The two candidates vying for Nassau's 17th Legislative District seat are in total agreement on the county's central problems - high taxes and a cost of living that is driving residents' sons and daughters to move off Long Island.
But Farmingdale Democrat Arshad Majid, 41, blames what he calls "unfair patronage and costly favoritism" - in particular, the 210 Republican committee members on the town payroll of Oyster Bay, where his opponent, Republican Rose Marie Walker, is a board member.
Walker, 58, of Hicksville, puts the blame on Nassau's Democratic patronage. She vows to repeal the county's 2.5 percent energy tax imposed this year, making up the revenue by going over the budget "line by line."
"That's their solution, keep taxing and taxing and taxing . . . but the services you receive for those tax dollars have just disappeared," said Walker, citing dreary-looking county parks and weed-strewn sumps. She disputes Majid's claim that Oyster Bay's town property taxes have risen 45 percent since 2002 - but does not offer a competing figure.
Republicans swamp the Democrats in the 17th District, which includes Bethpage, Hicksville, Island Trees, Levittown, North Massapequa, Plainedge, South Farmingdale and Syosset. The GOP claims 43 percent of voters to the Democrats' 29 percent. But Democrats have been gaining, as have unaffiliated voters, who are now 23 percent of the roll.
The candidates are a study in contrasts: Majid, born in India, grew up in New York City and earned a degree in biology at Stony Brook University, working at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory before earning law and business degrees. A former Nassau prosecutor with his own private law practice, he garnered headlines when he helped avert eviction of a woman victimized by predatory lending.
Majid, who also has the Working Families line, calls himself the nonpartisan, "nontraditional" candidate, noting he was once a registered Republican.
"I believe that politics in America should be about a person's qualifications," he said. "We're not supposed to have political dynasties of any kind, whether their name is Bush or Walker."
But Walker, a former substitute teacher and teaching assistant in the Hicksville schools, is running on her hometown know-how, as the widow of Oyster Bay's former general services commissioner, John Walker, a Republican club leader, and mother of Assemb. Rob Walker (R-Hicksville). A graduate of Belmont Abbey College, she works as a supervisor in the town parks accounting office. She is a lifelong Hicksville resident who has served for decades in leadership on the PTA, school board, sports teams and booster clubs, at Holy Family Parish and Irish-Americans in Government.