Westchester is not Nassau, at least when it comes to GOP county leaders and the governor’s race, apparently, as Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano declined to support fellow Republican, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, and instead endorsed Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic incumbent.
“I’m a Republican,” Mangano said in an ad released by Cuomo’s campaign Tuesday. “And I’m voting for Governor Cuomo.”
The endorsement, coming a month before the election, was a surprise to many, but not insiders, apparently.
Back in March, Nassau GOP chairman Joseph Mondelo told Newsday, “Eddie will not be leading the charge against Andrew Cuomo.” And former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, Nassau’s preeminent Republican politician, went further, telling the paper that Cuomo “has worked diligently both politically and governmentalLy in Nassau County. And I suspect it will pay off for the governor.”
Mangano has also introduced the governor at events on the Island, touting him when the governor spoke at Molloy College last February about his budget reforms, and was one of the first Republican county leaders to support Cuomo’s 2-percent property tax cap, which has drawn negative reviews from teachers unions and school districts struggling to make ends meet under the cap.
At the college event, Mangano said that working with Cuomo was “a pleasure,” and Cuomo said that Mangano was doing “a great job,” reminding the elected officials from both parties who were sitting in the front row at the Rockville Centre campus that “We are New Yorkers first!”
A year ago this month at Albertson VFW Post 5253, Cuomo gave a lukewarm endorsement to Mangano’s then-Democratic county executive challenger, Tom Suozzi, who was waging a rematch after losing to Mangano by under 400 votes in 2009. Cuomo read Suozzi’s name at the end of a long list of Democratic candidates, and said: “I am proud to be a New York Democrat and I’m proud to support New York Democrats.”
Suozzi was buried in a double-digit loss.
Their bromance was on full display at Mangano’s 2014 inauguration ceremony, with Cuomo in attendance and gushing that the Republican was “A superb county executive who I believe is going to be even better in the second term.”
Consequently, Cuomo helped Mangano by installing former North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman, a sympathetic Democrat, as head of the Nassau County Interim Finance Authority, and forcing out NIFA Chairman Ron Stack, who had been more skeptical of Mangano’s budget fixes. Under Kaiman, NIFA has approved Mangano’s efforts to pay long overdue overtime to key public employees unions despite the ongoing budget deficit that reportedly could run about $120 million in the red by the end of this year. Mangano’s inability to make up a $51 million hole in sales tax revenue played a key part in his decision to raise property taxes for the first time since Suozzi was county executive—the last Democrat to have the job.
In news reports following the 2.2-percent tax hike announcement in September, Mangano tried to soften the blow by claiming that the state would reimburse homeowners through rebates.
How this endorsement will play out on Long Island remains to be seen.
According to news reports, Nassau has 330,000 registered Republicans—more than any other New York county—but there are more than 371,000 registered Democrats, 82,000 more than there were a decade ago.
As Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay S. Jacobs said in a press statement Tuesday: “While I do not always agree with County Executive Mangano, one thing we can agree on is that Andrew Cuomo has delivered for Long Island as Governor and we need him to continue the great work in his second term.”
But that rosy view was countered by the Astorino campaign.
“Andrew Cuomo broke his pledge not to raise taxes, thousands of Long Islanders are still not in their homes after Hurricane Sandy and he is under federal investigation for corruption,” Jessica Proud, an Astorino campaign spokesperson, told the Press in an email. “I can’t imagine why anyone would want to support someone with that record.”
The Nassau Republican committee declined to comment.