Likely Nassau voters not party-loyal in top races

The central question in the race between Thomas The central question in the race between Thomas Suozzi and Edward Mangano is what to do about the county's tenuous finances. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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Joye Brown Newsday columnist Joye Brown

Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006. She joined the newspaper in 1983 and has ...

Incumbent Republican Edward Mangano has maintained a lead over challenger and Democrat Thomas Suozzi. But while most of the attention has been on their county executive race, Democrats have the lead in the other two countywide races, according to a Newsday / News 12 / Siena College poll out Sunday.

The survey shows that Kathleen Rice, who is seeking her third term as Nassau's district attorney, is comfortably ahead of Howard Sturim -- 66 percent to his 13 percent.

The more evenly matched fight is between George Maragos, the incumbent GOP comptroller, and former Democratic Comptroller Howard Weitzman, whom Maragos beat in 2009.

Weitzman has a slender lead, 30 percent to Maragos' 27 percent, according to the poll, although a 3.1 percent margin of error in the survey puts the candidates in a dead heat.

The comptroller's job is important -- and could become more so if the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the state board overseeing county finances, begins to play politics.

For four years, Mangano fought NIFA over everything from the board's oversight powers to how it counted borrowed money in his annual budgets.

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Recently, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo replaced NIFA's chairman, Ronald Stack, with former North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman -- Cuomo's Long Island czar for superstorm Sandy recovery -- who has taken a more conciliatory approach.

Recently, Kaiman met separately with Mangano and representatives from two municipal unions that are seeking to negotiate an end to an almost three-year-long wage freeze imposed by NIFA at Mangano's request.

Those meetings have left some, including George Marlin, who is in the minority on a majority Cuomo-appointed board, worried about NIFA's continued independence.

As Marlin noted, in a statement he released after Kaiman, Mangano and others met with representatives of Nassau's largest police union, on a proposed pact between Mangano and the Police Benevolent Association, NIFA ". . . cannot judge AND be part of its negotiation. Good corporate governance mandates that the board be independent if it is to evaluate it independently and meet its fiduciary responsibility as a New York State public authority."

Mangano and Kaiman both would later say that the meeting was a working session rather than a negotiation, although PBA president James Carver disagreed.

Like NIFA, the comptroller is supposed to provide an independent look at Nassau's budget, which remains stressed.

Which may explain why Maragos and Weitzman are in a dead heat.

The bottom line?

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It appears from the poll that likely voters are making their choices for district attorney, comptroller or even county executive by candidate rather than by political party.

That matters now in Nassau, where no one party has an edge.

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