When he was in the Navy he didn’t stop to ask a fellow sailor his political party affiliation before asking for his help, Byron Divins said.
That’s the same way Divins said he plans to approach his time in Albany if elected to serve Assembly District 16.
“One of the things I can guarantee when I get there is I’m not going to ignore an idea because it came from someone who’s not from my political party,” Divins said. “… My point is to help the 16th district, I don’t care where the idea comes from.”
Divins, a Republican, is running against incumbent Democrat state Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso (D-Port Washington), who was first elected in 2016.
Divins was born in Queens and moved to Roslyn at 10.
He attended Harbor Hill Elementary School, Roslyn Junior High School – his sons, 10 and 14, make fun of him for calling it by its outdated name, he said – and graduated from Roslyn High School in 1988.
Despite coming from a family with limited service background, Divins said he always felt it was important to serve.
With urging from his parents, he first attended college and graduated from State University of New York at Albany in 1993. Divins went on to graduate from Touro Law Center in 1996.
After getting his law degree, Divins joined the Navy as a Judge Advocate. His 20-year career included tours on the USS Kitty Hawk and the U.S. Theodore Roosevelt.
Upon retiring from the Navy, Divins said he was able to go anywhere in the country and call it home.
He chose to return to Roslyn, with his wife and two sons.
Divins came home only to find his core group of friends had all since moved other places, he said.
“It was just too expensive,” Divins said.
To combat that, if elected, Divins wants to keep the now temporary 2 percent tax cap permanent in law, he said.
Another issue close to Divins heart is school safety.
His older son will be entering Roslyn High School this year. The school’s proximity to the Long Island Expressway causes safety threats to the students, Divins said.
“Maybe twice a month, three times a month, we would get a text or alert or email about kids being approached in cars. If one of our kids gets snatched, God forbid, and they get onto the LIE by the time the school is informed they’re gone,” Divins said. “So the time to deal with that problem is now, before something horrific happens.”
Also in terms of school safety, Divins said he is in favor of placing armed guards in schools.
He is against arming teachers, he said.
“I would rather see our law enforcement protect our schools,” Divins said.
Divins also classifies himself as a pro-choice Republican, though he said he’d have to look at individual legislation closely.
“A complicated decision like abortion should be between a woman, her doctor and her faith if she so believes, and her family,” Divins said. “It’s a complicated decision and the government shouldn’t come in and tell a woman what to do … Let’s not go back to the ’60s.”
Another issue Divins is advocating for is term limits on Assembly and state Senate offices.
If term limits were set, it would encourage new ideas to come through, Divins said.
“This wasn’t meant for you to do 20 years or 30 years or forever,” Divins said. “You’re supposed to go in, do your time and enjoy helping your constituents and move on.”
Divins plans to continue running his Garden City-based law practice, Divins & Divins, which he operates with his wife.
Divins has raised $26,232 for his campaign, a little more than half of what D’Urso has raised, according to campaign finance records.
However, of D’Urso’s $52,350, $20,000 was contributed by himself. Another $4,850 was contributed by a total of five others with the shared last name.
Divins contributed $50 to his own campaign.
Since deciding to run, Divins said his family has been supportive. The best reaction came from his youngest son – even though Divins said he likely didn’t completely understand the situation.
“[He] was absolutely ecstatic, he was so happy,” Divins said. “He had no idea what I was talking about, but he was happy.”
Though, Divins said, his sons are not too thrilled his Saturday mornings have been taken away to spend time campaigning.
Divins has enjoyed meeting constituents from “all walks of life with different political views,” he said.
He’s noticed that many people are apathetic, and don’t believe there’s a possibility for change, he said.
“Which is why people have to vote,” Divins said. “You can’t complain that the system is not changing if you’re not in the battle, and the way that people can get in the battle is to vote for their candidates.”