Tom Muscarella, the Garden City Republican tapped by the County GOP to run for convicted Hempstead Councilman Ed Ambrosino's seat, is likely to be seated before he begins campaigning. At next week's Hempstead Town Board meeting, the Republican-controlled board is set to appoint Muscarella to the seat left empty after Ambrosino resigned, over the objections of Democratic Town Supervisor Laura Gillen.
Democratic Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby may be the only Town Board member joining Gillen in voting against Muscarella's appointment. She has long spoken out against the practice, which is how the majority of the board obtained their seats, and Gillen said grants the advantage of incumbency to preferred candidates. Goosby and Gillen are the only two members of the Town Board to have been originally elected to their positions.
Gillen called the planned appointment a "new low," alleging that it would mark the first time an already declared candidate would be appointed to the position for which they were running.
"This proposal is unquestionably a move to unfairly influence the outcome of the November election," Gillen said. "It grants unearned incumbency to the Republican machine's declared candidate and disenfranchises every resident in the district from choosing their own representative."
A statement provided to the Herald on behalf of the Town Board said that state law allows the board to make an appointment so that the seat does not remain vacant until the election.
"We are following the lead of municipalities across New York State, including our neighbor, the Town of North Hempstead," the statement read. "The cost of a special election would be prohibitive, especially in this case, where there will be an election for the seat in November."
Members of the Town Board did not respond to specific questions about the fact that Muscarella was a declared candidate, who would then be running as an incumbent in November.
Muscarella has brothers serving in the Oyster Bay town government and Nassau County Legislature. According to Newsday, he is vice president of the Plainview-based Archer Associates Insurance. Former mayor of Floral Park Thomas Tweedy, a Republican, is running as the Democratic candidate for the council seat.
On his campaign's Facebook page yesterday, Tweedy wrote, "Every single GOP councilman on the Hempstead Town Board was placed there before being elected. This is exactly why I am running for Hempstead Town Council. We need to restore integrity to our local government."
On Tuesday, the Town Board will meet at 10:30 a.m. to vote on Muscarella's appointment, as well as a revamped ethics code. Gillen said that the two items being considered on the same agenda was ironic.
"The hypocrisy of this Republican majority seeking to tilt the election to one of their favored sons on the very same day we are set to implement long-awaited ethics reforms will not be lost on residents," she said.