influenced his promise to fight for a two-term limit should he be elected. It’s a position again shaped by his military background.
“We get moved every two, three years, and we have to learn a whole new set of things,” he said. “One day I’m stationed in Groton, Connecticut, the next day I’m in Pensacola, Florida, then I’m in Yokosuka, Japan, and things are done quickly and they’re done differently. I see this as no different.”
Even if a term limit doesn’t become policy during his time in office, he says he’ll step down after two terms.
And during those terms, should 16th District voters choose him this November, he says, he wants to be one politician helping to bridge the divide between parties. In a time when partisanship seems to run deep, he says he thinks everyone should be aiming for the opposite.
“Let’s stop with, ‘Hey what party do you come from?’ and [instead ask], ‘Is it an idea that’s going to help?’ Divins said.