Eleventh District Legislator Wayne Wink (D-Roslyn) announced Thursday that he will challenge George Maragos for the county comptroller election in November, entering a Democratic primary field that includes former Comptroller and Great Neck Estates Mayor Howard Weitzman.
The third-term legislator issued a statement promising an “energetic, issues-based campaign” and featuring a dig at Maragos for his unsuccessful run for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination last year.
“Nassau’s financial house is broken, and I am running to fix it,” Wink said in the statement. “Our comptroller is supposed to be the chief fiscal watchdog for the county, but rather than focusing on our budget crisis the current incumbent has spent his entire time in office campaigning for any office but the one he currently holds.”
“We need thorough oversight, fiscal transparency and timely payments to those who provide goods and services to the county – not political opportunism,” Wink added.
“I welcome Mr. Wink’s announcement that he is running for county comptroller. I look forward to debating my record of accomplishments in helping lead the county through recession without any property tax increases, 50 percent reduced borrowing and an A+ Bond rating,” said Maragos in a statement.
“Regardless of who enters the race, I am proud to run on the record of my tenure as Nassau County’s Comptroller. I transformed the office into a national model for transparency and accountability with my groundbreaking audits, award winning reports and universally recognized independence representing the hard pressed taxpayers of Nassau,” said Weitzman in a statement. ” As the only CPA ever elected Nassau County Comptroller I have the extensive financial management training and experience in both the private and public sectors to help get us out of the financial mess we find ourselves in today.”
The announcement comes less than two weeks after the Nassau County Legislature passed a Republican-designed redistricting map that would place Wink in the same district as fellow Democrat Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (Glen Cove) for the upcoming November elections.
In an interview with Blank Slate Media, Wink said that the redistricting process – and the resulting prospect of a primary fight – were not the driving factor behind his decision to run for comptroller, but did play a role in the decision.
“The redistricting process may have had something to do with it to the extent that it was incredibly partisan and a really crass process,” Wink said. “I’ve come to the conclusion that to really bring about reform to this county government, I need to do it from a different position – from a countywide position.”
Wink touted his chairmanships on the Legislature’s finance and government services committees as experience for the comptroller post.
He also reserved harsh criticism for the county’s handling of property assessments and tax certiorari cases, which have grown to hundreds of millions in liabilities through both Mangano’s and previous administrations.
“They’ve put band aids on the situation that do not address the fundamental problems,” Wink said.
He also castigated the Mangano administration for its efforts to end the county guarantee, which would have taken the responsibility for paying school and special district tax refunds away from the county. The law repealing the guarantee was recently struck down in appellate court following a lawsuit by the districts. Mangano plans to appeal.
“That would have shifted the burden to schools and districts that properly belongs to the county,” Wink said.
The county has given up on accurate assessments, Wink said, citing a figure that more than 80 percent of tax challenges are reduced without a court case.
For Mangano’s part, in his State of the County address on Wednesday he described the practice of settling residential tax disputes as a key part of his program to fix the county’s finances by avoiding the volume of tax certiorari cases that led to hundreds of millions in liabilities for Nassau.
Mangano also accused Democrats of playing “petty politics” by voting against the authorization of county bonds to pay down the backlog of tax refunds.
Wink said the administration had not been transparent with how they would use the bonds.
But before Wink challenges Mangano he’ll have to contend with Weitzman, who is also running in the Democratic primary.
“Truth be told I think Howard is a respected public servant,” Wink said. “But I think his day is past and it’s time to bring in a new perspective. The issues of the county are more dire than ever.”