Democratic primary race heats up

Maher, Ovadia face off for party nomination


The two candidates vying to become the Democratic challenger against longtime Republican county Legislator Norma Gonsalves plan to continue campaigning up until Tuesday’s primary.

But relations between the party and one of its candidates may be turning sour: Candidate Pat Maher is criticizing the Nassau County Democratic Committee, saying it unfairly used campaign funds to send out literature touting her opponent, Stephanie Ovadia, as the “real” Democrat.

The county Democratic party endorsed Ovadia, an East Meadow resident and attorney, as its 13th Legislative District challenger in June. And in an August letter to registered party voters, party Chairman Jay Jacobs promoted Ovadia’s candidacy, reminded readers of the endorsement and accused Maher, without naming her, of “claiming to be the endorsed candidate.”

In an interview with the Herald on Tuesday, Jacobs said he has reason to believe Maher had misled constituents into thinking that she was the party’s endorsed candidate.

Maher, a party committeewoman who has unsuccessfully run for elected office twice — for Hempstead town board in 2001, and for the same county Legislative seat in 2005 — has denied Jacobs’s claim. “I have never purported myself to be the endorsed candidate of the committee,” Maher said. “I just have qualifications that exceed Ovadia’s, politically and in government.”

Maher also ran unsuccessfully as a Republican in a primary against Gonsalves in 1999. Shortly afterward, she registered as a Democrat, and has served as a committeewoman ever since.

Jacobs, whose party has supported candidates who have switched parties, was critical of Maher’s switch, and accused her of switching parties for her own political advancement. He said the party typically steers away from supporting candidates before a primary, but the circumstances made him feel compelled to do so in this race.

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