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Eye on the Island: August 28, 2009

Watson Makes Her Case

Joy Watson, a former Nassau County assistant district attorney (DA), is the Republican nominee for Nassau DA in November’s election but that might be news to you.

Long Island’s dominant media outlets have seemingly decided that the record of Nassau DA Kathleen Rice, a Democrat, needs no scrutiny, even though she holds the county’s most powerful law enforcement post. Part of the reason for this is that the editorial side of Cablevision-owned Newsday and News 12 Long Island prefers it when Republicans back Democrats, which is what Suffolk’s GOP did in 2005 and again this year when cross-endorsing DA Thomas Spota, a Democrat. One-party rule results in better government, many journalists believe, so long as Democrats are completely running things. Look how well it’s working out in Albany.

But the media’s need for political advertising revenue is even more welcome in 2009 than it was in 2005, especially, as in Cablevision’s case, $10,000 in company monies have been donated to DA Rice’s 2009 re-election campaign. Hey, why not make up for that expenditure by charging Rice’s Republican opponent for air time?

Watson, a SUNY-Albany graduate who won a scholarship to Pepperdine University’s Law School, has the credentials to be Nassau’s DA. Married with two college-age stepsons, Watson was a Nassau assistant DA for almost two decades before becoming a state Supreme Court Justice’s principal law clerk. Watson, a New Hyde Park native who resides in Hempstead, served in the DA’s office as chief of the sex offense and domestic violence bureau as well as deputy chief of the major offense bureau. She freely admits her move to the judiciary occurred because her boss in 2005 lost an election, albeit by only two and one-half percentage points.

“I was very proud to have served under Denis Dillon and the fact that Kathleen Rice didn’t keep me around gave me the opportunity to run for this office,” Watson says.

“I hold no ill will against her.”

Watson, an adjunct criminal justice professor at Molloy College, does, however, feel DA Rice’s office could have taken additional, extraordinary steps to protect Joanna Bird of New Cassel, a 24-year-old mother of two, from an ex-boyfriend who is alleged to have killed Bird earlier this year. You can read how a DA Watson would have done things differently at

“I worked my way through the ranks,” she said, referring to her days as an assistant DA.

“I prosecuted DWI, criminal mischief, and other misdemeanor cases. I then got involved in felony cases, such as serious drug sales and assaults in addition to robberies and murders.”

If elected on Tuesday, Nov. 3, Watson would bring an extraordinary institutional memory to the position of Nassau DA. DA Rice had no prior history with the office she now heads and was given the chance to start at the top, thanks to Nassau’s voters.

Despite a career that has been devoted to public service, Watson said: “I have never before been involved in politics.”

Yet, as a first-time Republican candidate, in a county where too many reporters constantly cheer on the Democrats and their employer contributes financially to their campaigns, Watson is learning quickly the realities of Nassau politics in 2009.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism.