Nassau County elected its first female county executive on Tuesday, as Laura Curran, a legislator from Baldwin who campaigned almost exclusively on rooting out public corruption, defeated Jack Martins, a Republican former state senator.
According to political analyst Larry Levy, of Hofstra University, the win could make for some genuine bipartisan work at the county legislative level.
“People aren’t happy with the Republican brand in general, and are unhappy about how little is getting done, whether it’s in Washington, D.C., or elsewhere,” he said on Wednesday, adding that Republican legislators are likely aware of a changing tide and a new dynamic may be on its way between lawmakers.
Curran and Martins battled it out for months, both claiming to have the integrity and leadership to move Nassau County out from under the cloud of numerous public corruption scandals — including the federal indictment of outgoing County Executive Ed Mangano.
Curran pulled it out, however, defeating Martins by roughly 8,000 votes. Martins had still not issued a concession statement by press time on Wednesday.
“Tonight, Nassau voted to end the culture of corruption and to give our county the fresh start it desperately deserves," Curran said in her victory speech. "I am truly humbled and honored for the great responsibility the people of Nassau County have trusted me with. We made history tonight thanks to the tireless effort of so many who believe the same thing I do: that there is a better future in store for Nassau County and that we can create a government that is accountable to taxpayers - that's why we won this race.”
Both candidates generally refrained from hitting below the belt with their advertisements for much of the campaign, but with just weeks left, a decidedly negative tone was broadcast from both sides.
Curran, in several ads and news releases, attempted to tie Martins to disgraced former state senate majority leader Dean Skelos, who was convicted of corruption although the conviction was later overturned on a technicality, even implying that the FBI had Martins discussing untoward matters with Skelos on a wiretap.
Martins, however, then took the negative campaigning to a new level, with a widely criticized mailer that called Curran “MS-13’s choice for county executive.” In connecting his Democratic opponent to the violent El Salvadoran street gang and using racially charged imagery, Levy said that Martins may have hurt his campaign more than he helped it.
“There was backlash there that hurt Martins,” Levy said. “These kind of ads used to be used by Republicans to make voters feel that Democrats, if elected, would make Long Island look like the city … it would either look black and Latino, or look high-rise and urban, depending on the audience.”
“We hadn’t seen that in a whole because of growing diversity, and in fact, the enrollment edge of the Democrats made that a tough game to play because the potential for backlash was so big,” he added. “I was surprised that the Republicans decided to try that.”
In the legislature, Levy said, he predicts Democrats offering a package of proposals that “everybody can live with,” mostly involving finances, and that Republicans will be more likely to accept them after Curran’s win.
“They’re probably going to be much more malleable to working across the aisle and coming up with something that everybody can take credit for, even if everybody isn’t happy,” he said.