Erin King Sweeney drops out of council race

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Hempstead Town Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney announced Sept. 12 that she would not seek re-election to a second four-year term on the Town Board.

In a statement to the Herald, King Sweeney, a Republican from Wantagh, said she and her family were moving out of state. “My husband’s job has been relocated to North Carolina,” she said. “Therefore, based upon the needs of my family, I will not be a candidate for re-election.

“My personal journey over the last year has made me appreciate more than ever the importance of family,” she added. “I send my deepest gratitude and best wishes to the residents of the 5th Councilmatic District whom I have had the privilege to serve.”

King Sweeney, who was diagnosed with breast cancer this year, was appointed to represent the town’s 5th District — which covers Baldwin, a portion of Freeport, Merrick, Bellmore, Wantagh and Seaford — after Angie Cullin’s retirement in January 2015. She was elected to a full four-year term that November.

“She was a tireless defender of the Baldwin community,” said Erik Mahler, the Baldwin Chamber of Commerce president. “Unfortunately, the plans she had worked on had fallen through, but finally, the third time is the charm with the new overlay district. The Baldwin community finally had a number of elected officials fighting for Baldwin in a bipartisan matter, which Erin was one of. It is absolutely detrimental to the Baldwin community and Baldwin business community that Erin is departing.”

It is still unclear who will replace King Sweeney as the Republican candidate for the 5th District. In a statement to the Herald, Nassau County Republican Chairman Joseph Cairo said the party would find “a talented and qualified candidate” before Nov. 5, but he did not specify who that would be.

In July, Town Supervisor Laura Gillen announced the full slate of Democratic candidates for the upcoming election, including Lora Webster, a Democrat from Point Lookout, who is running for King Sweeney’s seat. Webster is a Paralympic volleyball player, a stay-at-home mother and a childhood cancer survivor.

Webster said she was shocked by King Sweeney’s announcement, saying that it was “totally out of the blue.” Webster’s friends and colleagues were also surprised, she said, many of whom reached out to her via text last Thursday afternoon.

Webster remained humbled by the news, however, and said she would continue to run a grass-roots campaign. “There are still 55 days to go,” she said. “I’m still going to run the race like I’m behind, and use that as motivation. As far as I’m concerned, I still have to prove myself to a ton of people.”

Earlier in her tenure, King Sweeney advocated for legislative reform efforts that were shut down by former Town Supervisor Anthony Santino, a Republican with whom she publicly feuded over transparency and ethics reforms. Following Gillen’s election to the seat, King Sweeney expressed interest in championing those reforms with the new supervisor.

Tensions arose last April, however, when Gillen filed suit against the board for a series of controversial job protections and interdepartmental transfers pushed by Santino at his last meeting. They ensured that many appointees kept their jobs, and some received significant raises.

“Voters know every Republican in Town Hall was initially selected, not elected, for their positions,” Gillen said in a statement. “Now is the time to end that practice and let the people choose their representatives, not party bosses. I respect Councilwoman King Sweeney’s decision and wish her the best of luck.”

Erik Hawkins contributed to this story.