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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Nassau needs an aggressive prosecutor

From left, Madeline Singas, Michael Scotto and Kate

From left, Madeline Singas, Michael Scotto and Kate Murray are vying for the position of Nassau County district attorney. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp / Audrey C. Tiernan

As of Wednesday, three candidates had joined the race to become Nassau County's next district attorney.

Two are Democrats -- Madeline Singas, who is acting in the job now, and Michael Scotto, a former Manhattan prosecutor -- and one is Republican, Kate Murray, Hempstead's town supervisor.

Singas, whose candidacy is backed by Nassau's Democratic Party, will fight it out with Scotto in a September primary. Should Scotto lose, there's the possibility he could fight to stay in the race as an independent.

Singas has money and Murray has money. Nassau Democratic leaders are waiting to see if Scotto can get funding, as well as public support in the primary with no formal party backing.

Or will he be a spoiler who could funnel votes away from Singas, leaving Murray with an edge?

That's some of the politics of the race, which is generating the most attention of any race in Nassau, for now.

But with two federal prosecutors already examining corruption-related issues on Long Island, including county contracting, residents may want to push the campaign in another direction. Just this week, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara charged State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and his son, Adam, with extortion, bribery and conspiracy. They have denied the allegations.

Do the federal investigations mean that Long Island prosecutors haven't been aggressive enough in tackling allegations of public corruption?

It's a fair question, one that Long Islanders -- judging from my email inbox -- have been raising. And it's one that should help to frame the campaign.

Thomas Spota, Suffolk's DA, gets a pass this year because he's not up for re-election.

While Spota typically has been endorsed by all the major political parties, the race for Nassau's DA could be wide open. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo never gifted incumbency to any Nassau DA wannabe because Cuomo never appointed a replacement DA to serve out the remaining few months of now-U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice's term.

Singas, as Rice's chief deputy, was tapped by Rice to keep the office operating until voters elect a new district attorney in November.

That means all three candidates will be scrambling to secure traction.

And while it appears that Democrats will spend time and money battling each other before going on to battle Murray -- who, of the three, has the highest public profile -- maybe that's not such a bad a thing.

For one, it will draw out the campaign for the county's top law enforcement office.

Which means that candidates will have to spend more time campaigning, while Nassau voters vet their platforms and records.

Most likely they'll find residents increasingly willing to vent frustration following revelation after revelation of alleged wrongdoing by public officials.

As voters look toward a Democratic DA primary, and then, the general election, they deserve some answers via a robust campaign.

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