In a major upset, Democrat Madeline Singas, a first-time political candidate, easily defeated veteran Republican Kate Murray Tuesday night in the bitterly contested election for Nassau County district attorney.
With 99.6 percent of precincts reporting, Singas, the acting district attorney, led Murray, the longtime Hempstead Town supervisor, by 16 percentage points -- or more than 30,000 votes, according to results from Nassau County Board of Elections.
Just after 11 p.m., Singas took the stage at the Nassau Democrats' party at the Garden City Hotel and thanked supporters.
"The message got through -- I'm not a politician, I couldn't do it without you, I'm just a prosecutor," she said to loud cheers.
"The people have spoken," Murray said in an interview from Nassau Republican headquarters in Westbury. "I'm proud of the campaign I ran."
In a year with no federal or statewide races, both major parties in Nassau made the district attorney's office -- the only countywide seat on the ballot -- a top priority. The candidates spent $3 million on the race, with $1.4 million of that going to television ads alone.
Murray, who worked as a lawyer in the state attorney general's office before winning her first elected office, had said her leadership of a 759,000-resident town -- where she has been supervisor since 2003 -- trumped a lack of criminal law experience. She had also made her endorsement by all local law enforcement unions a key component of her campaign.
But Singas, who has worked as a prosecutor in Queens and Nassau and served as former District Attorney Kathleen Rice's chief deputy, contrasted her 24 years of trying criminal cases with Murray's record, and said she was best suited to tackle public corruption.
"Public corruption is still a problem in Nassau County and I pledge to root it out," she said, thanking Murray for a "hard-fought battle."
"She's a public servant and she's always looking out for the interest of Nassau County," Singas said of Murray.
The stakes were high for Democrats as they worked to retain their last countywide seat -- one that Rice, now a Democratic member of Congress, had held for nine years after defeating a 31-year Republican incumbent, Denis Dillon, in 2005.
Republicans were hoping to reclaim the post, which would have put them in control of every countywide office for the first time since 2001. The Nassau County district attorney's office has 375 employees -- 200 of whom are prosecutors -- and a $34.6 million budget.
Turnout in the race was 20 percent, slightly below the 25 percent that voted in 2011, the last local election that did not feature the county executive.
A Newsday/News 12/Siena College poll on Sunday had showed Singas and Murray virtually tied, with Murray leading Singas 46 percent to 45 percent and 9 percent undecided.
Singas, 49, of Manhasset, has served as acting district attorney since January. She has raised about $1.8 million.
Murray, 53, of Levittown, announced her run in May. Since first winning a seat in the Assembly in 1998, she had won nearly all of her elections by a 3-to-1 ratio. In this race, she raised $1.6 million, including $550,000 from the county GOP.
Murray made heroin abuse a priority. Singas cast Murray as a career politician who wouldn't pursue public corruption.
Her ads showed photos of Murray standing next to state Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), who is facing federal corruption charges. Skelos has pleaded not guilty.
With Robert Brodsky,
Sid Cassese and