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Democrats announce challengers to Hempstead Town GOP majority

The Town of Hempstead Democratic slate: Tom Tweedy,

The Town of Hempstead Democratic slate: Tom Tweedy, Shari James and Lora Webster for council, Supervisor Laura Gillen, Town Clerk Sylvia Cabana, and Chandra Ortiz for tax receiver. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Hempstead Democrats kicked off their campaign Tuesday by introducing their slate to challenge the Republican majority on the town board.

Supervisor Laura Gillen is seeking re-election to her second term as the town’s first Democratic supervisor in more than a century. She is being challenged by Republican Receiver of Taxes Donald X. Clavin, who has been in the receiver role for more than a dozen years.

Gillen’s slate includes Republican former Floral Park Mayor Tom Tweedy, who is running on the Democratic ticket against Republican Councilman Thomas Muscarella. Muscarella was appointed in April to replace Councilman Ed Ambrosino, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion.

Former Paralympian Lora Webster, 32, of Point Lookout, is challenging Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney and former Nassau County Chief Deputy Comptroller Shari James, 35, of Valley Stream is challenging Councilman Bruce Blakeman.

King Sweeney and Blakeman were first appointed to the town board and later elected to four-year terms. They are both private attorneys seeking their second terms.

Webster is a stay-at-home mom and four-time Paralympian volleyball player. James previously served as interim comptroller in Long Beach before going to the county comptroller’s office and now runs her own tax consulting firm.

Gillen said she needs fellow Democrats elected on the town board to give her a coalition on the current 5-2 majority. The only other Democrat is Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, who often votes with Republicans.

“To get anything done, I need four votes,” Gillen said. “I am pushing forward good government initiatives and the votes are often 6-1. I need people to join me to do good things. The town is in a lot more fiscally responsible position than it has been in decades and these are not career politicians who will join me.”

Gillen said the town board was operating "government by sabotage" when it passed budget amendments without consulting with her. The town board passed 73 amendments to Gillen's proposed budget, prompting her to vote against a 3.5 percent tax cut.

Gillen said she proposed a budget with no residential tax hike. Republicans said the budget would have raised taxes.

"Laura Gillen tried to hike your taxes, voted against a tax cut and now is lying about her tax hiking record," Nassau Republican spokesman Mike Deery said. "Supervisor Laura Gillen’s Dream Team is a taxpayer’s nightmare."

Gillen's campaign manager Michael Ousley said Hempstead Republicans have forced residents to pay taxes for decades for patronage hires by more than $90 million.

"The only person on the board who hasn't raised taxes is Laura Gillen," Ousley said. 

The town Democratic clerk, Sylvia Cabana, is also seeking re-election following a two-year term. She is being challenged by former Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, who was hired in March as a deputy county clerk.

The Democratic receiver of taxes candidate Chandra Ortiz, 55, is running against Republican Jeanine Driscoll, a Bellerose aviation attorney.

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