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OpinionColumnistsDan Janison

The label doesn't guarantee success

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran joined Town of

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran joined Town of Hempstead Councilman Bruce Blakeman at a rally in Mineola on May 26 calling for unmasking kids in schools and camps. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Search Long Island and you might not find an elected Democrat who has better earned the "moderate" label than Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.

She worked to overhaul the tax assessment system, carefully collaborated on police reforms, promoted the county as business-friendly, and used federal funds for the equivalent of taxpayer rebates.

Her term in office has hardly imported socialism to Mineola. Republican challenger Bruce Blakeman, on whom she never went negative, shattered all expectations this week without even a coherent critique of her performance in office.

Legis. Joshua Lafazan (D-Syosset) recently pandered to sentiment in his district with a GOP-embraced bill that would have allowed emergency responders to sue protesters for harassment or injury as a matter of human-rights protection.

Even with that and a Conservative Party cross-endorsement, Lafazan as of Thursday trailed Republican challenger Paolo Pironi in the 18th Legislative District.

No "moderate" reward for him. It's purely hypothetical to say he would have done worse without the controversial emergency-responder bill.

The campaign of State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) for Nassau district attorney crashed and burned more spectacularly and predictably because of his votes in Albany for bail reform. That issue, once whipped into a partisan frenzy, can be almost as useful in emotional crime debates as the death penalty once was.

Looking back, Kaminsky might as well have tried to argue more forcefully how methods other than setting bail must be used to stem a nationwide crime spike. The reform was touted after its enactment last year as preventing poor people from languishing in jail for minor offenses because they could not afford to pay to be released pending trial.

How issues are packaged and presented counts. But whether to position or label a candidacy as "moderate" or "radical," "conservative" or "extreme" or "progressive," seems to matter in the outcome of some elections and not others.

We will hear these terms in next year's gubernatorial race. This year, wider partisan trends were at work, mainly a particularly dramatic drop in participation by members of the party that won the White House the year before.

Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), whose home city's mayoralty and all but one Council slot happened to fall to the GOP on Tuesday, knows the cycle.

Like Curran in 2017, Suozzi in 2001 became county executive the year after a Republican, George W. Bush, won the White House. Like Curran in 2021, Suozzi had his incumbency torpedoed in 2009 by low party turnout, one year after a Democrat, Barack Obama, became president.

Red tides and blue tides come in and out regionally and nationally. The night Suozzi lost in 2009, so did New Jersey's Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine. And as Curran met a surprising GOP wave on what was expected to be her reelection night, so did Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who just squeaked by for the win.

The "moderate" versus "progressive" dance on the Democratic side is playing out in preparation for next year's congressional midterms. For one, Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) was quoted in The New York Times on Thursday criticizing those among her colleagues who wish to include too much "progressive stuff" in pending legislation, a step she and others in purple districts will insist does not resonate with voters.

Given the limits of labels, it's always wise to watch what they do, not what they call each other.

Columnist Dan Janison's opinions are his own.