To say that Nassau County experienced a seismic shift in its often conservative political landscape on Nov. 7 would be an understatement. Not only did voters elect Long Island’s first female county executive — Democrat Laura Curran — but they also ousted Town of Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino, a Republican, and installed Democrat Laura Gillen, who had never held political office. Gillen became the first Democrat to be elected town supervisor in more than 100 years — 100 years!
In short, voters said that enough was enough when it came to political gamesmanship and corruption. Cut the crap, they said.
We congratulate Curran and Gillen, who ran two clean campaigns with largely positive messages. Yes, each demonstrated that she could throw a political jab when necessary, but neither crossed the line into unacceptable campaign behavior. Each offered concrete suggestions for cleaning up the corruption that has been rampant at the county and town levels for years, if not decades. Each has called for an independent inspector general — Curran at the county level and Gillen at the town level — to oversee contracts with outside vendors to ensure that they are fairly and honestly awarded. Now the two must follow through to make sure the inspectors are hired.
Gillen will no doubt find willing Republican allies in Town Councilman Bruce Blakeman and Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney, both of whom fought bravely for a town inspector general this year, expending nearly all of their political capital to see that one is eventually installed. Blakeman went so far as to buck his own party and endorse Gillen, a virtually unheard-of move by a Republican. Indeed, he and King Sweeney came out of this election for the better, and rightly so. We all owe them a thank-you. Their vigorous fight for what is right should help restore confidence in our elected officials.
Curran might face headwinds in the County Legislature, which Republicans still control. We hope and trust that GOP legislators received the message loud and clear that people want an inspector general to help clean up the mess. Legislators shouldn’t stand in Curran’s way. Otherwise, in the next election two years from now, they might find themselves out of their jobs.
Democrats also scored a major victory in electing Jack Schnirman, the Long Beach city manager, as county comptroller. Schnirman swept past Republican Steve Labriola because voters wanted change — and recognized that the county is in far worse fiscal health than Labriola admitted. Throughout the election, he touted the county’s finances, ignoring the Mangano administration’s predilection for borrowing to balance Nassau’s books, a dubious fiscal practice at best.
Labriola said that he and Jack Martins, the Republican candidate for county executive, would end the Nassau Interim Finance Authority’s oversight of the county in short order. We can be thankful that voters were smart enough to understand that this was just political double-speak. After eight years of the Mangano administration’s loose financial practices, NIFA is still very much needed.
It will now be up to Schnirman to provide the independent budget oversight that the county so desperately needs.
In Long Beach, Democrats swept the City Council race. That wasn’t entirely unexpected, given that that the City by the Sea has long leaned to the left. Still, the victory confirmed a trend: Democrats were determined to make their voices heard in the wake of Donald Trump’s unexpected win last year.
On the North Shore, we saw Republicans maintain control in the City of Glen Cove and the Town of Oyster Bay. Still, Democrats made a better showing in both municipalities than expected.
Finally, we must note one sour moment in this election cycle. The state Republican Party and Martins attempted a dirty trick in the final week of the campaign. The state GOP sent out a mailer to homes across Nassau linking Curran to the notorious street gang MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, and Martins embraced it. The Herald immediately condemned the mailer, and was the first to do so. The New York Times followed later.
It is our belief that we must speak out every time we see such reprehensible politics, which divide people along ethnic and racial fault lines and play to their fears. Voters were wise enough to see through the politics of hate and division. We hope and trust that trend will continue in 2018.