Norma Gonsalves of East Meadow, the Nassau County Legislature’s Republican presiding officer, said Thursday that she would not seek re-election this year.
Gonsalves, 82, was a civic leader before she first took office in 1998. She was made the Legislature’s leader in 2012 following the death of then-Presiding Officer Peter J. Schmitt.
Republicans will look to replace Gonsalves, whose campaign was sanctioned last year for election law violations, as they defend their legislative majority by fighting the specter of corruption within their own party.
“… I have done my best to lead this body with integrity and transparency, which have been my guiding principles in presiding over the County Legislature,” Gonsalves said in a statement.
Gonsalves’ age and the political hangups of her election-law flap were the primary drivers of the decision, according to one senior Republican Party source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
A state Supreme Court judge last year fined Gonsalves’ campaign committee $14,000 for failing to file 10 reports disclosing donations and expenditures from 2013 to 2015. The state Board of Elections had alleged her committee failed to file 34 such reports from January 2006 to February 2015.
While Gonsalves had no personal liability in the case, it “would have dominated more time than it deserved” during a campaign season in which corruption is the dominant issue, the GOP source said.
Nassau’s Democratic Committee has tapped Eileen Napolitano, an East Meadow community activist, to run for Gonsalves’ 13th Legislative District seat. Napolitano ran against Gonsalves in 2015.
“While I respect Norma’s decision and her commitment to public service, this should clearly be taken as a sign that Nassau taxpayers have reached a boiling point, and are in dire need of real reform from the inside out,” Napolitano said in a statement Thursday.
Napolitano on Tuesday proposed a “Gonsalves amendment” to expand GOP legislators’ proposal to ban certain felons from ever holding county office to include anyone convicted of violating campaign finance law.
The GOP is likely to pick Assemblyman Tom McKevitt, also from East Meadow, as Gonsalves’ replacement, Newsday reported.
The GOP source could not directly confirm that, but said McKevitt had been mentioned as a candidate and that party officials were interviewing him Thursday.
McKevitt, an attorney, was first elected to the Assembly in 2006 and is the Republican minority conference’s second-highest-ranking member.
“When you have somebody of McKevitt’s caliber, he does come in with a little bit of leg up” in the race, the GOP source said. “He is pretty much squeaky clean, too.”
In her statement, Gonsalves touted her outreach to Latino residents and her efforts to establish a veterans clinic at Nassau University Medical Center and maintain East Meadow’s Cornell Cooperative Farm.