With Election Day less than two weeks away, the tight race for county executive has led to some heated exchanges through the press between Democrat Laura Curran and Republican Jack Martins. On Tuesday, Martins claimed Curran had failed to condemn three Democrat politicians accused of mistreatment of women.
In response, Curran disputed Martins and said he was making a desperate bid for attention.
“As a father of four daughters, I am disgusted by what we are all hearing about Harvey Weinstein’s abuse of power to harass women,” Martins said in a statement. “But the tragedy is that this kind of harassment is happening right here in Nassau County, by elected officials running for office on the Democratic ticket.”
The three men were Nassau County Legislator Carrie Solages, Dean Bennett, the Democratic candidate for county clerk, and Dean Hart, candidate for clerk of Oyster Bay.
Martins asserted that Bennett was sued during his time as deputy director of Nassau County’s office of minority affairs, along with others, for sexual harassment, gender discrimination and a hostile work environment. Martins also claimed that Bennett was personally accused of threatening behavior toward a female employee who exposed gender pay disparity.
Bennetts’ opponent, county Clerk Maureen O’Connell, released a statement echoing the charges.
The claims were fiercely rebuked in a statement by Bennett’s campaign manager, Barbara Dershowitz.
“Another day, another completely false and misleading attack from a career politician,” she said. “Dean Bennett has spent his entire life fighting for equal pay for equal work and the universal rights of all, and was never accused of any of the filthy lies that Jack Martins is claiming.”
In an interview with Blank Slate Media, Curran also denied that Bennett had committed any wrongdoing.
“There is absolutely no allegation whatsoever of sexual harassment against him,” she said. “The facts do not bear this out.”
She was less definitive about Dean Hart, who Martins claimed had a history of domestic violence against his wheelchair-bound mother. Curran said she did not know all the facts of the case, although she added that charges were dropped against Hart when he gave his side of the story. Hart has contributed $1,350 to Curran’s campaign.
But she disputed the claim that she did not stand up to Solages, who was arrested in June and charged with assaulting his girlfriend.
“The day that this happened, I called on him to resign,” she noted.
She also slammed Martins for bringing this issue into the campaign.
“My opponent, it just seems like a desperate ploy for attention,” she said. “I also think it’s rich, coming from him – he stood by then-candidate Donald Trump after the Access Hollywood tapes came out when Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women… This is something I didn’t bring up in the campaign because I didn’t think it was relevant… I’m baffled by it.”