Laura Curran, who lacerated her Republican opponent as the product of a corrupt political machine, was victorious on Tuesday in the race for Nassau County executive, becoming the first woman to win the post in its 80-year history.
“Tonight, Nassau County voted to end the culture of corruption and give our county the fresh start it so desperately deserves,” Curran, a Democratic county legislator, said before a jubilant crowd that chanted “Laura!” as she took the stage. “I am humbled and grateful for the great responsibility you have entrusted in me to be your county executive.”
Curran received 147,102 votes to Jack Martins’ 139,204, a margin of 51 to 48 percent. After refusing to concede on Tuesday night, Martins accepted the defeat Wednesday morning.
“I have called to congratulate my opponent, Laura Curran, on her win,” he said in a statement. “I encourage everyone to work together to put partisanship aside to restore trust in government and get Nassau back on the right track.”
The campaign to succeed Edward Mangano, a Republican who faces a trial on corruption charges, was long and increasingly bitter.
Curran’s strategy was to attack Martins over his connection to disgraced state Sen. Dean Skelos and said Republicans who controlled the county were unwilling to deal with corruption. Martins had recently focused on the MS-13 gang, claiming that Curran was weak on crime and sending out a controversial mailer that said Curran was the gang’s choice.
The Democrats also regained control of the county comptroller post, as Jack Schnirman defeated Steve Labriola by just over 4,000 votes, or 50 to 48 percent. Incumbent George Maragos is currently a Democrat but ran for comptroller as Republican both times.
“I look forward to working with Laura as a partner to clean up the corruption in Nassau County and look forward to being the independent, reform-oriented comptroller,” Schnirman said.
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Curran pledged to battle corruption by appointing an independent inspector general and promised not to appoint anyone who donated or raised money for her campaign. She also wanted to limit political donations from contractors and make contract bids more transparent. Some of these plans, such as the independent inspector general, might get hung up in the Republican-controlled legislature.
“I’m very much looking forward to sitting down with all our legislators, Republican and Democrat, and find out where we have common ground and build from there,” she said.
Curran’s other major issue was fixing the county’s finances. To that end, she said she would fix the assessment process that is currently draining money from Nassau’s coffers. She said assessments should be done at least every three years but would try to have them done annually.
The Democrats who attended the election night party at The Inn at New Hyde Park greeted each victory with raucous applause as a DJ provided thudding background music.
“Nassau County is known for tight races, and I have been on the south end of a few of them,” said the county’s Democratic chairman, Jay Jacobs. “But tonight, ladies and gentlemen, we are on the north end.”
In Westbury, the crowd of Republicans at Mirelle’s Restaurant was buzzing early as Jack Martins jumped out to a quick lead. But as the lead diminished, so did optimism among the GOP faithful. Martins did not arrive until about 11:30 p.m., and briefly greeted voters before leaving the room. As midnight passed and no one took the podium to address the crowd, attendees started trickling out. By the time Nassau County Republican Chairman Joseph Mondello took the stage, the room was half empty.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have good ones and we have bad ones,” Mondello said. “This was a bad one.”
Mondello praised the work of volunteers and said Republican losses were due to factors beyond the control of the campaigns.
“You did everything humanly possible, but sometimes … there are certain circumstances and issues that are very hard to get over,” he said. “Without me getting into any further detail I know you all know exactly what I mean.”
Labriola, who spent most of the night at Mirelle’s, did not speak to the crowd and left before his race was called. Martins did not address the remaining crowd but did speak briefly to reporters.
“I’m reviewing [the votes], I’m going to review them,” Martins said in the early hours of Wednesday morning. “What was a 53-47 advantage turned around and I’d like to go back and take a look at where those numbers came in.”
Then he, too, departed into the cold and rainy night.