Democratic Nassau County executive candidates Laura Curran and George Maragos met Friday for their only televised debate, each pledging anti-corruption and assessment reforms while attacking the other’s past positions.
Curran, a county legislator from Baldwin, and Maragos, the county comptroller, faced off inside News 12 Long Island studios in Woodbury, less than two weeks before the Sept. 12 primary election. The debate will air on News 12 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, and will also be available on Optimum channel 612 and News12.com.
With current County Executive Edward Mangano not seeking re-election as he fights federal corruption charges, Curran criticized “money squandered on jobs for the politically connected, on bloated contracts and on endless self-promotional campaigns.”
“I’ll work hard to restore trust in government, make sure every penny is being spent appropriately,” said Curran, a former newspaper reporter and school board trustee elected to the legislature in 2013.
Maragos, a Republican until last fall, opened more personally, calling himself a “self-made man” who came to America from Greece and built a career in finance before being elected comptroller in 2009.
“I’ve worked very hard and I’ve achieved the American dream,” Maragos said. “I’m running for county executive because I want to create a county that’ll allow our young people, our young families to achieve their American dreams.”
To combat corruption, both candidates favor term limits for elected officials and curbing the influence of political money. Curran said she’d bar her appointees from contributing to her campaign and limit the amount county contractors can give to officials; Maragos said he’d seek an outright ban on vendor contributions to officials and political parties.
They both blamed Nassau’s assessment system for disproportionately shifting the tax burden to property owners who don’t file grievances. Curran proposed fully staffing the assessor’s office, including hiring a qualified department head, while Maragos focused on ensuring more regular assessments reflecting market value.
The candidates sparred while discussing Maragos’ party switch. After the comptroller said his views had evolved — “and that I felt as an immigrant that I did not belong in the Republican Party” — Curran raised his touting of far-right positions on health care and climate change while running for U.S. Senate in 2012.
“There’s a clear difference as to who’s the clear Democrat in this race,” she said.
“I’ve been completely transparent in my evolving to Democratic values,” Maragos responded. “I think I’m the real Democrat standing here.”
He noted Curran’s vote last year with legislative Republicans to authorize capital borrowing — which got her temporarily barred from Democratic caucus meetings.
“I’m very proud of my reputation I’ve carved out as a legislator who puts her constituents first,” Curran said.
The Democratic primary winner will face Republican Jack Martins, a former state senator, in the general election. Green Party member Cassandra Lems is also on the ballot.