While the Nassau Republican Party was busy nominating Bruce Bent for county executive, the Nassau Democrats, at their convention held Thursday evening in Hempstead, were talking about the strides the party made over the last two years. Since the party already endorsed New York State Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli, although there will still be a party primary in September against Glen Cove Mayor Tom Suozzi, the Democrats concentrated on rallying support for their 19 legislative candidates as well as other county offices currently occupied by Republicans.
Nassau County Democratic Chairman Larry Aaronson made a point of saying that for the Nassau Democrats, the future is now. However, the vision of the party actually began two years ago. That's when the Democrats gained control of the Nassau County Legislature.
Last Thursday, the Democrats talked about how they bit into a chunk of the Nassau Republican machine and how they plan to continue to make their presence known in county government. "All Democratic candidates have a good chance of winning," Aaronson said.
Coming as no surprise, the party nominated all 10 incumbent members of the 19-member legislature. Presiding officer Judy Jacobs (16 L.D.), Patrick Williams (1 L.D.), Roger Corbin (2 L.D.), Michael Zapson (4 L.D.), Joseph Scannell (5 L.D.), Jeffrey Toback (7 L.D.), Lisanne Altmann (10 L.D.), Craig Johnson (11 L.D.), Brian Muellers (18 L.D.), and David Denenberg (19 L.D.) all will seek another two-year term.
In her speech at the convention, Jacobs reiterated the accomplishment of the legislature over the past two years under the leadership of the Democratic caucus. "We stared the threat of junk bond status in the face and helped craft a package of spending cuts and other deficit reduction measures that was at least able to upgrade Nassau County's budget condition from grave to critical, but stable," she said.
Jacobs also stated that the Democrats would work toward preserving the county's precious natural resources, planning for how to protect open space and defending the quality of life for residents.
The presiding officer also promised to rebuild the county responsibly. "It is about accountable and competent governance. And it is certainly about ending the arrogant, close-minded Republican leadership that, above all else, kept its nose firmly up against the political grindstone," she said.
The Democrats also announced their candidates to run against the nine incumbent Republican legislators. Cathy Clary of Elmont will run against Republican incumbent John Ciotti in the 3rd L.D. Dale Camhi of East Rockaway will run against Fran Becker in the 6th L.D. Robert McDonald of Garden City will run against Vincent Muscarella in the 8th L.D. Dolores Sedacca, the former mayor of East Williston and current public information officer for the Town of North Hemsptead, will challenge Richard Nicolello in the 8th L.D. Joseph Tartaglia of Massapequa Park will run against minority leader Peter Schmitt in the 12th L.D. Rita Eilenberg of North Bellmore will challenge Norma Gonsalves in the 13th L.D. David Mejias of Farmingdale will run against Sal Pontillo in the 14th L.D. Teresa Butler of Levittown will challenge Dennis Dunne in the 15th L.D. and Frank Goban of Hicksville will run against Edward Mangano in the 17th L.D.
In other nominations, Charles Ferzola will run for Nassau County District Attorney against incumbent Denis Dillon; Howard Weitzman will challenge Fred Parola for county comptroller and Sharon Commissiong will run against Republican incumbent Karen Murphy for county clerk.
In the Town of North Hempstead, May Newburger will run for re-election as supervisor. Fred Pollack and Wayne Wink will run for town council and Michelle Schimel will run for re-election as town clerk.
In the Town of Hempstead, Democratic candidates include Patricia Maher in the 6th councilmanic district, Dorothy Goosby in the 1st and Jerry LaMonica in the 4th. The party has yet to designate candidates for supervisor, clerk or receiver of taxes.
Perhaps the biggest story of the Democratic Party in Nassau County, however, will be the primary between DiNapoli and Suozzi to see who will be the Democratic candidate for county executive.
Unlike the Democrats, the Republican Party will not hold a primary as the party has pledged full support to Bent. Suozzi and DiNapoli will concentrate on the primary until September. After the primary, the winner will then take on Bent.
While the fact that the Republicans won't hold a primary may be seen as an advantage, DiNapoli said he has no concerns that a primary between himself and Suozzi may divide the party.
"I think our campaign, which is off to such a strong start, is part of the revitalization of the party," DiNapoli said. "I'm running for a change in Nassau County. I'm not running against Tom Suozzi and I think that message is one that resonates with people. We won big at the convention. We're going to win the primary big and then we'll win the general election."
Suozzi, too, seems focused on his run for county executive. The Glen Cove mayor said he has been dissuaded from running for the post. However, Suozzi believes in his ability to change Nassau County and so it's full speed ahead to the primary. "I know I can change Nassau County because I've changed Glen Cove," he said. "I have the skills and experience necessary to do it and nothing will stop me. Everybody's offering me every kind of deal in the world to get out and I'm not making any deals."
Both DiNapoli and Suozzi both feel as though they are destined for the county executive post. Suozzi believes everything he has done thus far in his political career has prepared him well to be Nassau County Executive while DiNapoli views his election as a continuing of a movement to revitalize Nassau County. The final obstacle to the position, however, may not only be a wealthy candidate, but a worthy one as well.
On the prospect of running against Bent, DiNapoli said the Republican candidate will prove to be tough. "The Republicans have consolidated the backing behind him earlier than many people expected and he certainly has a lot of money," DiNapoli said.
However, the assemblyman pointed to Bent's lack of experience in government as a weakness. "While it may make for some cute sound bites right now, I think when people really evaluate the candidates, they're going to look for people with some level of experience," DiNapoli said. "When you are talking about government management, which includes looking out for people and managing public dollars, I think you tend to look at people that have some track record. I think his lack of a track record with any kind of public experience will be viewed as taking a chance."
Suozzi also believes strongly that he has better credentials than his opponents. "I'm not running against DiNapoli and I'm not running against Bent. I'm running for the job of Nassau County Executive. I'm the only candidate in this race who has the government and private sector experience to solve the problems of Nassau County and change it for the better," he said.