Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman defeated Freeport attorney and business owner Ama Yawson in the Democratic primary for county comptroller on Tuesday, paving the way for a run in the November election against Republican Steve Labriola.
With all precincts counted, Schnirman, 39, who was appointed city manager in 2012 and had the backing of the Nassau County Democratic Party, clinched 15,751 votes, while Yawson, who ran on a ticket with County Comptroller George Maragos in his bid for county executive, received 11,945, according to the Nassau County Board of Elections on Wednesday.
“Everybody is united around defeating the culture of corruption and the corrupt Republican political machine, and bringing real reform to Nassau County to save taxpayer dollars,” Schnirman said after the results were announced at a gathering at Nawlins Seafood Company in Freeport.
Nassau County Legislator Laura Curran soundly defeated Maragos in the Democratic primary for county executive, 23,093 to 6,265. Name recognition clearly did not benefit the eight-year comptroller, a former Republican.
Both Curran and Schnirman ran on stridently anti-corruption platforms, pledging to root out graft, as outgoing County Executive Ed Mangano fights federal charges of kickbacks and extortion. Maragos, meanwhile, ran alongside a team of “independent Democrats” — Yawson and Carl DeHaney, who ran for county clerk, but was defeated by Nassau Democratic Committee-backed candidate Dean Bennett.
“Tonight sends a clear message that Nassau County is ready to chart a new path — that we are ready to put an end to the culture of corruption and make our government live up to the greatness of the people of this county,” Curran said. “We can do away with the entrenched status quo.”
Maragos made a brief statement on Twitter late Tuesday night, conceding to Curran and offering her his support in the general election, in which she will face Republican Jack Martins, a former state senator and mayor of Mineola.
According to the Board of Elections, 30,195 Democratic ballots were cast in the primary, out of 396,254 registered party members, as of April. That’s a turnout of roughly 8 percent, slightly below the 2013 Democratic primary for county executive between Tom Suozzi and Adam Haber.
Yawson declined to comment on Wednesday, saying she was still reviewing the results.
"We won 43 percent of the votes despite the fact that we had 2 percent of the funds that our opponent had," she said Thursday on Facebook thanking her supporters. "Do you understand what an achievement this is?"
"We have proved that a multi-racial, grass roots movement centered on integrity, solid policy and genuine democracy is capable of toppling the establishment," she added.
Schnirman, who has a degree in international relations from Tufts University and a master’s in public policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, was appointed Long Beach’s city manager in December 2012, after the Democrats wrested control of City Hall from a Republican-led coalition. In his first year alone, he grappled with a staggering fiscal crisis that left the city on the brink of bankruptcy, and the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
“I think residents of Long Beach spoke clearly that they appreciate the hard work that the city administration and City Council have done over the past six years in rebuilding the city stronger, smarter and safer, and that work has to continue,” he said.
Schnirman has had his share of critics in Long Beach, mainly over iStar’s proposed development for the Superblock, a number of tax increases and borrowing that some have described as excessive.
“I welcome Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman to the race, and look forward to discussing my experience and integrity with the thousands of residents who rejected Mr. Schnirman on Primary Day,” Labriola, a former state assemblyman and a chief compliance officer in Nassau’s Office of Management and Budget, said in a statement.
“The historically low turnout yesterday in the Democratic primary proves that campaigns built on lies will not restore the taxpayers trust. I look forward to discussing why I am the candidate with the experience, integrity and the comprehensive plan to be the taxpayer watchdog.”
Schnirman and his supporters have called Labriola a political patronage employee working for Mangano. “Corruption, mismanagement and accounting gimmicks from politicians like Steve Labriola have led to higher taxes for Nassau County residents,” Schnirman said in a statement. “It’s time for a change in our county government leadership.”
City Councilman Scott Mandel, one of two Democratic incumbents seeking election this year, said Schnirman’s win illustrated his leadership after Sandy and his role in turning around the city’s finances after it inherited a $14.7 million deficit from the previous Republican administration.
“I’m just excited that the rest of the county is learning what we already know in Long Beach — the amazing asset that Jack Schnirman is,” Mandel said. “I think it’s a clear signal that we’ve worked hard in Long Beach as a team, and made some amazing accomplishments, and those accomplishments are being recognized.”
Throughout the race, Curran and Schnirman hammered the message that the county deserved “a fresh start,” and vowed to end a perceived culture of cronyism and corruption in Mineola. After declaring victory, Curran took a pre-emptive shot at Martins, calling him a “typical career politician.”
“Nassau County taxpayers don’t want any more of the machine’s tried-and-failed status quo,” she said.
Martins released a statement welcoming Curran to the general election.
“This election is about the future of Nassau County,” he said, “and electing someone with the experience and qualifications to deal with the challenges that face us. Laura Curran wants to make this about the past, but we must look ahead … It seems the strategy of ‘looking back’ hasn’t excited Democratic voters, which doesn’t bode well for Democrats in the general election."