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Mangano cites mandate to continue his policies

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano is back in

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano is back in his office in Mineola after being re-elected to a second term. (Nov 6, 2013) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano on Wednesday called his overwhelming re-election Tuesday night a mandate to continue the policies of his first term.

"This was a clear approval of the path we've set this county on," Mangano said in an interview. "Obviously, we're going to continue on that path."

The flip side of the Republican's 18-point margin of victory over former County Executive Thomas Suozzi, a Democrat, is raised expectations, experts said.

E.J. McMahon, president of the Empire Center for Public Policy, an Albany fiscal policy think tank, said Mangano will be under more pressure during his second term to fix the county's budget. The county's financial control board, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, says the spending plan is habitually out of balance and too reliant on borrowing.

"When things went sour before, the reliable fallback was to blame Suozzi," McMahon said. "But now, the guy in office during the last term was you."

Mangano on Tuesday beat Suozzi by nearly 50,000 votes; in 2009, his margin of victory over Suozzi, then a two-term incumbent, was 386 votes.

"A lot of people looked upon him as almost an accidental county executive candidate a few years ago," said Michael Dawidziak, a political consultant who typically works with Republicans, but who wasn't involved in this race. "He wasn't expected to win then. But this time, he's obviously got a huge mandate, and in many ways that gives you a lot more freedom to make tough decisions."

Nassau's political power centers didn't shift much in Tuesday's election.

Republicans kept control of the county legislature, increasing their majority to 11-8. Democrats still have enough votes to block borrowing by Mangano to pay expenses including tax refund settlements.

Mangano, who ran for re-election on a platform of freezing property taxes, said he hoped to get more cooperation from the Democratic minority over the next few years.

"I expect the legislature will see that the people of Nassau County put us back into office by a wide margin," he said. "It's a significant mandate to continue with our fiscal plan."

Legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said no margin of victory erases the county's "mountain of issues and problems." He cited a property assessment system that he said shifts the tax burden to property owners who don't file grievances. Abrahams also noted that NIFA board members have cited a potential $122 million shortfall in Mangano's 2014 budget, and criticized the plan as too reliant on borrowing for tax refunds.

"I would think that the election is the election, and that government is government," Abrahams said. Democrats "still have eight seats in the legislature, which makes us extremely relevant, and I'd think it'd be in his benefit to keep us informed and to build consensus where he can," he said.

Mangano said his second-term agenda will focus on superstorm Sandy rebuilding and creating jobs through initiatives such as the $229 million redevelopment of Nassau Coliseum. He said he would continue to hold down property taxes. Mangano also plans to focus on repair of the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant, which was badly damaged in Sandy a year ago.

As for the county's overall recovery from Sandy he said, "It's going to be a long-term project, but every day hopefully we can get more people back into their homes and businesses."

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