County Comptroller candidates George Maragos and Howard Weitzman participated in a debate on Oct. 10, and neither candidate pulled any punches in their criticisms.
Maragos, the Republican incumbent, and Weitzman, the Democratic challenger, were invited to the debate by the League of Women Voters of Nassau County, which sponsored it. The debate was held at the Madison Theater at Molloy College in Rockville Centre, and is the only scheduled debate between the two candidates. It was moderated by Lisa Scott, president of the League’s Suffolk County chapter.
The candidates were each allowed a three-minute opening statement and a two-minute closing statement. The 18 questions they answered were submitted by the audience. The two candidates came out swinging, taking blows at each other in their opening statements.
“Tonight, you will hear Mr. Maragos speak as if he lives in an alternative universe,” Weitzman said. “No one validates his wild claims except his own press office. He’s attempting to run away from his record, but every independent outside source confirms that the county’s financial condition has deteriorated under his watch. And he’s issuing misleading financial reports to hide the truth.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, what you’ve heard is untrue, a complete fallacy and a delusion,” Maragos countered. “The press said four years ago that the county’s financials were on the brink of collapse. And today, we’ve had four years of no property tax increases. That sends a strong message to the business community and certainly the homeowners.”
The two candidates clashed over every issue, with one always countering the statements of the other.
When asked about the county’s debt, Maragos said that the current debt was not as bad as it seemed.
“$3.5 billion is a manageable debt when our budget is $2.8 billion,” he said. He added that the county has increased its cash balance and has been steadily paying off its debt.
Weitzman scoffed at Maragos for this, though, saying that Nassau’s debt was not manageable and that it has the highest debt of any county in the state.
“It’s very easy to increase your cash balance when you put your bills in the drawer and don’t pay them,” Weitzman said.