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Hempstead Town Democrats nominate Rita Kestenbaum for town supervisor

Democratic candidate for Hempstead Town Supervisor Rita Kestenbaum

Democratic candidate for Hempstead Town Supervisor Rita Kestenbaum waves to the crowd as she is nominated during the Nassau County Democratic Convention at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City on the evening of May 26, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Hempstead Town Democrats hope to win the supervisor seat for the first time in more than a century by nominating former Nassau County legislator candidate Rita Kestenbaum to challenge Republican Councilman Anthony Santino.

Kestenbaum, 56, of Bellmore, served on the Hempstead Town Board in 1999 and 2000. She ran against Republican Steven Rhoads in a March special election to fill the seat of former Legis. Dave Denenberg in the 19th Legislative District. Rhoads won.

She runs a nonprofit organization in memory of her daughter Carol, who was murdered in 2007 at Arizona State University in Tempe.

Nassau County Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs said Kestenbaum was selected for the nomination because she won a seat in the town before, despite Hempstead being a Republican stronghold.

He said Democrats would attack Santino's record of taxes and pay increases during his 22 years on the town board.

"Santino comes with a lot of baggage. . .," Jacobs said. "He'll have to defend himself against someone campaigning on clean, ethical government, not with insiders."

Santino disputed Democratic figures that he had raised taxes 70 percent since he took office and said he has kept taxes and expenses low for residents, by cutting the tax levy 16 times while in office.

"I'm running on my record of working in Town Hall for almost 30 years and managing government well for the people that's fiscally prudent," Santino said.

Hempstead Town voters will also have to decide on three council seats held by Republican incumbents.

Incumbent Ed Ambrosino in the 2nd District, which includes Floral Park, Garden City and Bellerose Terrace, is running against Tammie Williams, a library board member in Elmont.

Councilmembers Bruce Blakeman and Erin King Sweeney, appointed in January to fill board vacancies, are running for the first time.

Blakeman's 3rd District seat includes Atlantic Beach, South Valley Stream, Inwood and Lawrence. He faces former Valley Stream school board president Carolyn Torres.

King Sweeney, whose 5th District includes Seaford, Wantagh and Point Lookout, is facing Merrick firefighter Mike Reid.

Republican Hempstead Town Clerk Nasrin Ahmad is being challenged by Democrat and former Nassau County OTB president Dino Amoroso.

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