Republican candidate for Nassau County executive Bruce Blakeman speaks with...

Republican candidate for Nassau County executive Bruce Blakeman speaks with volunteers and canvassers in Island Park on Saturday. Credit: Johnny Milano

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Republican opponent Bruce Blakeman rallied their volunteers on the last Saturday before Election Day, part of a push to get their voters to the polls in a year when no national or statewide candidates are on the ballot.

"It’s all about turnout," Democrat Curran said as she stood on a folding chair talking to about 50 volunteers — most from Columbia University College Democrats — at a campaign field office in Valley Stream.

Far fewer people typically vote in off-year elections like Tuesday’s compared with presidential election years, so each party getting their supporters to the polls is especially critical.

At a Republican Party campaign office in Island Park, Blakeman, a Hempstead Town councilman, thanked the roughly 50 Republican volunteers sitting at folding tables preparing campaign materials to leave on residents’ door handles.

"None of us can do this without you," he said. "We need you, and we really appreciate everything you’re doing. You’re working hard, but you believe in what we believe in."

Blakeman focused much of his pep talk to volunteers on the signature issue of his campaign — opposition to Curran’s tax reassessment.

"People are getting their school tax bill now and they’re shocked," he said. "Wherever I go, they’re shocked at what this reassessment has done to their school tax bill."

Nassau Couny Executive Laura Curran meets in Valley Stream on...

Nassau Couny Executive Laura Curran meets in Valley Stream on Saturday with students from Columbia University who will be canvassing for her and county legislative candidate Laura Burns. Credit: Johnny Milano

The reassessment overseen by Curran occurred after her predecessor, Republican Edward Mangano, had frozen tax rolls in 2011. That led to an undervaluing of many homes and to many residents filing appeals to their taxes, with the county settling about 80% of all challenges. Property owners who did not file tax appeals, and those who lost appeals, shouldered a disproportionate share of the property tax burden.

Blakeman talked about "the inequity, the inequality of all of the assessments that have been done, the valuations that have been done," discussing how some homeowners saw their tax bills soar while some "millionaires" will pay no taxes at all.

The latter was a reference to how owners of seven properties in Nassau — including one valued at $3.2 million and another at $4 million — paid no property taxes in 2020-21, as part of an exemption approved unanimously by county legislators of both parties to prevent especially large hikes in assessed values. All seven properties had been significantly undervalued, and owners will pay taxes this year, county officials said.

Blakeman also cited mistakes that have caused homeowners to lose exemptions and that calculated valuations incorrectly. County officials said they later corrected the values.

In an interview after she thanked campaign volunteers one-by-one, Curran defended the reassessment and touted how the county had its first bond upgrade in 15 years and how her administration erased budget deficits and created surpluses.

She said, "I don’t think we can go back to the bad old days of fiscal gimmicks and reckless budgeting when my opponent" was the Nassau legislature’s presiding officer in the late 1990s and the county was $300 million in debt while Republican Thomas Gulotta was county executive.

"We have had years of chronic deficits, fiscal mismanagement and avoiding problems, avoiding difficult things like reassessment," Curran said.

Blakeman said in an interview that Curran tying him to the county’s 1990s financial problems "is absolutely ridiculous. I’ve never been the county executive. I was a legislator." At the time, he said, he and other legislators cut spending to help stabilize finances.

Blakeman also turned to another key issue on which Republicans across Long Island are running: the state bail reform law that took effect in January 2020 that eliminated cash bail on most misdemeanor and nonviolent felonies.

"Every place you go in Nassau County, crime is up, shootings are up 39%," he said, ticking off recent crimes that have occurred across the county.

"It’s out of control, and that’s why we need a county executive who will back the blue, who will never defund the police," he said.

Blakeman was referring to how Nassau police said in July that there was a 39% increase in instances of gunshots fired in areas they patrol, although officials also said major crimes fell 10.5%, and murders were down 40%.

Curran responded that she has always spoken out against defunding the police — her budget proposal, which the legislature approved Friday, increases public safety spending by $45 million — and that she has repeatedly said that bail reform "went way too far."

Curran and Blakeman are leading their parties’ tickets, but volunteers also were promoting candidates for district attorney and other county offices, and for town offices.

Laura Burns of Rockville Centre, a Democrat challenging Republican county Legis. C. William Gaylor of Lynbrook, told volunteers to stress the importance of local elections to voters.

"These are the people who have the most impact on your day to-day-life here," she said. "And feel free to remind anyone you’re talking to about this. … It’s where our property taxes go, it’s your streets, it’s your parks, it’s your services for the elderly and the disabled and veterans."

Anthony D’Esposito, an incumbent Republican Hempstead Town councilman from Island Park running against Aaron Meyer of Oceanside, a registered Republican running on the Democratic line, said volunteers for him and other Republican candidates are "the heart and soul" of the campaign.

"These are people who are out here supporting candidates they believe in, and we have the same beliefs, whether it’s keeping our community safe, or whether it’s respecting their wallets and making sure their tax dollars go as far as they can," he said.

With Scott Eidler

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