Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos at a news conference in 2011. (Jim Mancari/Long Island Press)

Two-term Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos of Locust Valley raised eyebrows last fall when the longtime Republican announced that he was switching party affiliation to run for county executive as a Democrat.

Since being passed over for his new party’s nomination, he challenged the Democratic designee, Nassau Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin), to a Sept. 12 primary. Should he win, Maragos’ general election rival would be ex-New York State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury), who the GOP nominated to replace outgoing Republican Nassau Executive Ed Mangano after Mangano pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges in October. Maragos touts his intimate knowledge of the county budget as giving him the credentials to turn cash-strapped Nassau around.

“As comptroller, I’ve seen a lot of issues that the county has that are not being addressed,” Maragos said of his decision to run. “I’ve seen the inability of the two parties to come to grips with those issues.”

After unseating his Democratic predecessor in 2009, Maragos is hoping for a repeat of that upset. Although he wasn’t as lucky when he ran in a Republican primary to challenge U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) a year after becoming comptroller, or unsuccessfully vying for the GOP nod again in the race to challenge U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) two years later.

Maragos immigrated from Greece in 1958 when he was 8 years old. His family initially settled in Montreal, where he earned his bachelors degree in electrical engineering before moving to New York in 1978. Once here, he started his career at Booz Allen and Hamilton, got his masters in business administration from Pace University, and became vice president of Chase Manhattan Bank, then of Citibank, before founding SDS Financial Technologies two decades ago. His two sons took over the company when he was elected.

“I didn’t really know what I was getting into,” he said of his decision to run for comptroller. “Back then in 2009, the Republican Party didn’t have good candidates. They thought that [then-Nassau County Executive Tom] Suozzi and [then-Nassau Comptroller Howard] Weitzman would be shoo-ins to win, but I saw it as an opportunity to give back.”

He lists his priorities as lowering property taxes for the middle class, requiring developers to build more affordable housing, investing in public transportation and enacting ethics reform measures, such as banning local political contributions from companies that are contracted to perform county work and reforming the board of elections. But his switching parties have led some to accuse him of being a political opportunist—an accusation he denies.

“We have a government that’s not about serving the people, it’s about serving the special interests,” he said. “I feel in a way compelled to fight for the residents and give their government back to them. I see a property tax ass system that’s not only unfair, its rigged.

“It has shifted the tax burden from the high-end homes to the middle- and low-income homes,” he continued. “The people that can least afford to pay high property taxes are subsidizing the rich, in effect.”

And since he’s largely self-financing his campaign, he believes that he is the best candidate to make that systemic change.

“I am the only candidate that is not beholden to either party,” he said.

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