The question of who the Republican Party would run as their candidate for the position of Nassau County Executive has been one where the answer changed several times in the last few months, with the party leaders never officially announcing who the candidate would be until last Thursday night. The questions remained until the last minute, with one Republican announcing his candidacy, with apparent party backing, on Tuesday and it becoming clear by Thursday that it would be another, a businessman, not a politician, that the party would nominate at the annual convention.
When Town of North Hempstead Councilman Jim O'Connor announced his candidacy the Tuesday before the convention, it appeared as though he were the Republicans' choice for the county's top position, until word got out that the Conservative Party was endorsing financier Bruce Bent, who had promised a primary if he was not the GOP's designee. Speculation then began that Nassau County Republican Party Chairman Joseph Mondello would change tactics and the party would nominate Bent at the convention, a scenario that proved true on Thursday night.
Though tension may have been expected after the seesaw events of the previous week, O'Connor made a point of, before the convention began, going over to shake Bent's hand. This was consistent with the rest of the evening, with the need to be united and work together a theme throughout the nominations.
United support for the nominee for county executive was the request of current Nassau County Executive Thomas Gulotta, who despite the problems he's faced with the Republican leadership in the last few years, pledged his support for the party. He also vowed to remain active in government and politics. The man who many Republicans shunned in the last two years received a standing ovation from his party members.
Three of the major positions for which the Republicans nominated candidates at the convention were county clerk, county comptroller, and district attorney. Incumbents Karen Murphy, Fred Parola, and Denis Dillon, respectively, will run for those positions.
Dillon thanked the party for its continued support and congratulated Bent on his upcoming nomination, calling him, "an outstanding choice to lead our team to victory." He went on to recognize Jim O'Connor for his courage in stepping forward and being willing to run for the position. Dillon continued on, speaking about the "great promise the future holds" for the Republican Party. He described the Republican philosophy, which calls for limited government and stated that the Republicans' plan entails cutting wasteful spending rather than cutting needed services or raising taxes. "The county budget should not be balanced on the backs of the poor," said the district attorney.
When it came time for Bent's nomination, those nominating him spoke of Bent in glowing terms, with Mondello leading a chant of "we want Bruce," which brought the crowd to its feet as the nominee made his way to the stage.
Bent, taking a moment to compose himself after the visible show of support, then addressed the crowd. Bent said that though he has lived in Nassau his entire life and has been a lifelong Republican, he has sat back in the past because things in the county were going well. He said that it was only when things started going awry and he saw solutions that he felt the need to step forward and make a run for county executive. Claiming that he didn't want to sound pompous as he described his abilities, Bent stated, "I've done reasonably well in handling financial situations, of being a fiduciary, of looking after other people's money and taking care of it as if it were my own. I'd like to do the same for the people of Nassau."
"I am a businessman, not a politician," said Bent. "As a businessman, I have abilities to bring. As a non-politician, I need everyone here to help me." Bent then addressed concerns that because of his business background that he might be a "dictator." He said that was far from the case and told those gathered at the convention that as a businessman he has learned the importance of working together to get things done.
"The similarity that you have in business and government is that you have to have organization," said Bent. "There has to be cooperation, there has to be a feeling of respect for the employees at all levels and integration of services." The nominee stated that in the last three months he has spoken with several of the county's top officials, including County Assessor Charles O'Shea, Parola, Dillon, and Gulotta, and said that he has been very pleased to discover how willing they were to assist him and work with him. He said that Gulotta even called him to offer his support in making the transition easier if Bent is elected.
Bent went on to speak about the people of Nassau County and stated, "The vast majority of people in Nassau County are hard-working people who care and have pride in their work and want to deliver services to the people of Nassau County." He said that he believes that if the Republican Party can prove that that is what they are going to do, then they will be victorious in the upcoming election. "After the Democratic Party held their convention several weeks ago, one of the legislators was quoted as saying that the most important thing to do is to defeat the Republicans in November. She's wrong. The most important thing to do, the most important thing for us to do, is to serve the people of Nassau County, that's why they call it public service," said Bent.
Stating that he does not like to spend money, and calling himself cheap, Bent said that he has a concern about the fact that Nassau County is known as the wealthiest county in New York State, and the 10th wealthiest county in the nation. He said this is a concern because, from his experience, though the residents of Nassau County may make more money, it is from two, sometimes three incomes, and that the costs that Nassau taxpayers face are higher than anywhere else. "It's up to us to control the costs," said Bent. "It's up to us to give them the services they moved to Nassau County to get, at the lowest possible cost."
Following Bent's statements, Mondello then said to those gathered, "I am truly proud to put before you tonight, what I believe is one of the finest slate of candidates this party has ever produced. Two years ago the people of this great county sent us a message, a message that this party heard loud and clear. They want the county's fiscal health restored once and for all, they want services continued, and, most importantly, they want minimal tax increases, if any at all. Our candidates are ready to meet that challenge."
The other county candidates nominated by the Republican Party are: Jorge Martinez, 1st Legislative District; Michael Abraham, 2nd L.D.; incumbent John Ciotti, 3rd L.D.; Michael Mulhall, 4th L.D.; Joseph Koch, 5th L.D.; Incumbent Francis Becker, 6th L.D.; Merik Aaron, 7th L.D.; Incumbent Vincent Muscarella, 8th L.D.; Incumbent Richard Nicolello, 9th L.D.; Javier Vargas, 10th L.D.; Jeremy Devine, 11th L.D.; Incumbent Peter Schmitt, 12th L.D.; Incumbent Norma Gonsalves, 13th L.D.; Incumbent Salvatore Pontillo, 14th L.D.; Incumbent Dennis Dunne, 15th L.D.; Steven Marx, 16th L.D.; Incumbent Edward Mangano, 17th L.D.; Peter Morra, 18th L.D.; and Michael Carroll, 19th L.D. Robert Ross was nominated as Supreme Court Justice.
The Town of Hempstead nominees are: Incumbent Richard Guardino Jr., supervisor; Assemblywoman Kathleen Murray, town clerk; incumbent Donald Clavin Jr., receiver of taxes; Jerald Wright, 1st councilmanic district; Anthony Santino, 4th C.D.; and Gary Hudes, 6th councilmanic district. The nominee for 1st district court judge is Denise Sher.
The Town of North Hempstead nominees are: Angelo Ferrara, supervisor; Catherine Rosso, town clerk; James O'Connor, councilman; and Jerome Gallucio, councilman. The nominees for 3rd district court judges are: George Peck, David Keegan, and Howard Birnbach.
The Town of Oyster Bay nominees are: Incumbent John Venditto, supervisor; Rose Marie Walker, town clerk; and Leonard Symons, Angelo Delligatti, and Chris Coschignano, councilmembers. The nominee for 4th district court judge is Michael Alonge.
All the nominations were unanimous.
Mondello thanked all the candidates and especially thanked O'Connor and County Legislators Dennis Dunne and Edward Mangano who all sought the nomination for county executive.
"As we start this Memorial Day weekend, our party also starts the road back to being the majority party in this county," concluded Mondello. "Democrats just offer the same old politics as usual. In the year and a half they've been in the majority, the Democrats have had only one solution to the county's fiscal woes, raise taxes, not 5 percent, not 10 percent, but last year every single Democratic county legislator voted to raise county property taxes more than 15 percent ... That's the record they have to bring before the public this November. This year there will be no excuses. We will take no prisoners. We will go out there and win this election, not for the Republican Party but for the great and wonderful people of Nassau County."