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Newsday poll: Martins, Curran locked in tight race for Nassau exec

Nassau County Executive candidates Jack Martins and Laura

Nassau County Executive candidates Jack Martins and Laura Curran at a debate hosted by the LIA at Crest Hollow country club on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 in Woodbury. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Republican Jack Martins and Democrat Laura Curran are locked in an extremely tight race for Nassau County executive, with each holding nearly identical favorability ratings and cross-party support levels, according to a new Newsday/Siena College poll.

Martins, a former state senator from Old Westbury, leads Curran, a county legislator from Baldwin, by two percentage points — 43 to 41 — within the 3.6 percent margin of error, the poll found.

Green Party candidate Cassandra Lems was supported by three percent of respondents, with another 13 percent saying they didn’t know who they’d vote for or had no opinion.

The poll surveyed 742 likely county voters from Oct. 17-24. The election is Nov. 7.

Using turnout in the 2013 county executive race, Siena sampled 42 percent Republicans, 35 percent Democrats and 17 percent minor party members or independents.

In 2013, incumbent Republican Edward Mangano easily won re-election over his predecessor, Democrat Thomas Suozzi, in an election that brought out about 28 percent of registered Nassau voters.

Mangano isn’t seeking a third term this year as he fights federal corruption charges. Curran and Martins are both prioritizing county ethics reform.

“Needless to say, it’s quite close,” said Siena College Research Institute Director Donald Levy. “It will be a low turnout election, so both of the leading campaigns have to do everything they possibly can to get their people to show up.”

Curran, a former newspaper reporter and school board member, has been a legislator for four years. Martins was mayor of Mineola from 2003-2010 and state senator from 2011-2016. He also twice ran for Congress and lost.

Poll responses reveal that likely voters still don’t know either candidate very well. Their favorable/unfavorable numbers were nearly identical: 33/18 for Martins and 32/19 for Curran, with 49 percent of respondents saying, for each candidate, that they didn’t know them or had no opinion.

“It’s striking the similarity,” Levy said. “But those two numbers are going to change as these candidates try to make themselves better known and as they try make voters question the opposing candidate.”

The two weeks before Election Day typically see some of the heaviest spending. Martins, as of Oct. 23, had $482,228 in cash on hand to Curran’s $210,454. Both candidates, however, are likely to receive last-minute infusions from top donors and party committees, as well as be the subject of super PAC ad blitzes.

Both campaigns present the poll results as a positive.

“The feeling on the ground is energized,” Martins spokeswoman Mollie Fullington said in a statement. “We have a get-out-the-vote effort that is second-to-none . . . and the closer we get to Election Day, the more people pay attention.”

Curran acknowledged the race “is tight as a tick” because, she said, voters of all parties want ethics reform following corruption scandals.

“That’s why I’m in this race, to give Nassau County the fresh start it deserves,” she said, “and I’m confident that’s what Nassau residents want.”

Curran fared better in support from her party: 79 percent of Democrats said they’d vote for her, while 74 percent of Republicans supported Martins. Unaffiliated or minor party voters went 38 percent for Curran, 38 percent for Martins and 4 percent for Lems, with 20 percent undecided.

Joseph Darcy, 56, of Franklin Square, said he was voting for Martins, who represented him in the State Senate. The registered Republican said he viewed taxes as the top county issue and wasn’t swayed by Curran’s attacks of Martins related to former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre).

When Skelos was first arrested in a federal corruption case in 2015, Martins was among the GOP senators who, in the first days following the arrest, supported Skelos remaining in a leadership role. Skelos was later indicted and left his post as leader.

“I believe in letting things play out before decisions are made,” said Darcy, a clerk in Nassau County courts.

A Democratic Curran supporter said ethics was her top issue and that her party’s candidate was best to address it.

“I just feel we have to drain the swamp, and the swamp in Nassau County is the Republican Party,” said Maxine Diamond, 80, a retired state vocational rehabilitation counselor who lives in Merrick.

Poll respondents also widely oppose a state constitutional convention: 52 percent no, 34 percent yes and 14 percent didn’t know or had no opinion.

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