Voters will decide dozens of pivotal local races across Long Island in the upcoming elections, including two top-level posts with no incumbent and three other executive positions with freshmen seeking re-election.
Among the highest profile races to watch is Democratic Nassau County Executive Laura Curran seeking a second term against her Republican challenger, Hempstead Town Councilman Bruce Blakeman. On the other side of the county line, topping the ticket will be first-term Democratic Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini running for re-election against his GOP rival Raymond Tierney, a former federal and county prosecutor. And Nassau has two countywide positions — district attorney and comptroller — in which the current office holder is not running to keep the job.
Also up this election cycle are all county legislative seats — 18 in Suffolk, 19 in Nassau — and a plethora of town-level contests. Local judicial races will also be on ballots, but local Democratic and Republican leaders largely cross-endorse each other’s candidates in these races well before the elections, leaving voters no real choice other than a longshot write-in candidate.
CURRAN V. BLAKEMAN
In Nassau’s top race, Curran, the first woman ever elected as county executive on LI, is running against Blakeman, who previously served as presiding officer of the county legislature.
As usual in Nassau, chief among the campaign issues is the property tax assessment system that has plagued county finances for decades, contributing to billions in debt and the New York State-appointed Nassau Interim Finance Authority’s oversight since 2000.
“Curran’s reassessment will hike taxes for years,” Blakeman said in a recent campaign ad criticizing Curran’s attempt to fix the problem and give homeowners $375 in stimulus checks from Covid-19 aid the county received. “Now she’s offering peanuts.”
Curran for Nassau campaign manager Shelby Wiltz blasted Blakeman’s criticism of the checks, which the GOP-controlled county legislature approved this month.
“Bruce Blakeman is out of touch with the thousands of working families still reeling from the economic toll of the pandemic,” said Wiltz. “Thanks to Laura Curran’s dogged discipline, the county is in strong fiscal shape, despite unprecedented challenges. With the additional aid of American Rescue Plan funds, the County Executive is putting money where it will do the most good: directly into the pockets of Nassau’s hardworking families.”
SINI V. TIERNEY
Sini, the county’s first-term district attorney who was elected with a mandate to reform the office as his predecessor Tom Spota was convicted of corruption, is seeking re-election against Tierney, a former prosecutor who questions if Sini is up for the job.
Sini is a former commissioner of the Suffolk County Police Department and ex-federal prosecutor who has overseen high-profile cases against the notoriously violent MS-13 street gang and launched the office’s first-ever conviction integrity bureau. But Tierney says Sini’s office blew a chance to arrest the alleged drug dealers accused of selling the fentanyl-laced cocaine that authorities blamed for causing a half dozen fatal overdoses on the North Fork this summer — arrests, Tierney argues, could have been made before the fatalities.
“Tim Sini had at least four opportunities in the past 10 months to put [the suspected dealers] behind bars on felony charges and he failed to act,” Tierney told reporters during a news conference in September, arguing that authorities had probable cause to arrest the suspects before the overdoses.
Sini countered that Tierney is distorting the facts of the cases and blamed judges for rebuffing prosecutors’ requests to impose high bail that would have kept the suspects off of the streets prior to the overdoses. Tierney had also taken issue with New York State’s bail reform, which has resulted in some cases of recidivists committing additional offenses at a time when they would have previously been jailed pending trial on their initial charges.
“Our mission is to make our office a national model, to seek justice in every single case and to make Suffolk County as safe as possible,” Sini says. “We’ve accomplished all of this, despite the fact that we came into an office that was a mess, we saw the biggest change to criminal procedure law in a generation, and we had the pandemic. But despite these challenges, we’re getting the people’s work done.”
KAMINSKY V. DONNELLY
There is no incumbent in the race for Nassau’s top prosecutor since former Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas was appointed to the New York State Court of Appeals in June. State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), a former federal prosecutor, is running on the Democratic ticket, and Anne Donnelly, a prosecutor with the Nassau DA’s office, is on the Republican line.
Kaminsky prosecuted cases in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York for several years, then won a special election in April 2016 for New York’s 9th senate district seat after his predecessor, Dean Skelos, was charged and later convicted of public corruption. Kaminsky says he is the candidate to “keep Long Island’s communities safe and free from corruption.”
Donnelly, who has worked in the Nassau DA office for 32 years, is presenting herself as the candidate who will be “tough on crime.” She has made attacks against Kaminsky’s support of the state’s recent bail reform laws a focus of her campaign.
“My opponent is making us less safe,” Donnelly said on a recent talk show appearance. “I’m going to … prosecute those cases and not just let everybody walk.”
Kaminsky counters that he has criticisms of the new bail reform and discovery policies and has pushed back against his own party about them. He also claims Donnelly has not done enough to prosecute corruption as DA in Nassau while she was deputy chief of the organized crime and rackets bureau.
“There is not a single elected official that she could point to that she prosecuted,” Kaminsky said during a recent debate. “I don’t think there’s anyone in Nassau that would say that there wasn’t corruption to go after. You have to have someone who knows how to make the cases.”
Vying to replace Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman, who is not seeking re-election, are Democrat Ryan Cronin, and Republican Elaine Phillips.
Cronin is a longtime business attorney in the private sector who has represented clients in different types of financial cases, including several of Bernie Madoff’s victims. As comptroller, he says he wants to root out financial corruption within municipalities and special districts through the county.
“This is the exact job that you want a high-level business lawyer in,” he said at a recent campaign engagement. “I’ve taken on the biggest corporations and the biggest law firms in the country, and I won.”
Phillips has a background in politics and finance. She is a former state senator and former mayor of the Village of Flower Hill. She’s also served as a financial advisor for state Volunteer Fire Departments’ Pension Plans and worked in finance for Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Securities. She is critical of Nassau’s Office of Consumer Affairs and vows to audit it as comptroller.
“The hardworking business owners and contractors who are struggling to recover from the pandemic deserve better,” she said “As comptroller, I will audit this department immediately and ensure we get Nassau County back on the right track.”
TOULON V. AMATO
The district attorney’s race isn’t the only countywide law enforcement post with implications for Suffolk that will appear on ballots this fall: So is the Suffolk Sheriff’s seat, which is headquartered in Riverhead.
First-term Sheriff Toulon, the first Black man to lead the office, is a seasoned corrections professional who oversees the care and custody of hundreds of people incarcerated at county jails in Riverhead and Yaphank. His deputies and officers also carry out evictions, enforce court orders, and patrol courthouse grounds, among other duties. But managing the jail amid the Covid-19 pandemic has proven the biggest challenge of his term.
His opponent, Amato, could not be reached for comment and is reportedly not actively campaigning for office.
Election Day falls on Nov. 2 this year and the early voting period runs from Oct. 23-31.
To find your polling place, visit nassaucountyny.gov or suffolkcountyny.gov