Republican Jack Martins and Democrat Laura Curran, the major party candidates for Nassau County executive, squared off Monday in their only televised debate, with each pledging to root out political corruption and improve the county’s lagging finances.
Martins, a former Mineola mayor and three-term state senator from Old Westbury, and Curran, a second-term Nassau County legislator from Baldwin, took questions for 30 minutes at News 12 Long Island’s studios in Woodbury. The debate will air Nov. 2, at 8:30 p.m. on Channel 612 and became available on News12.com Monday night.
Curran said if elected she would press for safeguards to combat political corruption.
Martins stressed his experience in office and his plans to end a financial control period imposed by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state oversight board.
The candidates declined to attack each other, with Martins saying “neither Laura or I are corrupt.”
Curran criticized the GOP administration of County Executive Edward Mangano — who is not seeking re-election and is fighting federal corruption charges — for poor oversight of county contracts and wasteful spending on patronage jobs.
“As a legislator for the past four years I’ve had a front-row seat to the dysfunction, corruption and to the mismanagement,” Curran said. “And frankly, I find our government to be an embarrassment.”
Martins said lawmakers from both parties have “violated the public trust,” but said the county needs to fix its finances.
“It starts with leadership,” Martins said. “It starts with accountability. And it starts with balancing the budget so that we have the resources that we need to begin investing in infrastructure, transportation and economic development.”
Martins and Curran each promised to create more affordable housing for young families and to hold the line on property taxes and fee hikes.
Mangano’s 2018 budget would raise $35 million in revenue by raising the $55 surcharge on traffic tickets, and generate $25 million by hiking two real estate fees.
Curran and Martins said they oppose the fee hikes, arguing that savings can be achieved through streamlined government operations.
“We don’t have a revenue problem in Nassau County,” Martins said. “We have a problem with leadership.”
Martins and Curran criticized the county’s red light camera fees but said they would continue the program, citing a reduction in accidents. They said they would redirect some ticket revenue to youth funding, senior services and NICE Bus.
“This is an unfair tax,” Curran said. “We have to make sure we keep it fair and for safety.”
The candidates backed plans to redevelop Belmont Park, but said road improvements and more frequent rail service would be needed to alleviate traffic.
“The communities that live there should not have to bear the brunt of economic development,” Martins said.
The New York Islanders last month submitted a bid to the state to build a new arena at Belmont. New York City FC has proposed a 26,000-seat soccer stadium while Syosset-based Blumenfeld Development Group also submitted a bid.
“Let’s not blow it again,” said Curran, citing the Islanders departure from the Nassau Coliseum in 2015 after political leaders failed to agree on plans to build a new arena. “We need to have community buy-in.”
Green Party member Cassandra Lems is also on the ballot.