Nassau residents will head to the polls on Tuesday to elect a county executive. This year's race is between incumbent Laura Curran and Hempstead town councilman Bruce Blakeman. Newsday's Faith Jessie has more. Credit: Newsday

Voters could be forgiven for thinking the Nassau County executive race was solely between Democratic incumbent Laura Curran and Republican challenger Bruce Blakeman.

But Curran and Blakeman aren't the only actors in the campaign.

Nassau Republicans have been using their only bully pulpit — the GOP-controlled Nassau County Legislature — to counter the influence of the county executive's office through legislation, news conferences and legislative hearings.

For weeks, Democratic and Republican legislators have been sparring over issues including cuts in county fees, delays in the issuance of business permits and the accuracy of property tax assessments.

For her part, Curran has held frequent news conferences this year that have kept her in the public eye.

She announced a program to provide $375 checks to individual county residents using federal pandemic aid.

Over the summer, she honored Leonora Sangalang and Jeffrey Juarez, the grandma-grandson duo from East Meadow behind the TikTok sensation "Our Filipino Grandma," and launched a shark flag warning system after "JAW dropping" sightings.

Craig Burnett, a political-science professor at Hofstra University, said Republican lawmakers were trying to "reconstruct a bully pulpit" to compete with the "megaphone of the county executive."

Incumbents such as Curran "have their face in the news, they're holding town halls," Burnett said.

"Whatever it is that they normally would do to try to run a campaign, that picks up significantly, and that includes the official duties that are assigned to that role, too," he said.

Blakeman has been far from inactive.

He's appeared at GOP county legislators' news conferences that have criticized reassessment.

In Facebook posts, Blakeman's campaign highlights what he says are rising crime rates and an increasing number of shots fired in communities in the county.

Blakeman said majority Republican county legislators were following his lead when they proposed a $120 million cut in the property tax levy — $50 million more than Curran had sought in her 2022 budget.

"I was the first to come out with $120 million tax cuts," Blakeman told Newsday. "If anything I’m leading, which I should be doing as head of the Republican ticket."

On Friday, Republicans failed to override Curran's veto of their tax cuts and their plan to reduce county fees by $106 million.

But Blakeman's position as a council member in Nassau County's largest town, Hempstead, goes only so far in providing him with a platform.

For that, Republicans need the legislature, where they have an 11-8 majority.

Joseph Cairo Jr., Nassau Republican chairman, said the GOP legislative caucus "like anyone in government with a responsibility to their office, tries to do what’s right."

Cairo said Blakeman was "in line with" their agenda.

"People see him as a Republican, and the majority are Republicans, and they’re certainly going to take a look at that," Cairo said.

"Bruce Blakeman’s governmental function is limited to the town, where he’s done a good and responsible job," Cairo said.

But Cairo said Blakeman wasn't riding the "coattails" of county legislators.

"He’s out there advocating for what he believes in," Cairo said.

"I have to give the Republicans credit — they do this very well, they use their position in legislatures, be it the Congress, or county legislature, to score points," Jay Jacobs, chairman of the Nassau and state Democratic committees, told Newsday,

"They strategize and they’re very good at it — finding ways to put Democrats in a tough position on how to vote," Jacobs said.

This month, Republicans held a news conference to accuse Curran's consumer affairs department of taking too long to issue business permits to four of the county’s business owners.

GOP legislators, in hearings, also have probed administration officials responsible for reassessment, pandemic preparedness and distribution of federal aid.

Legislative Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said in an interview: "We’re doing the same thing we’ve been doing for the last three years."

It's "basically differences in policy … ," he said. "We’ve been pretty aggressive in terms of pushing our agenda."

Curran said some GOP initiatives, such as fee cuts that would deprive the county budget of more than $100 million in revenues, were intended "to inject chaos into what we’re doing."

She continued, "frankly I think people are turned off by it."

Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV Credit: Newsday

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