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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Nassau GOP scandals helped Singas win, but now what?

Acting Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas arrives at

Acting Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas arrives at the Garden City Hotel to await the results of voting in her bid to be elected the county's district attorney on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas, a Democrat, rode to her first-ever election on a countywide wave of corruption concerns.

One key question now becomes how Singas might retool her office to address them.

Government malfeasance was the political backdrop, or constant soundscape, into which she seemed to play more and more as the campaign wore on. In her victory speech, Singas mentioned rooting out corruption just before noting the current heroin scourge.

Significantly, Singas becomes the lone Democrat elected countywide in a jurisdiction dominated by Republicans. This happens to be the month state Sen. Dean Skelos -- until recently the single most powerful Nassau Republican -- is due to face trial on felony charges. The publicity leading up to it has been intense.

Last week, Singas pledged to expand her office's review of government contracting in the county to include towns and cities, and to "expose vulnerabilities to corruption." She slammed her Republican challenger, Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, in part for allegedly mismanaging millions of dollars of town contracts.

Singas set her resume as a seasoned prosecutor against Murray's profile as a party stalwart -- at a moment when that label was hard for Murray to have. This was the perfect play for the Democratic candidate who, as chief assistant district attorney, succeeded her ex-boss Kathleen Rice when she became a congresswoman in January.

Still, it is doubtful that Singas' prosecutorial experience alone would have carried the day without the corruption issue. On Tuesday in Staten Island, a seasoned Republican prosecutor lost the DA's race -- to a former Democratic congressman with no courtroom experience.

A procurement scandal in Oyster Bay, whose leadership has important political interlocks with County Executive Edward Mangano's administration, helped set a certain tone that could not have helped Republican turnout and may have aided Democratic turnout in some corners of the county.

In other years, partisanship seemed blurry when it came to the DA's role. Rice, a Republican-turned-Democrat, won her first bid for DA in 2005, defeating the late Denis E. Dillon, a Democrat-turned Republican who held the office for three decades. At the time, the county executive's office, legislature and comptroller's office were in Democratic hands. Later on, county Republican Chairman Joseph Mondello even sought to cross-endorse Rice, a move reportedly blocked by then-as-now Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs.

All that is history.

As the dust clears Wednesday, with the Democrats having clung to their last countywide office, Singas can look to her first elected term. The twist is that although this was a special election to replace Rice, the winner of this election serves a full four years -- not just the rest of the prior term.

As a result, the DA's post -- previously elected on the same cycle as all other county offices -- will indefinitely remain on off-year ballots like this one.

For now, a question for the party operatives to ponder is whether the scandal backdrop suppressed even the small turnout that normally results from the sparse ballot choices in an off-year. In a letter to his committeemen last week, Mondello used the style of a locker-room pep talk.

"I want you to go to wherever in your home there is a mirror and ask yourself: Do you want to win this election?

"Here in Nassau County we always like to say we are the best grassroots Republican organization in the country. . . . Well, now it's time to prove it!"

As is custom, Mondello blasted the news media and accused Democrats of lying. But polls showed concern over government corruption -- a concern that appeared to transcend partisan loyalties.

By itself, losing a DA slot that his party didn't hold anyway may not prove significant for Mondello and company. His man Tony Santino, for example, prevailed on his home turf of Hempstead, succeeding Murray as supervisor. That's the bigger party domain.

Singas doesn't just keep the position. She now can assume the authority that goes with independent election -- rather than that of a placeholder by appointment.

Expect her to reorganize the office along priorities that become all her own for the next four years -- on a path distinct from Rice's, presuming that's what Singas wants.

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