The voters keep flummoxing the pundits and prognosticators.
Election Day 2017 brought a number of eyebrow-raising results across the country. Closer to home, the electorate propelled into office the “Two Lauras” who made history in surprising ways.
Democrat Laura Curran of Baldwin became the first woman chosen as Nassau County’s chief executive. She beat Republican Jack Martins 51 to 48 percent as two-term incumbent Ed Mangano, a Republican facing corruption charges, did not run.
More shockingly, Laura Gillen of Rockville Centre upended incumbent Supervisor Anthony J. Santino to become not only the first woman, but the first Democrat in 100 years to lead the Republican-dominated Town of Hempstead.
A buoyant Jay Jacobs, chairman of the Nassau County Democratic Committee, presided over a triumphant press conference at the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola the day after the big night.
He introduced the two pathbreaking women, along with County Comptroller-elect Jack Schnirman, who beat Chris Labriola, a former county deputy comptroller; Hempstead Clerk-elect Sylvia Cabana, who ousted two-term incumbent Nasrin Ahmad; and County Legislator-elect Josh Lafazan, who beat Republican incumbent Donald MacKenzie in the 18th district.
Curran, 49, a former reporter for two major New York City tabloids, will give up her seat on the legislature, where she has served for two terms.
She stated, “The people have spoken loudly and clearly. We are ready for a fresh start. And we are here to serve. Today marks the beginning of a new era for the county. Together we’re going to end the pervasive culture of corruption and make sure the government finally starts to serve the hard-working people.”
Curran pledged to staff her government with “the best and brightest people, hired based on what they know, and not who they know. We will reform departments so that they will be run effectively and efficiently. [Schnirman] and I will be cleaning up our county’s contracting process and get rid of bloated contracts handed out to well-connected individuals.”
Curran also vowed to work closely with her former colleagues. The Republicans will hold an 11-8 edge in the legislature come Jan. 1.
“The issues facing our county are not [party] issues, they’re Nassau issues. And it’s going to take all of us, working together in a bipartisan effort, to deliver real results to the people we all represent,” she said. “That’s why you elected us—to make the tough decisions that ultimately improve the lives of all our residents, no matter where they live. We will have disagreements. That’s human nature. But at the end of the day, I truly believe there is no conflict too great to overcome and work through.”
Informed that the Republican members indicated that they opposed creating the position of an inspector general—which Curran favors—the executive-elect responded, “I very much look forward to sitting down with all of our legislators—Democrats and Republicans—to find out where we have common ground, and then build from there so we can really hit the ground running on Jan. 1.”
She added, “I think that the voters sent a clear message, that this is not about [parties], but about solving the problems of our government.”
She was asked about the Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA), which oversees county finances and on Nov. 9 was to reject the 2018 proposed county budget.
“I’m planning to have a conversation with [NIFA Chairman] Adam Barsky this afternoon to talk about what we need to do, and hope to have a constructive relationship that will benefit the taxpayers.”
Curran concluded, “I love Nassau County, and I’m ready to lead a government that lives up to all the wonderful people of our wonderful communities.”
Gillen, 48, an attorney, was vastly outspent by Santino, who was elected supervisor in 2015 after more than 20 years on the town board. She beat Santino 50.69 to 49.25 percent.
Gillen said she was looking forward to working with her fellow newly-elected officials.
“I’m thrilled to lead a government that will be more accessible and accountable to the people,” she stated. “It will be more transparent, so the people can see how the money is being spent. And we can restore their faith in town government. I look forward to working hard to earn the seat that I’ve been given.”
Regarding the party’s election strategy, Jacobs made no secret that it was centered around “the culture of corruption that has been far too pervasive in Nassau County for too many years. It is embedded in the process [in which] work contracts are awarded, jobs are dispensed, and people are favored, be they special interests, family members or friends.”
“This has to stop,” he went on. “We’re going to be mindful of the idea that government is for the people, and not to enrich ourselves and our friends.”
Summing up the election night feeling, Jacobs said, “It was Ladies Night in Nassau County and we are delighted, and I think it’s a real good, fresh wave. We’re going to have good government here in the county.”