New York State Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo and Riverhead Town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio are calling on the country to declare the COVID-19 pandemic an act of terror.
Both are seeking seats this election year, and their opponents immediately accused the pair of showboating. Palumbo is looking to be elected to state Senator Ken LaValle’s seat, and Giglio garnered the GOP nomination to replace Palumbo. Her stint on the Riverhead Town Board ends this year, and LaValle announced his retirement in January.
The impetus for the legal maneuvering is it might free funds from the Terrorism Risk Insurance Fund — a U. S. federal law signed by President George W. Bush on November 26, 2002 creating a federal backstop for insurance claims related to acts of terrorism — which then could be made available for businesses negatively impacted by the novel coronavirus.
Palumbo said there are $1 trillion in the fund, and that China cannot be sued directly for causing the spread of the virus.
“This would allow that to happen,” he said.
Laura Jens-Smith, who is seeking the Democratic Party nomination for the state Assembly seat, scoffed at the idea.
“This is a crisis,” she said, “it’s not a time for grandstanding.”
There is no love lost between Jens-Smith and Giglio, who served together on the Riverhead Town Board until Jens-Smith lost the supervisor’s seat in a hotly-contested race last year.
“Small business owners need relief now,” Jens-Smith said. “Folks can’t get through to unemployment, people are scared, and Jodi and Tony have decided to play United Nations delegates.”
Democrats will choose between Jens-Smith and Will Schleisner in a June 23 primary. The board of elections is sending absentee ballots to all known eligible voters in case the virus affects turnout. It’s possible that polls will be closed altogether, or voting will be postponed again — the primary was originally scheduled to take place April 23.
There are four declared Democratic candidates for LaValle’s Senate seat so far: Parents for Megan’s Law founder Laura Ahearn, of Port Jefferson; Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni; Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright; and college student and activist Skyler Johnson.