(Left to right): North Hempstead Councilman Tony D'Urso, Congressman Gary Ackerman, Senator Charles Schumer and former Oyster Bay Supervisor Lewis Yevoli applaud their new leader, Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli, third from right.
At its county convention on April 15, the Nassau Democratic County Committee chose Thomas DiNapoli, member of the New York State Assembly from the 16th Assembly District, as its new chairman. Mr. DiNapoli will fill the unexpired term of Stephen J. Sabbeth whose resignation as chairman went into effect on April 16. DiNapoli, who was the odds-on favorite going into the convention, easily defeated former Oyster Bay Supervisor Louis Yevoli. Mr. Yevoli conceded before 10 p.m. In a rare show of unity for Nassau Democrats, the two embraced and DiNapoli said: "Tonight is a great night for all of us, this was never about a victory for Lou or a victory for me. This was about a victory for us. You are all going to be my team." In a later interview with Anton Newspapers, DiNapoli said that he and Yevoli had been friends for 25 years and they would be able to work together without difficulty, although he did not identify the specific area in which Mr. Yevoli would be called upon to help.
Mr. DiNapoli said that he was excited about the leadership position because he believes that Nassau Democrats are in a strong position to make a difference locally, in the state and even nationally, "but we won't do it unless we can stop infighting and present a united front."
Locally he said that North Hempstead will be an important ground for Democrats in this coming November. "May, Tony and Doreen are all up for re-election and we have to make sure they get in," he said, referring to North Hempstead Supervisor May Newburger, Councilman Tony D'Urso and Councilwoman Doreen Banks.
There is also an important race for the 4th Legislative District, formerly held by Bruce Nyman, who had been the Minority Leader of the Nassau County Legislature. "That will be a tough race," DiNapoli said, "but we can win it. There are also seats such as the one in the 1st District that should be a Democratic seat."
The one negative idea that has been floated about DiNapoli, who is extraordinarily popular among Republicans as well as Democrats, is that he may not be able to give as much time to the party leadership as is necessary, since he will continue to represent the 16th Assembly District. DiNapoli dismisses this, saying that he sees the party chairmanship position as one of leadership and that he will be able to exercise that leadership. DiNapoli is known an a consensus builder. He worked in harmony with the late State Senator Michael J. Tully, whose senatorial district overlapped DiNapoli's assembly district, and continues to work with Tully's successor, State Senator Michael Balboni. DiNapoli also says that his district, the 16th, which covers Great Neck, Manhasset, Port Washington and some of Roslyn, will continue to be his "first love" and will continue to get its fair share of attention. DiNapoli has been most effective in getting state funds for waterfront cleanup in Hempstead Harbor, Manhasset Bay and surrounding wetlands.
Nassau Democrats have had little power since the late '60s and early '70s when the party was led by Jack English and Eugene Nickerson was elected County Executive, a post he held for two terms. Nickerson is now a federal judge. DiNapoli believes that it's time for a resurgence of Democratic power in Nassau County.