By John Dundon
There’s no shortage of potential suitors lining up to run for Nassau County Executive since the seat is expected to be up for grabs come November.
That’s because incumbent Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, a Republican who pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges in October, has not revealed whether he’ll seek a third term and the Nassau GOP hasn’t said if he’ll have their support if he does run again. At least three potential Republican candidates waiting in the wings include ex-New York State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury), Hempstead Town Councilman Bruce Blakeman and Hempstead Tax Receiver Donald Clavin, according to a Newsday report citing anonymous sources. For the Democrats, it’s shaping up to be a three-person race between County Comptroller George Maragos, Nassau Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin) and State Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove).
“When you have as open of a race as there is now you’ll see a lot of candidates throw their hats in, opening exploratory committees, trying to ratchet up support in an attempt to show party heads that they’re serious players in the race,” said Steve Tricarico, professor of politics at Farmingdale State College. “The winds are at the backs of the Democrats right now, given the circumstances surrounding Ed Mangano, a Republican, and Hillary Clinton’s win in Nassau County. For the Republicans, it’s about which candidates can offer as best a juxtaposition of Mangano, with his ethics issues.”
If Mangano does decide to run for re-election, he’ll likely have an uphill battle convincing voters he’s up for another four years while simultaneously defending against prosecutors’ allegations that he was involved in a kickback scheme. He’s so far refused calls to resign, unlike his co-defendant, ex-Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Vendittto, who quit this month after two decades as town leader to focus on his defense.
Nassau Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs is expected to announce his choice for nominee Monday. A day before his announcement, Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman, who was widely believed to be testing the waters to run for exec, announced his candidacy for County Comptroller.
The first candidate to announce for Nassau exec was two-term County Comptroller Maragos, a former Republican who crossed party lines to run for county exec.
“Over time, I found my values have become more aligned with the Democratic Party,” Maragos told reporters when he entered the race last year.
Whether Maragos has established enough support within his new party to successfully make a run at the county executive spot remains to be seen. Besides using his intimate knowledge of the county’s troubled finances to suggest how to get the county out of the red, he has campaigned on ethics reform and putting the trust back in Nassau politics.
It’s a drum that each Democratic candidate has beat. Legis. Curran, the lone woman in the race, has also been building steam on an anti-corruption platform.
“It’s time we clean up the mess in Mineola and finally end the culture of corruption that has permeated our government and wasted our tax dollars for decades,” Curran said. “Ending this disgraceful era in our history and finally providing the ethical government that taxpayers deserve will be priority number one in my administration.”
Curran’s campaign is calling for term limits, rewriting the county’s whistle-blower law and strengthening financial disclosure guidelines.
Rounding out the list of Democratic candidates is Assemb. Lavine, who announced his candidacy late last year. The former Glen Cove City Councilman is now chair of the Assembly ethics committee, which gives him a track record as a proponent of government reform.
“Now more than ever we must send a message on Long Island that we will no longer tolerate corrupt actions by our elected officials,” he said. “Honesty, transparency and integrity are vital for us to restore our trust in government.”
Since none of the Republicans reportedly interested in succeeding Mangano have officially declared their candidacy, it’s unclear what proposals they have for the county. As for the Democrats, it remains to be seen if the party nominee will face a primary challenge from any or all of the other Democratic candidates.
Regardless of how it shakes out, all eyes will be on the Nassau executive race through this fall since it has the potential to result in the first new county leader in eight years.