Town of Hempstead Councilman Bruce Blakeman said he feels “very confident” that he will be named Nassau’s next county executive despite thousands of outstanding absentee ballots during an interview with Blank Slate Media on Tuesday.
Blakeman, a Republican who declared victory over County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat, last week, has a lead of almost 12,000 votes over the incumbent, according to the latest results from the Nassau County Board of Elections.
While 22,518 absentee ballots and 1,200 affidavit ballots have yet to be counted, according to Nassau County Board of Elections’ Democratic Commissioner James Scheuerman, Blakeman said he feels comfortable declaring himself the winner.
“It would be highly improbable for Curran to be able to erase a 12,000-vote lead with only 22,000 absentee ballots remaining,” Blakeman said. “I’ve talked to people in both parties who are knowledgeable about these things and they said, ‘Bruce, you won.’”
Blakeman, who previously served as the liaison between Nassau County’s Republican Party and former President Donald Trump, has been critical of Curran’s handling of a countywide reassessment over the past few years. Blakeman called for an audit to be conducted to determine the effectiveness of the reassessment, with the potential for a new method to be implemented.
“I’m not wedded to one solution over the other until we roll up our sleeves and get under the hood and see where the problems are, but we know there are problems,” Blakeman said. “I would imagine that the audit is going to show the same things that we found throughout the campaign and that is that most people are very, very upset with valuations on their homes.”
While wanting to wait and see what results the audit of the reassessment will yield, Blakeman said, conducting the process once every decade could be a reasonable solution. He also reiterated that a reassessment was necessary throughout Nassau County, but said the way Curran went about it was not effective.
After running on a platform of wanting to cut taxes and make Nassau more affordable for its residents, Blakeman said he wants to increase the tax base by promoting businesses and creating more economic development across the county.
“I’m going to be a very pro-business, pro-economic development, pro-job county executive and work with every community to increase the business activity,” he said.
In terms of coronavirus vaccine mandates, Blakeman, who is fully inoculated, lauded the importance of having everyone being able to make the choice. The government, he said, should not be in a position to tell first responders and police officers that they will be terminated if they do not get vaccinated.
“That’s a lack of common sense,” Blakeman said. “I believe the requirement to get a vaccination is a decision that needs to be made between a patient and a physician and that people should make their own health care choices.”
Before the county’s 2022 budget was approved, Republican legislators proposed eliminating the county’s $350 tax map verification fee and the $55 public safety fee as well as reducing the $300 recording fee to $50. Blakeman said he wants to take a “middle ground” approach when it comes to those fees, saying he will work with the Legislature to see what makes the most sense for the county and its taxpayers.
“I’ll look at every fee and determine whether or not it’s a reasonable amount for the services provided or whether it’s a reasonable penalty for the infraction that the person is accused of,” he said.
In terms of redistricting, Blakeman declined to comment on what specifically should be done in Nassau, saying it is the Legislature’s responsibility. He did mention, though, that the new lines should reflect the geography and diversity of the entire county.
While Blakeman believes Nassau County shouldn’t be in a situation where an entity like the Nassau Interim Finance Authority is controlling its finances, he touted the work of Chairman Adam Barsky and said he looks forward to working with the organization. Barsky told Newsday he intends to work with Blakeman “with a lot of respect” and said Nassau is in a “relatively good shape based on one-time resources,” coming from the federal government due to the coronavirus pandemic and refinancing debt.
Blakeman said he is “fairly certain” that he will bring on new staff members in various county departments, but said he will not choose his staff based on party allegiance. He touted the need to have quality and competent employees work in the government to help effectively serve Nassau’s residents.
“I have to assemble a team that I’m comfortable with,” he said. “So I’m sure there’ll be quite a few changes, but that doesn’t mean that it will be a wholesale change across the board.”
Blakeman, who received 135,842 votes compared with Curran’s 124,008 as of Tuesday, thanked those who voted for him and said he looks forward to serving them and the residents who did not vote for him.
“I want to make you proud that I’m your county executive whether you voted for me or not,” he said. “I don’t look at people whether they’re Republican, Democrat, independent, or Conservative. I look at people as to whether or not they have problems that they need solved and my job is to try and help them solve those problems.”
Scheuerman said the Board of Elections will not begin counting the outstanding absentee ballots until next week.