Part political pep rally and part government forum, the Five Towns Democratic Club’s Meet the Candidates night at Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library on Sept. 17 served as the kickoff for an election campaign that will be shorter than usual because of early voting.
Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, County Legislator Carriè Solages, Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen, Town Clerk Sylvia Cabana, incumbents all, and candidates Shari James-Pierre and Chandra Ortiz, for town council and Receiver of Taxes, respectively, along with county legislator candidates Laura Burns (L.D. 6), Jeff Saxon (L.D. 4) and Debra Siegel (L.D. 7) drove home themes of a “culture of corruption” that must be rooted out, fighting for the taxpayers and reminding attendees that there is early voting beginning on Oct. 26.
Gillen, whose surprise victory nearly two years ago over sitting Supervisor Anthony Santino was propelled by a Democratic electorate angered by the election of Donald Trump as president, pushed the corruption argument noting that 63 percent of town employees had contributed to Don Clavin’s campaign, her opponent this year. “I don’t take contributions from the employees and neither does Sylvia,” Gillen said, referring to Cabana.
Saying that she is still aiming to modernize the town, Gillen said there are “72 people still typing” as they conduct their town responsibilities and at least one town contract has not been put out to bid since 1977. She noted the continuing Republican scandals, including the indictment of Town Deputy Building Commissioner John Novello, a Hewlett Harbor resident, who allegedly stole nearly $60,000 from the Cedarhurst GOP Committee.
Cabana continued the theme of moving the town forward noting the use of credit card machines, implementation of online payment of parking permits and working on going “stickerless” by scanning license plates. “It’s about progress, we want to move forward,” she said.
Ortiz highlighted her experience as a corporate attorney and knowledge gained through working in the county’s certiorari office. James-Pierre also pointed to her background that includes jobs on Wall Street and her civic involvement as reasons to support her.
Singas made an unexpected appearance as she was not mentioned as an attendee on the event flyer. Her argument for re-election began with being qualified for the job, a point of contention four years ago when she ran against former Town Supervisor Kate Murray, a lawyer with no litigation experience. Murray is now running for town clerk.
Singas also spotlighted her office’s success against MS-13 saying under her watch a major leader of the gang and 16 underlings were taken down. She noted crime statistics: Over the past five years crime declined 25 percent in Nassau and violent crime dropped 22 percent. “We are engaged in long, complex investigations,” Singas said of her office’s work to ensure criminals are prosecuted.
Solages, whose district includes Elmont, Inwood, North Woodmere, South Floral Park and Valley Stream, noted that voters “have the power” to put Democrats in office. Burns, a founding member of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Siegel and Saxon stumped for their individual candidacies.
Five Towns Democratic Club leader Michael Turi reminded the audience that included incumbent Nassau County 2nd District Court Judge Gary Carlton and State Supreme Court hopeful David Gugerty, about early voting, being involved and actually voting. “Get your friends out there,” Turi said, “it’s a participatory sport.”