Republicans in the Nassau County Legislature criticized Democratic County Executive Laura Curran Wednesday for sending a county-funded mailer featuring her name and title just weeks before the Nov. 2 election.
Curran responded by accusing majority legislative Republicans of trying to suppress the vote by criticizing the government-funded mailer identifying 17 county polling sites that will open Oct. 23 for early voting.
The back-and-forth comes after Curran, a Democrat running for reelection on Nov. 2, on Monday signed GOP-sponsored legislation to bar county elected officials from sending taxpayer-funded mass mailings to residents within 45 days of a county election.
The law does not prohibit mailings that inform the public about meetings or events.
Curran's mailer featured her name in capital letters at the top and the headline "Vote early at any Nassau County Location." The mailer contained a list of 17 early voting sites that will be open from Oct. 23 through Oct. 31.
Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said Curran should not have sent a county-funded mailer with her name on it so close to the Nov. 2 general election.
"I am offended, and my constituents are offended by this mailer that she just sent out with her name on it, telling people about early voting hours," Nicolello told Newsday.
"In my opinion, it's over the line in terms about being overtly political," Nicolello said. "We're going to demand that she pay the county back."
Nicolello continued: "It has her name on it, talks about polling places — it's inappropriate campaigning using our resources."
In a statement, Curran spokesman Mike Fricchione said Curran, "believes voter education is fundamental to democracy."
Fricchione said the GOP majority, "and other elected officials should be encouraging residents to vote instead of using political gimmicks that look to suppress participation."
Fricchione said the county sent the mailer to approximately 366,000 households on Sept. 29 at a cost of $85,000.
Fricchione noted the county distributed a mailer last year identifying poll sites to help publicize early voting.
Curran faces Republican Bruce Blakeman, a Hempstead Town Council member, in the election.
"One of the things that is not necessary is taxpayers to get a reminder to vote on county official newsletters paid for by taxpayers with Laura Curran's name on it," Blakeman told Newsday.
Curran campaign manager Shelby Wiltz responded: "The fact is, these mailers are standard and Blakeman is throwing everything but the kitchen sink in an effort to distract from his own record of reckless mismanagement that cost taxpayers millions by the time he left office."
Wiltz was referring to Nassau's financial difficulties during the period when Blakeman served as legislative presiding officer in the 1990s and Republican Thomas Gulotta was county executive.
In defending Curran's mailer about early voting sites, Democrats and Curran aides have pointed to Republican newsletters, including one sent by Nicolello on Aug. 16 that included two photos of him interacting with county residents.
Nicolello replied: "That's not two weeks before the election, and it's not telling people where they can go to vote."
Nicolello continued: "everyone of us, the county executive included, sent out information of what you've been doing, services that you're providing,"
But he criticized Curran for sending a mailer "next to the election, telling people where to vote, using taxpayer money … "
All 19 legislative seats also are up for election on Nov. 2.