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Singas' win upset Nassau GOP's plans

Acting Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas is greeted

Acting Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas is greeted and congratulated by her staff the day after her election victory on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015 in Mineola. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The verdict was in favor of Madeline Singas.

Nassau County won, too.

The lifelong prosecutor spent 2015 making a compelling case that she was the most qualified candidate to be district attorney, especially at a time of deep distrust in government, from its ineffectiveness to its dishonesty. Singas, a Democrat, persuaded Republicans to vote for her because they believed she would run a professional, nonpartisan office. Now she must do so.

Singas promised in her campaign to fight corruption and find remedies to ease the heroin epidemic. A good signal that she intends to follow through would be to quickly hire both a seasoned prosecutor of white-collar crime and a forensic accountant who is an expert in municipal contracts.

Kate Murray was criticized for blowing a 20 percentage-point lead, not getting the messaging right and being too slow to respond to attacks in the toughest campaign of her career. But her loss was not a failure of tactics. Voters rejected the Hempstead supervisor, a Republican, because they understood she didn't have the credentials for the job. She simply wasn't the right candidate and certainly not at this moment.

Singas carried all three towns, including several GOP strongholds. Her tough persona and extensive background in criminal law made her the clear choice, especially with scandal in the air. Republicans say it's just a whiff, while Democrats say it's more like a stench. Either way, noses are wrinkling.

The Republicans wound up mismatching the candidate with the office to solve their own internal power jockeying. Nassau GOP chairman Joseph Mondello wanted loyal party lieutenant Anthony Santino to finally have the top job in Hempstead Town, the party's base of operations for more than a century. Years ago, Mondello passed over Santino to anoint Murray as supervisor. With 22 years of experience on the town board, Santino was getting tired of waiting his turn. The job that would entice Murray to move on was the one for district attorney. So the GOP passed on a judge with a strong prosecutorial background in favor of Murray.

To Murray and Mondello, the district attorney's office was just another square on the chessboard. They made their move and lost by underestimating the public's anger about politics trumping good governance.

The GOP also got an extra punch in the gut, payback for a mistake it made long ago. In 2010, Mondello and Murray stopped the Lighthouse Project -- which envisioned the Hub as a county center with a renovated Coliseum, outdoor ice rink, restaurants, hotels and housing -- by restricting the density of the property. Rejecting it served the GOP's goal to deny success to then-County Executive Tom Suozzi, a Democrat. They were also concerned about Islanders owner Charles Wang's proposed condominium towers. The GOP said the Lighthouse would turn Hempstead into a "sixth borough," and more Democrats would move to town. In the end, Wang made good on his threats to move the team, and the sad history of what happened was painfully reinflicted on Islanders fans when in the final weeks of this election they had to witness the team's first games in its new home in Brooklyn.

Islanders fans who campaigned against Murray only increased the size of Singas' victory. But the GOP losses stemmed from its same delusion that nothing has to change.