Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray confirmed her long-anticipated campaign for Nassau district attorney Monday, saying she is running to combat cybercrime and the local spike in heroin abuse, and that she'd be unafraid to investigate fellow Republicans who control town and county offices.
In an interview in an Italian restaurant in her hometown of Levittown, Murray, 52, called her campaign a "logical step" in a 20-year career that began as a lawyer in the state attorney general's office and continued with elected posts as an assemblywoman, Hempstead Town clerk and, for the past 12 years, Hempstead Town supervisor.
She said her experience as manager of the 700,000-resident town is more relevant than her lack of recent courtroom work. "The district attorney's office needs a proven leader, not just a lawyer who has never led," Murray said, referring to acting District Attorney Madeline Singas, a Democrat who will seek a full four-year term this fall. "And that's, quite frankly, the scenario here."ColumnMadeline Singas releases campaign video for Nassau DA — and takes a subtle swipe at GOP's Kate MurrayColumnNassau Democrats launch anti-Kate Murray website
Singas, who has been running the office since Democrat Kathleen Rice left for Congress in January, said Murray lacks experience in criminal law.
"Madeline Singas is a prosecutor, not a politician," said Singas spokesman Isaac Goldberg, criticizing Murray's lack of recent legal experience. "Nassau County needs a tough, aggressive prosecutor as district attorney, and that's what Madeline Singas will be because that is what she's been her entire career."
Also running for DA is Michael Scotto, a former Manhattan prosecutor, who is challenging Singas for the Democratic nomination.
Murray, who has easily won all of her past races, acknowledged that this campaign was "more of a high-wire act" because she can't simultaneously seek a seventh two-year term as town supervisor if she runs for district attorney. But she said that law enforcement has always been an interest, citing her late father Norman Murray's career as an FBI agent.
A rally to formally announce Murray's district attorney campaign had been planned for Tuesday but was postponed following the death Monday of NYPD Officer Brian Moore, 25, of Massapequa, after he was shot in the head Saturday night while on duty in Queens.
Running for district attorney "will just continue my desire to protect residents," Murray said. She noted her implementation of public safety-related education campaigns in the town and her work on the Assembly's Codes Committee reviewing public safety legislation.
Murray said that, if elected, she would increase funding for anti-heroin efforts, citing a sharp increase in related deaths in Nassau over the past three years as proof that educational programs have been "woefully lacking." She also said the district attorney's office has "really lagged behind" in addressing computer and environmental crimes.
Murray declined to comment on Monday's arrest of State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) on federal bribery and extortion charges, other than to call it a "sad day for anybody in public service." But she said she wouldn't let her party affiliation dictate her decisions as district attorney.
Republicans now control the county executive's office, the county legislature and two of Nassau's three towns. "There can be absolutely no politics, no bias, no political friendships -- nothing," Murray said. "That has to be left at the door, and that is exactly the way I will be as DA."