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Howard Kopel mulls run for Nassau comptroller

Nassau County Legis. Howard Kopel, a Republican, is

Nassau County Legis. Howard Kopel, a Republican, is mulling a run for Nassau County Comptroller. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County Legis. Howard J. Kopel is mulling a campaign for county comptroller — the first potential candidate to publicly express interest in the office.

Incumbent County Comptroller George Maragos, a Republican who changed his registration to Democratic, is running for county executive next year and not seeking re-election.

Kopel (R-Lawrence), who has represented the 7th Legislative District since 2010, called the comptroller job “attractive” and said it would “give me the opportunity to get a lot of good things done.”

But Kopel, whose legislative post also is up next year, said he remains undecided about a countywide run. “I know I can do a good job and I have plenty of good ideas,” Kopel said. “But can I win? And if I don’t win, what have I accomplished?”

Nassau Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs called Kopel “formidable.” Jacobs said he has possible comptroller candidates in mind, although he declined to identify them.

“I am looking for someone who understands municipal finance and debt,” Jacobs said. “We also need someone with a sense of independence.”

In 2014, Kopel crafted legislation, later adopted by the state, requiring business owners who contest their property tax assessments to place up to 10 percent of the assessed value of their properties in an escrow account. Funds from that account will be used to pay commercial property tax refunds if the business wins its challenge.

The Disputed Assessment Fund goes into effect with the 2016/17 tax roll.

In September, Kopel broke ranks with fellow Republicans, temporarily delaying approval of a contract to study a potential $1 billion lease of the county’s sewer system to a private investor. Kopel, who later approved the deal, said at the time he was “skeptical” about the privatization effort.

Kopel, who runs a title insurance firm in Valley Stream, likely would need to ramp up his fundraising to make a countywide run. He has $3,483 on hand, according to campaign finance records.

Maragos, who has served two terms as county comptroller, clashed with County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, in recent years, over management of the county’s finances.

Mangano, who was indicted on federal corruption charges in October for his dealings with a Bethpage restaurateur, has yet to indicate if he will run for a third term. Mangano has pleaded not guilty.

Christopher Wright, a member of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state monitoring board in control of the county’s finances, has been mentioned as a possible comptroller candidate.

Wright, who has decades of private sector auditing experience, has said he has “no plans to seek public office.”

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