Nassau 18th District: Michael Montesano, Diane Yatauro

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Two experienced politicians are facing off in the race for Nassau County Legislature's 18th District, a contest that has centered on the county's financial health.

Diane Yatauro, (D-Glen Cove), presiding officer of the legislature, is running for a fourth term.

Republican Michael A. Montesano, 54, a married father with a son and a daughter, is trying to unseat Yatauro.

The district has 17,035 registered Republicans and 16,467 Democrats.

An experienced hand at the controls of the legislature is what voters want in precarious economic times, said Yatauro, who was a vice president with Chase Manhattan Bank before becoming a legislator.

"When the economy tanked last year, it really motivated me to do what we can to get the budget in tow," Yatauro said. "My goal now is to keep a balanced budget and to continue to provide services. A lot of people depend on us."

Yatauro, 55, who also has a son and a daughter, rejects Montesano's charges that she has led the Democrats in runaway spending and higher taxes. She said she's voted for one tax hike in six years, a 3.9 percent increase last year.

"We had to plug a hole," Yatauro said. "It was a really tough time for everyone. This year's budget will have no tax increase."

Montesano is a former school board member in the North Shore School District. An attorney, he is a former acting village justice of Roslyn Harbor.

He said county parks and public buildings appear to need repairs, a sign that those in control of county government, the Democrats and County Executive Tom Suozzi, aren't delivering services effectively. "While expenses have increased, there's been a decline in the delivery of services," Montesano said.

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An important job of the county legislature is to keep the county executive "in check," Montesano said. But Yatauro, as presiding officer, is too cozy with Suozzi, he said.

"She's Mr. Suozzi's protege," Montesano said. "She's encouraged them to pass every bill he put forward, every bit of spending he put forward."

Yatauro said she's her own woman, and likened her working relationship with Suozzi to that of President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"When the county executive is right, am I supposed to say he's wrong?" Yatauro said.

The 18th District stretches from Old Westbury through Locust Valley to Bayville.

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