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, the first woman to be nominated for the position by a major party.
At a news conference packed with hundreds of supporters at the Long Island Marriott in Uniondale, county Democratic Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs lauded Curran 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, the Long Beach 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.
“I think it’s a sad day for Nassau County and the Democratic Party to select candidates who are not qualified,” Maragos said. “Myself and my staff are more energized than ever — they see the injustice that is being attempted by the Democratic leadership. We will have a slate for county comptroller, for clerk, and we will also have a candidate for Oyster Bay.”
Curran, 48, 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 “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.”
Schnirman, 39, announced in September that he was mulling a run for county executive, but on Sunday he said that he decided to “join the fight for reform” as a candidate for comptroller.
“After spending the past several months exploring how best we can move Nassau forward by listening to residents from all across the county, it is clear that we are demanding reform,” Schnirman said, pledging to “open up” the county’s books, ask tough questions and battle corruption. “I’ve been listening and thinking about how best I can help. I’ve faced down corruption, fiscal crisis and natural disaster, and I look forward to being the independent reformer that our county deserves.”
Curran, a former Herald editor, Daily News reporter and Baldwin school board trustee, 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.
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. “Too many of our residents feel that they are powerless to change the status quo. But I’m here to tell you that stops today.”
Curran 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.”
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 2011, 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 Hurricane Sandy.
“Jack turned Long Beach around and restored the finances, while rebuilding and bringing the city back from Superstorm Sandy,” Curran said. “It was not an easy task. Jack will make a terrific county comptroller.”