In the wake of several corruption scandals involving Long Island elected officials, Nassau County Legislator Laura Curran (D-Baldwin) was endorsed by county Democrats on Monday to run for county executive, and she pledged to clean up government and restore the public’s trust.
At a news conference packed with hundreds of supporters at the Long Island Marriott in Uniondale, county Democratic Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs lauded the 49-year-old Curran — the first woman to be nominated for the position by a major party — as an independent-minded candidate who would root out graft and fix the county’s finances.
Jacobs also announced the party’s support for Jack Schnirman, 39, Long Beach’s city manager, as its pick for county comptroller, and described the two candidates as a “dynamic, talented and visionary team that knows exactly what’s going to be needed to bring this county back to where we should be.”
“We have never seen the level of corruption and mismanagement and disarray — certainly in Nassau County government — than we’ve seen today,” said Jacobs, referring to the arrests last year of Republican County Executive Ed Mangano and former Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto for an alleged bribery and kickback scheme, as well as the conviction of former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. “Over eight years that the Mangano administration has been in charge, we have seen taxes increase, debt explode and services diminish. This county is in dire straits and in need of a cleanup.”
County Comptroller George Maragos — who switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party when he announced his campaign last year — and State Assemblyman Charles Levine (D-Glen Cove) are also running for county executive, and will likely face Curran in a September primary.
Curran not only called out Mangano and Skelos, but also criticized Maragos’s record in office and called him a “yes man” in an administration mired in scandal.
“I think it’s a sad day for Nassau County and the Democratic Party to select candidates who are not qualified,” said Maragos, who defended his record. “I think the party pick is the insider’s pick that’s going to be beholden to party bosses and the special interests, and not to the residents and people of Nassau County. She’s totally unqualified, inexperienced and without any resume.”
Curran announced her campaign in November, and pledged in January to implement an ethics plan that includes imposing term limits on elected officials; rewriting the county’s whistleblower law to encourage employees to report unethical behavior; and ending what she called “the era of nepotism and political favoritism in county hiring.” She also said she wants to strengthen financial disclosure forms to include relatives who do business with the county, and hire an inspector general to investigate county contracting.
“I’m not a career politician,” Curran said, “but I’ll tell you what I am: I’m a taxpayer, a homeowner and a parent, and I’m sick and tired of watching politicians use public resources to enrich themselves, their friends and their family.”
A former Herald editor, Daily News reporter and Baldwin school board trustee, Curran was first elected to the Legislature’s 5th District seat in 2014. She has been active in a number of community efforts, from cleaning up local nature preserves to fighting for the restoration of several Nassau Inter-County Express bus lines and advocating for infrastructure improvements in Baldwin’s business districts.
No Democrats from the County Legislature or the State Assembly or Senate attended Monday’s news conference, and a reporter asked whether their absence reflected a division among elected officials. To the chagrin of her fellow Democrats, Curran broke ranks in the Legislature last year when she voted with the Republican majority to approve a $50 million capital borrowing measure.
“I share the same values that they do,” she said of her Democratic colleagues. “We need to work together to root out the corruption and to make government accountable to the people. I am very much looking forward to working with them.”
Jacobs said that “virtually every elected official” in Nassau County would support the party’s ticket. Both Curran and Schnirman said that if elected, they would work to turn around the county’s finances and end corruption.
“As I talk to people around the county, the theme that emerges is one of deep cynicism, and it’s no surprise,” Curran said.
She cited budget deficits, the county’s high taxes, the prosecution of elected officials and “nepotism, cronyism and favoritism” as problems the county must solve. “I know I speak for taxpayers when I say, we have had enough,” she said, pledging to “fix the mess in Mineola.”
Mangano was arrested in October along with his wife, Linda, and Venditto on a 13-count federal corruption, fraud and bribery indictment. All pleaded not guilty in federal District Court, but many observers say it is unlikely that the GOP will nominate Mangano for a third term. He did not return a call seeking comment.
“The actions and decisions of government officials need to be — and will be, in my administration — open and transparent,” Curran said. “In hiring and contracting and everything else that we do, our administration will focus on what you know, not who you know. I’m optimistic we can reform our government in an open and honest way.”