Candidates for county and town offices made their cases to residents at a forum in Manhasset on Tuesday night, answering questions mostly focusing on issues like corruption, term limits and the economy.
The event, hosted by the Women’s Group of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock and League of Women Voters of Port Washington-Manhasset, aimed to provide a nonpartisan forum for residents to hear the candidates’ views.
The candidates at the forum at the church are running for Town of North Hempstead supervisor, town clerk and council member for District 5, as well as the county Legislature in Districts 10 and 11.
While candidates on both sides of the aisle largely agreed that corruption is an issue and that downtowns need to be revitalized, there were differences in how to address these issues.
The Republicans and Democrats also disagreed on term limits, with the latter not expressing outright support.
But perhaps some of the sharpest disagreements came in the debate between Zefy Christopoulos, a Republican from Glen Cove, and Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, the Democratic county legislator from District 11.
Christopoulos, the chief of staff for Glen Cove Mayor Reginald Spinello, disagreed with DeRiggi-Whitton’s support for an independent inspector general for county contracts. She instead called for reforming the ethics board, which DeRiggi-Whitton said has not worked.
“We don’t need another layer of government that we need to pay for,” Christopoulos said.
Both candidates said they have worked in a bipartisan matter and do not work strictly along party lines.
“When my opponent says she does not vote along party lines, or she doesn’t listen to anyone, she’s being less than genuine,” Christopoulos said.
DeRiggi-Whitton disagreed. “We’re not told how to vote,” she said.
Judi Bosworth, the town supervisor, said that North Hempstead has improved under her administration. She highlighted the Aaa bond rating on its municipal bonds, maintaining town services while staying within the tax cap, and a reputation for “consensus building.”
Bosworth, a Democrat, also cited ethics and anti-nepotism laws passed by the town this year.
“We are a family here in North Hempstead and I look forward to continuing my service to each and every member of our family,” Bosworth said.
Her Republican opponent, Stephen Nasta, a professor of criminal justice at John Jay College and New York police inspector, said that while he has not served in an elected position, he has public service experience.
Nasta said that as a police inspector he commanded two police precincts, worked closely with the community, led narcotics investigative units and supervised hundreds of police officers.
He also was appointed to be chief of the Investigators Bureau in the Bronx district attorney’s office, where he investigated political and government corruption cases.
“Two of my role models in public service are Ed Koch and Rudy Guiliani. They got the job done,” Nasta said. “And if I’m elected, that’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to get the job done.”
David Adhami, a Republican litigation attorney for civil and criminal cases, said his role as a lawyer and small business owner make him uniquely equipped to be a county legislator. He said he has taken on major entities as a lawyer and won, so he “won’t be bullied,” and that he sees the effects of laws on average people.
If elected in District 10, Adhami said, he would seek to take pensions away from corrupt officials, instill term limits and “hold the tax line” to make Nassau County an ideal place to live.
Ellen Birnbaum, the incumbent county legislator for District 10, cited her years in government and said she “enjoys working with the public.” In her time, she said she has scrutinized the budget, spearheaded meetings and has expressed opposition to high fees.
If re-elected, Birnbaum said she would continue her commitment to her constituents, restoring the Saddle Rock Grist Mill, working on affordable housing and making the county a better place.
Both candidates expressed support for fighting high fees, reopening the county police’s Sixth Precinct, and looking more carefully at the budget.
Wayne Wink, the town clerk, said that under his tenure, the office has “accomplished more with less” funds. One example of improving transparency was the installation of NovusAgenda, which digitizes records and improves public accessibility, and hiring an “applicant advocate” for the Building Department.
“There are so many different aspects of this life that are so rewarding in many different ways,” Wink said, referring to his job of maintaining records and wedding people.
David Redmond, his Republican opponent, said he would bring a private sector state of mind to improve service. He also said that Gerard Terry, the former chairman of the Town of North Hempstead’s Democratic Party who pleaded guilty to tax evasion charges, demonstrated a need for change.
“It would be the honor of a lifetime,” Redmond said.
The candidates disagreed on term limits. Redmond expressed support for limits on how long someone could serve, while Wink said that elections already serve that purpose.
Notably absent was Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Lee Seeman, 89, who attended the funeral of her husband, Murray Seeman, that day.
She has been a longtime member of the Great Neck Chamber of Commerce, a member of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad and state Democratic committeewoman since 1970.
In a brief message, she thanked the community for the outpouring of support and wished all the candidates “good luck.”
Her opponent, Richard DeMartino, a business development officer in consumer and business banking, has been a member of the Lakeville Civic Association, the Floral Park and New Hyde Park Chambers of Commerce, the Herricks Community Fund and VFW Post 120 in Garden City Park.
DeMartino extended his personal sympathy to Lee Seeman, whom he said has been friends with for 15 years, before answering questions on topics like economic development, zoning and storm preparedness.
DeMartino expressed support for moving power lines underground, investing in public transportation and affordable housing, better zoning and more careful hiring of public workers.
“With your support, I wish to continue to make this community a place that will give our young families, our veterans, our seniors, our businesses, a place to prosper, fulfill their goals, and find their opportunity in the Town of North Hempstead,” DeMartino said.
Elections are on Nov. 7.