In a contentious debate, Republican Louis Imbroto defended himself on Tuesday against attacks from Democrat Arnold Drucker, his opponent in the race in the Nassau County Legislature’s 16th District.
Imbroto offered himself as a change of pace for a predominantly Democratic district in the contest to fill the seat of Judy Jacobs, a longtime legislator who died in September. The district takes in parts of Roslyn Heights, Old Westbury and the Town of Oyster Bay.
In the debate hosted by the League of Women Voters at the Plainview-Old Bethpage Public Library, Imbroto, a lawyer from Plainview, described himself as an independent-minded Republican who would use his status as a member of the majority party to bring funding and resources to his constituents.
Since the county Legislature is currently divided between 12 Republicans and 6 Democrats, this race will determine whether Republicans can achieve a supermajority, which would allow them to pass large spending measures without a Democratic vote.
“Being the 13th vote would give me leverage to do what’s right,” Imbroto said. “My opponent will be outvoted on every issue.”
Drucker, also a lawyer from Plainview, attacked Imbroto as a “young guy with ambitions for higher office.” Drucker asked, “Do you really think he’ll buck the party?”
The night’s most pointed exchange came when an audience member accused Imbroto of witnessing the alleged corrupt activities of Supervisor John Venditto in the Town of Oyster Bay, where Imbroto served as assistant town attorney from 2014 to 2016.
Imbroto said that his tenure did not overlap with the period in which the corruption was supposed to have taken place.
“The things alleged to have occurred happened before I was there and they came to light afterward,” he said. He added that his job was to prosecute zoning violations, which had nothing to do with the third party contracts at the heart of the allegations.
Drucker did not echo the accusation, saying he would leave it up to voters to decide.
Imbroto criticized Drucker’s unwillingness to reject false speculation about Imbroto’s conduct as assistant town attorney.
Drucker then characterized Imbroto’s work for Oyster Bay and his current job as associate general counsel at the Nassau Health Care Corporation as “patronage positions” that “would leave him beholden to corrupt Republican leadership.”
Imbroto responded by raising Drucker’s background as a member of the Board of Trustees at Nassau County Community College, a position appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which Imbroto said reflected Drucker’s own indebtedness to his party establishment.
The issue of corruption dominated much of the conversation, often at Drucker’s behest. He proposed instituting an independent inspector general who would oversee county operations, while Imbroto suggested bolstering the existing commissioner of investigations.
Imbroto later said, “There are other important issues besides corruption,” including his two top priorities: property taxes and quality of life.
“I want to make sure we don’t drive people out with high taxes and they have a reason to stay for the quality of life,” he said.
Drucker criticized Imbroto’s position on taxes as typical of the Republican leadership’s “bait and switch” to raise revenue through fee hikes rather than taxes, though Imbroto said he opposes fee hikes.
Drucker agreed on the matter of quality of life, saying it was the reason he decided to raise his children in Plainview.
Another point of agreement between the candidates was term limits, which both strongly supported. An audience member followed up by asking whether term limits would have prevented a legislator like Judy Jacobs from achieving all that she did.
Judy is the exception that proves the rule, Imbroto said.
Drucker concurred, saying, “Judy Jacobs was a legend.”