With the election nearing, increasingly sharp exchanges between Laura Curran, the Democratic candidate for county executive, and Jack Martins, the Republican candidate, were on display during a debate at the Crest Hollow Country Club on Thursday morning.
“You need just one Democrat to vote yes to move forward with repairing a road or fixing a bridge,” Martins said, referring to the partisan split in the county Legislature over capital improvements. “Laura did that for about $50 million worth of $150 million because it affected Baldwin, but the other $100 million dollars is still tied up.”
In response, Curran brought up corruption and former state Sen. Dean Skelos, the majority leader who was convicted of corruption. Her campaign has accused Martins of defending Skelos.
Hosted by the Long Island Association, the two candidates appeared on stage in the Woodbury club’s ballroom, separated by moderator Kevin S. Law, CEO of the association. The audience consisted of representatives of groups like the MTA and businesses like Bank of America, who were especially interested in the candidates’ stance on economic issues.
“I’m looking forward very much to getting input from our business community,” Curran said. “In a lot of ways, the business community has figured things out much better than the government has. I’m looking forward to getting your advice.”
In one question, the candidates were asked if Nassau County – with its fleeing youth population and crumbling infrastructure – could be compared to New York City in the 1970s. Curran said the county had to change what it meant to be a suburb and add high-density housing to attract young people. Martins said Nassau County was seen as a model place to live in the 1950s and 60s, and needed to become a model again.
“We have a proud heritage of being the first suburb in the country,” he said. “It’s our role and our fate to begin leading suburban communities into that next generation.”
There was some discussion of noneconomic issues. One question brought up the recent discovery of bodies on Long Island, likely connected with the MS-13 gang. Both candidates agreed that safety should be the government’s top priority and promised more resources to the county police.
“Without public safety and without sewage, you don’t have civilization,” Curran said. “Everything else is gravy.”
The two also made veiled, and a few not so veiled, criticisms of each other during the debate. At one point, Curran defended her decision to withhold authorizing capital projects, saying that she would not give a blank check to the county.
“That’s a powerful statement,” Martins retorted. “That partisan righteousness has got to give way to what is right.”
The audience was receptive to both candidates with both receiving applause at different points. Despite the more hostile nature of the debate, Law echoed the moderator at the Sands Point debate with his closing remark.
“I think that folks will agree with me that no matter who wins, it looks like Nassau County is going to be in very good hands with either Jack or Laura,” he said.