The candidates for Nassau district attorney attacked each other sharply in a televised debate Wednesday night, with Democrat Madeline Singas calling Republican Kate Murray "utterly unprepared" for the job, and Murray saying Singas had "no management or executive experience, and it shows."
Singas, the acting district attorney, and Murray, the Hempstead Town supervisor, used the live 30-minute debate on News 12 Long Island to offer campaign platforms they've tested at numerous events and in frequent television commercials and mailers.
Singas frequently raised Murray's lack of criminal law experience. Murray is a lawyer who worked in the state attorney general's office during the late 1990s and has held political offices since 1998, the last 13 years as supervisor.StoryZingers, key quotes from the Singas, Murray debateStoryMurray presses Singas for more anti-heroin funding
"My opponent is a politician," Singas, a prosecutor for 24 years, said. "She has never prosecuted a single criminal case and she has never set foot into a criminal courtroom."
Murray pledged to be tougher on drug dealers to stem the increase in heroin overdose deaths, and criticized Singas' 9-month tenure as acting district attorney.
"I have the experience," Murray said. "My opponent has never run an office before."
The candidates spent the most time on the issues of drugs and political corruption.
Murray said she'd have prosecutors "argue forcibly" against placement of drug dealers in diversion treatment programs in lieu of prison.
Murray noted reports that the suspect in Tuesday's fatal shooting of a New York City police officer previously had been in diversion programs.
"The acting DA is allowing her prosecutors to stay silent" on whether defendants should qualify for the program, Murray said. "That is putting residents in harm's way."
Singas said she found it "reprehensible and shameless that Ms. Murray chose to politicize the awful and tragic death of a police officer . . . to illustrate a point that she doesn't know anything about."
Singas said judges have sole discretion to send defendants to diversion court. Murray later disagreed with the assertion, citing a specific section of state law.
On the subject of political corruption, Singas said she reacted to the May federal indictment of state Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) -- which related in part to the awarding of a Nassau County contract -- by conducting a thorough review of the county contracting process.
A report by her office recommended that the county hire an independent inspector general to vet contracts. Skelos has pleaded not guilty.
Murray "didn't even bother . . . to read the Skelos indictment," Singas said in a reference to a statement Murray recently made to a local editorial board. "Her head is in the sand when it comes to these things," Singas added.
Murray replied: "I have a better record on public corruption than the acting DA." Murray said that several years ago she forwarded allegations against Hempstead's then town clerk, Mark Bonilla, a Republican, to the district attorney's office, then headed by Singa's predecessor, Kathleen Rice.
Bonilla was convicted of official misconduct for attempted coercion of a subordinate in his office.
The candidates ultimately returned to their records and qualifications.
Singas called her record "24 years of making sure justice is done," for crime victims, and repeated that Murray had never prosecuted a case. "You cannot manage what you don't understand," Singas said.
"I have run a government that is exponentially larger than the DA's office," Murray said, adding that Singas "had created no results. She has no plans and no priorities."