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Curran wins Nassau executive race as Martins concedes

Republican calls Democratic winner to congratulate her, encourages “everyone to work together to put partisanship aside.”

Republican Jack Martins on Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 8, 2017, conceded the Nassau County executive race to Democrat Laura Curran, who will be the first woman to hold that office. (Credit: Newsday / Stefanie Dazio)

Republican Jack Martins on Wednesday afternoon conceded the Nassau County executive race to Democrat Laura Curran, cementing that she’ll be the first woman to hold the office.

“I encourage everyone to work together to put partisanship aside to restore trust in government and get Nassau back on the right track,” Martins said in a statement, also noting that he called Curran to offer his congratulations.

Curran’s victory — now that it is official — rewards what was, by design, a one-note campaign.

While she occasionally talked about fixing county finances and building up the tax base, Curran relentlessly hammered at what she called incumbent Republicans’ “culture of corruption.”

The two-term county legislator from Baldwin matched her stump speeches, mailers and television ads to the same theme: Nassau County needed a fresh start — even if Martins had no real ties to the indicted GOP County Executive Edward Mangano, other than party.

In the wake of Mangano being charged with taking bribes and kickbacks, Curran, 49, repeatedly pledged to overhaul the way the county awarded contracts, limit her hires’ political activity, and fight to cap campaign contributions that could be made by county vendors.

Martins, 50, a former state senator from Old Westbury, also announced ethics reform plans, and often pivoted to issues of finances and fighting gang violence.

In the end, Curran’s focus may not have been the only reason she beat Martins by a 3 percentage point margin.

Political analysts said Curran may also have been helped by Democratic voters coming out in larger numbers to send a message to President Donald Trump; union turnout against the state constitutional convention ballot question; or by the surprising underperformance of Republican Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino, who lost to underdog Laura Gillen to give town control to Democrats for the first time in 100 years.

Still, the analysts said, Curran’s disciplined anti-corruption message was certainly toward the top of the list of reasons she won.

“Consistent focus on one issue that polls say works is generally a winning tactic rather shifting to other issues,” said Manhattan Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf. He noted that the election of a woman also “by definition signifies an end to machine politics.

“Fighting corruption means change,” he added.

Michael Dawidziak, a Bohemia political strategist who works largely with Republicans, said “it’s almost never just one reason” how a candidate pulls off such a victory.

“Did Democrats turn out better than they normally do in an odd year? Republicans worse?” Dawidziak said. “Was that due to the Trump factor? We can guess now, but as the hard data becomes available, we will be able to draw more solid conclusions.”

In the unofficial election night results, Curran garnered 7,898 more votes than Martins out of about 288,000 ballots cast. Preliminary figures show that turnout was about 29 percent of registered county voters, nearly identical to 2013, when Mangano easily won his second term.

Addressing GOP faithful after 12:30 a.m., Nassau Republican chairman Joseph Mondello alluded to Martins’ loss and that of Santino. “This is a bad one. We haven’t done well,” said Mondello, adding that “it’s a cyclical business.”

In her victory speech from The Inn at New Hyde Park, Curran said she won because of the “tireless effort of so many who believe the same thing I do: that there is a better future in store for Nassau County and that we can create a government that is accountable to taxpayers.”

Over the course of a tense campaign, Curran and Martins each spent more than $1 million to convince voters they were the right person to lead the county of more than 1.3 million people. Nassau has faced persistent budget deficits, and in recent years has been hit by ethics scandals even beyond Mangano’s.

Curran, in her television ads, had attacked Martins for his ties to former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre). After Skelos was arrested on federal corruption charges in early 2015, Martins initially said he should keep his leadership post.

Skelos, who stepped down as leader within a week of his arrest, ultimately was convicted in a case that centered on his attempts to pressure businesses into giving no-show jobs to his son, Adam.

The conviction was overturned in September when a federal appeals court ruled that jury instructions hadn’t reflected a later U.S. Supreme Court finding that narrowed federal corruption laws. Dean and Adam Skelos are scheduled to be retried in June.

Martins had tried to tie Curran to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Curran’s campaign used the same consulting firm, BerlinRosen of Manhattan, as de Blasio. The firm was subpoenaed in a federal probe of de Blasio’s fundraising that closed without charges.

Now, Curran will have to govern with a county legislative majority that remains in Republican hands. Though Democrats picked up one seat Tuesday, the GOP holds an 11 to 8 advantage.

“Now, we have to come together — all of us — Democrats, Republicans, and independents, so we can enact the safeguards needed to stop corruption before it can happen, and ensure that our tax dollars are going only to real, critical government services,” Curran said.

On Tuesday night, Mangano offered Curran his congratulations.

“We had a pleasant conversation where I offered her assistance in an orderly transition,” Mangano said in a statement. “She indicated she would call me to arrange a meeting very soon.”

With John Asbury and Robert Brodsky

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