Laura Curran and Jack Schnirman will lead the Democratic effort to wrest Nassau County’s highest elected offices from Republican control, Nassau Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs said Monday.
Curran, a second-term county legislator from Baldwin, is the party’s choice to run for county executive alongside Schnirman, the Long Beach city manager, who will run for comptroller.
Jacobs and his committee made the choice before any GOP candidates even entered the race to potentially replace incumbent County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican who faces federal political corruption charges.
“This county is in dire straits and in need of a cleanup,” Jacobs told a crowd of more than 200 people in Uniondale, saying Curran and Schnirman would “replace incompetence and corruption with competence and confidence.”
The move sets up a potential three-way Democratic primary for county executive between Curran, state Assemblyman Charles Lavine and current Comptroller George Maragos, a former Republican who changed parties in September.
Curran, a former New York Daily News reporter and Baldwin school board president, launched her campaign in November, less than a month after Mangano’s Oct. 20 arraignment and a week after the Nov. 8 election.
Schnirman, who has never held elected office, decided to run for comptroller after forming an exploratory committee for a possible county executive campaign in September.
A poll pitting the four Democrats against a hypothetical Republican candidate showed Curran outperforming the other three, Jacobs said.
She also raised $201,705 from outside donors in the first two months of her campaign, the most of the Democrats.
Speaking to supporters and party leaders Monday, Curran pledged to root out cronyism and corruption in county government by running an “open and transparent” administration.
She and Jacobs referenced what Curran called a “culture of corruption,” reflected in the indictments of Mangano, his wife, Linda, and recently resigned Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto, as well as former GOP state Sen. Dean Skelos’ 2015 conviction on corruption charges.
The Manganos and Venditto have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them, which stem from an alleged bribe and kickback scheme with restaurateur Harendra Singh.
“Too many of our residents feel that they are powerless to change the status quo, but I’m here to tell you that stops today,” Curran said.
Curran has said she would install an independent inspector general to oversee and investigate county government and push for term limits for legislators and top executive officials.
Absent from the crowd Monday were any other Democratic county legislators and state lawmakers.
Jacobs said he expects local officials to unite behind Curran and Schnirman fairly quickly. But Lavine and Maragos said they will continue their campaigns forward to the September primary.
Maragos has loaned his campaign nearly $1.5 million. Lavine has raised more than $207,000 as of Jan. 13, including a $57,000 transfer that nearly emptied his Assembly campaign account.
Maragos would have been hamstrung in a Democratic primary by his conservative past, Jacobs said, including his 2012 comment comparing same-sex marriage to people wanting to marry their pets.
Maragos has since apologized for the remarks and said he recognizes legal same-sex marriage as the national law.
Hank Sheinkopf, Maragos’ head political strategist, said Jacobs’ backing Curran was a decision of political insiders, and that Maragos funding his own campaign makes him more independent than the other candidates.
“The county boss and the insiders made their decision. The voters will have the last and final decision in September,” Sheinkopf said.
In a statement, Lavine, who heads the Assembly’s Committee on Ethics and Guidance, said Nassau residents “deserve a government led by someone who has the experience, strength, independence and integrity to always do what is right, whether politically popular or not.”
Curran has drawn fire from some Democrats for voting with Republicans in the Legislature in favor of some borrowing for capital projects, breaking with the seven-member Democratic minority’s block on borrowing until the county installs an independent inspector general.
Curran took a shot of her own at Maragos on Monday, calling him a “yes man” for Mangano’s administration.
On Twitter, Maragos called Monday’s event “a Maragos bashing fest of trumped up lies to scare residents.”
It is uncertain who Curran, Maragos or Lavine would face in a general election.
Mangano reportedly faces dim odds for a GOP nomination, but has not formally announced whether he will run for a third term.
Possible candidates include former Mineola mayor and former state Sen. Jack Martins, who lost a run for Congress in November; county Clerk Maureen O’Connell; Town of Hempstead Councilman Bruce Blakeman; and town Clerk Donald Clavin.
County Legislator Howard Kopel (R-Valley Stream) has told Newsday he may run for comptroller.
Brian Nevin, a Mangano spokesman, said the county executive is “focused” on creating jobs and keeping crime and taxes down.
“The Democrat candidates have little to no accomplishments and it will certainly be interesting to see who emerges as the party nominee,” Nevin said in an email.
The Nassau County Republican Committee did not immediately return a request for comment.