Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos announced Thursday that he has switched his registration from Republican to Democrat and will seek the party’s nomination for county executive next year.
Maragos, who has held his post since 2010 — in that time twice running for U.S. Senate as a social conservative — said he has drifted away from the local GOP on issues such as budget management, raising the minimum wage and providing more business opportunities for women and minorities.
“Over time, I found my values have become more aligned with the Democratic Party,” Maragos said at a news conference outside State Supreme Court in Mineola, where he was joined by Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs.
Jacobs once criticized Maragos for challenging Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) after barely six months as comptroller and said he “didn’t measure up” to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), when Maragos ran against her.
But on Thursday, Jacobs said “it is of no small consequence” that a top county official joined his party, calling Maragos someone of high “caliber and quality and importance.”
Jacobs said he was not endorsing Maragos’ county executive bid. Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman has created a campaign committee for a potential run. County Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin) has also expressed interest.
“I’m here strictly to welcome him to the Democratic Party. I appreciate his announcement and I’m excited by his entry into the race,” Jacobs said.
Nassau GOP chairman Joseph Mondello said he wished Maragos “the best of luck,” but, “it should be clearly understood that I will be working tirelessly to ensure a Republican occupies the county executive’s office for many years to come.”
Maragos, 67, of Great Neck, founded a Manhattan financial technology firm. He was elected in 2009, the same year Republican Edward Mangano upset Democratic County Executive Thomas Suozzi.
The relationship between Maragos and Mangano has splintered of late as Maragos led audits critical of the administration and held up payments for controversial contracts.
Maragos said he was running for county executive because “we are all aware that Nassau County faces significant financial challenges, multiple corruption allegations, weak economic growth and a costly and unfair tax assessment system.”
Mangano touts assessment fixes, property tax freezes, and having among the state’s lowest unemployment rates.
“We wish the Democrats well with the new opportunistic face of their party,” said Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin. “It’ll certainly be interesting to see how Democrats embrace the conservative values George Maragos trumpeted in his failed campaigns.”
Nevin was referring to statements Maragos made when seeking to face Schumer in 2010 and Gillibrand in 2012. Maragos didn’t qualify for the GOP primary in 2010 and finished last in the 2012 primary.
In a 2011 interview with Island Now news, Maragos said he viewed marriage as between a man and a woman, and “some people would even like to marry with their pets.”
Robert Zimmerman, a Democratic National committeeman from Great Neck, called Maragos’ candidacy “an affront to the principles and standards of the Democratic Party.
“If Nassau Democrats are to build credibility with the electorate, then we cannot turn to candidates who have attacked our elected Democrats and take positions that are offensive to our core beliefs and constituents,” Zimmerman said.
Asked Thursday about his old stances on same-sex marriage, Maragos said: “I’ve evolved on some of those social principles,” but added, “I am a fiscal conservative, and I think that’s what our county needs.”
Resides: Great Neck
Career: founded SDS Financial Technologies, a Manhattan financial data and investment firm; held executive positions at major banks
Political History: Elected Nassau County Comptroller as a Republican in 2009; sought GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in 2010 and 2012; reelected comptroller as a Republican in 2013; said Thursday that he has changed his registration to Democrat and seek the party’s nomination for county executive in 2017.