Democratic Nassau County executive candidate Laura Curran got endorsements Wednesday from three elected officials aiming to solidify party unity.
U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, a former county executive, along with county Legislators Delia DeRiggi-Whitton and Arnold Drucker, backed Curran a week after state Assemblyman Charles Lavine dropped out of the Democratic primary race.
The officials also endorsed Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman for county comptroller and Dean Bennett for county clerk. The three candidates have support from the Nassau County Democratic Committee and are expected to be officially nominated at the party’s convention Wednesday night.
Suozzi, DeRiggi-Whitton and Drucker stressed the importance of uniting behind Curran, also a county legislator, to strip control of the county government from Republicans and what Democrats call a “culture of corruption” that has beleaguered Nassau.
“We’ve got to get back to a culture in this county where public servants recognize that if you want to be in these high elected offices, you’ve got to put the people first, and that’s what this team is about,” Suozzi said at a news conference in Port Washington.
Curran, who worked for Suozzi when he was county executive, is running in a Democratic primary against George Maragos, the formerly Republican county comptroller. Maragos is forming a ticket of candidates to force September primaries for several offices this year.
The winner will likely face former state Sen. Jack Martins, whom Republicans have nominated to replace Edward Mangano, the current GOP county executive who has pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges.
DeRiggi-Whitton’s and Drucker’s endorsements follow a rift in the county Legislature’s Democratic caucus that formed after Curran voted with Republicans last year to approve borrowing for capital projects. The Legislature’s seven Democrats had aimed to block such borrowing to push the 12 Republicans to support an independent inspector general to oversee county contracts.
While DeRiggi-Whitton said she still disagrees with Curran’s decision, she said the two now understand each other better and share the common goal of reforming county government.
“She has an independent spirit to her that is admirable, and it’s going to guide her and it’s going to lead her and it’s going to prove beneficial to this county,” Drucker said.
Suozzi, one of only two Democratic county executives in the history of the job, initially waited to make an endorsement in the Democratic primary race. Until last week it included Lavine, whom Suozzi helped elect to the state Assembly in 2004.
Suozzi said there are such clear differences between Curran and Maragos, who was elected twice alongside Mangano and has drawn fire for his previous conservative positions, that he felt an obligation to get involved now.
“He came up through this culture that is the problem that I’m talking about,” Suozzi said of Maragos.
Maragos has said he will not end his primary campaign and has positioned himself as an “independent” foil to the “party bosses” who backed Curran.
In a statement, he slammed Suozzi and Curran as establishment politicians.
“The Congressman is putting politics ahead of people, just like the party bosses, by endorsing someone unqualified, inexperienced and beholden to special interests,” Maragos said.
Mangano, who unexpectedly defeated Suozzi in 2009 and again in 2013 by a larger margin, has not said whether he will seek a third term in office.
Suozzi’s endorsement of Curran follows his victory over Martins last year in the 3rd Congressional District race.
E. O’Brien Murray, Martins’ campaign strategist, accused Curran of being “too embarrassed” to list her “patronage” job in Suozzi’s administration on her campaign website. Curran has campaigned against such political appointments.
“Laura Curran can try to hide from her record but it always catches up with her,” Murray said in a statement.