Social media platforms and Newsday have been pushing one consistent message about this year’s Nassau County District Attorney (DA) election—Republican DA nominee Kate Murray is in trouble.
Well, everything they know just isn’t so. Murray, the Town of Hempstead’s supervisor since 2004, is in my view a prohibitive favorite to succeed U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) as the next elected Nassau County DA, and I’ll lay out the reasons on her opponents’ terms.
Murray is politically vulnerable, her foes say, because the New York Islanders left the town of Hempstead on her watch. Plus, Supervisor Murray has no prosecutorial experience, so how can Murray possibly get more votes than the two Democrats, both of whom have that credential on their resume, vying to meet Murray in November?
The Islanders are moving to Brooklyn from Nassau in the fall, but will a sizable portion of the county’s electorate hold that against Supervisor Murray? Nope. The evidence—as quantified in a 2011 county-wide vote and a 2013 Town of Hempstead election—indicates Murray won’t be hurt by either the attacks of Islander fans or prominent Democrats. Nearly three out of five (57 percent) Nassau voters voiced opposition to building a new, county taxpayer-funded coliseum in a nonbinding referendum in 2011. In 2012, Islanders owner Charles Wang said Long Island’s only major league franchise would move to Brooklyn. In 2013, Supervisor Murray won more than 65 percent of the vote in her bid for re-election. About 700,000 of Nassau County’s 1.3 million residents reside in the Town of Hempstead, so a political figure who is winning easily there has a nice base from which to launch a county-wide campaign.
It is true that Murray, a former state assemblywoman, cannot say, as Acting DA Madeline Singas and official Democratic DA nominee can, that she is a career prosecutor. But does that disqualify someone from serving as a county’s district attorney? No. Queens DA Richard Brown, for instance, was a judge before assuming his current post. Former Congressman Michael McMahon, the Democratic nominee for Staten Island DA this fall, has no prosecutorial experience but his service in DC and, before that, as an elected city councilman, surely make McMahon a credible candidate. An aside: the Staten Island GOP has nominated an assistant Manhattan DA for Staten Island DA.
Acting DA Singas may also have to contend with a primary challenger. Michael Scotto, a former assistant DA in Manhattan, has announced he wants to be Nassau’s next DA. Scotto’s biggest challenge at the moment is securing a place on September 2015’s primary ballot. His supporters must collect the signatures of at least 2,000 registered Nassau Democrats to do so, a tall order when you are not your party’s official nominee.
The Scotto campaign, however, has wasted little time attacking Acting DA Singas, the incumbent. The headline of a Scotto campaign news release issued on June 3 read as follows: “Inefficiency Leads to Poor Prosecutions and Sweetheart Plea Bargains.”
“The pending prosecution in the Perez-Soto case with accusations of prosecutorial misconduct, the problems with the Joanna Bird case, and the sweetheart plea bargains of Jerl Ferguson and Hakeem Shabazz are illustrations of a bigger problem,” Scotto stated, in that same release.
Whoever wrote the Scotto campaign’s news release should have followed that quote with additional background information; what were each of these cases about, and how would a DA Scotto have handled them differently? In the meantime, thanks to Michael Scotto, Supervisor Murray’s opposition research team has been given a good place to start building its case against the election of Acting DA Singas.
Mike Barry, vice president of media relations for an insurance industry trade group, has worked in government and journalism. He can be reached at email@example.com.