Laura Ahearn (D-Port Jefferson), a licensed attorney and social worker who founded nonprofits Crime Victims Center and Ronkonkoma-based Parents for Megan’s Law nearly 25 years ago, is running for state Senate.
Ahearn, 56, grew up in Patchogue and spent much of her younger years fishing in the area. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Dowling College, master’s from Stony Brook University, and law degree from Touro College. It was then, she said, that she grew interested in running for state Senate.
“I have fought for 25 years to protect our most vulnerable, and now I want to protect the issues that are important to us,” she said.
Ahearn serves as the executive director of the Crime Victims Center, which has expanded to a staff of nearly 30 and has served over 30,000 victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, gang violence, human trafficking, hate crime, terriorism and more. Ahearn said she has helped to return over $6 million to crime victims.
“I’ve wanted to be in a position to effect change my whole life, and that’s what I’ve done in the Crime Victims Center,” she said.
Ahearn also serves as chair of the Suffolk County Family Violence Task Legal Systems Subcommittee and as the victims' services representative of the Suffolk County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. When she served as the victims' services representative of the county’s Hate Crimes Task Force, she submitted a report to the U.S. Department of Justice, which created a Hate Crime Prevention Program.
One of her top priorities, she said, is the fight for “our fair share” and access to quality health care for all.
Another goal, she said, is to continue the effort to protect the environment, address climate change and transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. She hopes to do this in part through the New York State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, passed in 2019.
Ahearn hopes to protect drinking water sources in part by reducing nitrogen in Long Island’s aquifers and surface and ocean water.
If elected, she said she aims to start a COVID-19 pandemic unit — which will ensure that necessary protective equipment and resources are readily available to medical professionals.
She is opposed to defunding police enforcement, she said, and noted that she has worked closely with law enforcement and elected officials to offer educational programs at public and private schools related to domestic and sexual violence, and more.
For her, modifying bail reform is also a priority. She hopes to change bail reform to give judges discretion to prevent violent offenders from being released and to strengthen victims’ rights laws.
Ahearn hopes to improve small businesses and invest in infrastructure to create new job opportunities. She said she’ll invest in community-based youth programs and law enforcement training, and hopes to direct more funding to drug-addicted individuals.
The Port Jefferson native said she has been campaigning differently during COVID-19 and has prioritized voter contact by phone calling, texting and digital marketing.
Ahearn said this election is “crucial” because the Democrats hold the delegation on Long Island.
“If someone in the minority – a Republican – is in any one of those Senate seats, they will not be able to deliver legislation, nor funds, directly,” she said.
Ahearn has received an endorsement from U.S. senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Kirstin Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), other state senators, and over 40 others, she said.