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Candidates galore

On Wednesday, Nassau County Democrats named Ryan Cronin,

On Wednesday, Nassau County Democrats named Ryan Cronin, a corporate attorney who serves on the board of Nassau University Medical Center and who twice ran unsuccessfully for state Senate, as their nominee to succeed Jack Schnirman as county comptroller.

Daily Point

Off to the (Huntington) races

In Huntington Town, some previously unclear elections are starting to come into focus, but plenty is still uncertain.

Huntington Democratic Party leader Frank Petrone told The Point Wednesday afternoon that Rebecca Sanin, president and chief executive of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, will be the candidate for town supervisor.

Another big question was answered Tuesday, when town board member Mark Cuthbertson, who had been mentioned in connection with the supervisor race, said he’d run for the county’s 18th legislative district seat currently held by William "Doc" Spencer. Spencer was arrested in October on charges that he traded oxycodone pills for sex, and his attorney told Newsday this week that Spencer will not seek reelection.

On the GOP side, with races coming up for town supervisor and highway superintendent, town board and four county legislative districts, newly minted Town of Huntington GOP leader Tom McNally would have had his hands full even in a normal election year.

And it’s anything but normal this year in Huntington.

Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci has repeatedly said he is seeking reelection even as he’s faced negative publicity from a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Brian Finnegan, a former staffer while Lupinacci was in the State Assembly.

Meanwhile, Gene Cook, the iconoclastic town board member elected as an Independence Party candidate who recently changed his registration to the Republican Party, also has been considering a run, though he’s been canny about just how serious he is. And Cook has also made (a little) noise about a run for the county’s 18th legislative district seat.

But Cook did take a concrete step toward a run a week ago Saturday, when he screened in front of the town committee for its endorsement for the town supervisor nod.

And according to several people who attended, Cook said that while he’d never run a primary before, he would consider doing so if the party gave Lupinacci its endorsement.

In an interview last week, McNally, who was chosen to lead the town party in September, said: "Chad has done a terrific job and delivered on all his promises." But McNally acknowledged the lawsuit is a factor. How much it matters with voters is something the town GOP tried to find out via polling recently, but no one is saying what the results indicated.

McNally said the GOP designations for all these races should be released by this Friday.

And next Friday, Cook is holding a mysterious virtual fundraiser from Oheka Castle, where it’s assumed he will reveal his plans once and for all.

— Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

Inside party's pick for Nassau Comptroller candidate

A decent interval after Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman, facing almost uniform party opposition to his seeking a second term, bowed out of the race, county Democrats Wednesday presented their candidate.

Ryan Cronin, a long-time party stalwart who lost two State Senate races against Kemp Hannon in 2012 and 2016 and is on the board of the Nassau University Medical Center, is stepping up.

Cronin emerged as the party choice after an extensive hunt that saw some of those approached decline the offer and others take other opportunities, like former county legislator Wayne Wink who will run for North Hempstead Town supervisor instead. While there was no clear and strong replacement, party sources said they knew supporting Schnirman was risky.

The Nassau GOP was expected to target its firepower on Schnirman, who was never able to rub off the tarnish of being overpaid for unused time as former Long Beach city manager. It didn’t help that the county fiscal watchdog didn’t bark when his office was baited into sending $710,000 in taxpayer money in a scam. Republicans made it clear they would make Schnirman the face of Nassau Democrats in this fall’s county elections. "We’re still going to have a powerful message," Nassau GOP leader Joseph Cairo told Newsday last week. "What he’s done in the past doesn't just disappear or go away. We’re going to run as aggressively as we had planned." The GOP still hasn’t named a comptroller or county executive candidate.

Cairo’s remarks illustrate why the Democratic Party had been trying to get Schnirman out the door since the Long Beach fiasco became public.

Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas did not charge Schnirman with a crime for the overpayment but was unsparing in her criticism. County Executive Laura Curran, who will head the top of the ticket as she seeks a second term, sent a clear message to Schnirman that she did not want to have to account for his shortcomings during the campaign. When that message didn’t work, Schnirman was threatened by the party with a primary. It would have been the first primary for an incumbent county official since 1977, when Ralph Caso, who was seeking a third term as county executive, lost a brutal GOP primary to Fran Purcell, then Hempstead Town supervisor.

Such a Democratic primary for comptroller would have dried up Schnirman’s considerable campaign funds and weakened him further in the general election. Finally, it was made clear to Schnirman’s donors that he was out of favor.

Cronin isn’t a brand name or experienced campaigner but his strident attacks against Hannon, accusing him of conflicts of interest for taking drug company donations, and demanding more ethics reforms in Albany, give him some track record. But most of all he frees Democrats from being on the defense about ethics.

— Rita Ciolli @ritaciolli

Pencil Point


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Final Point

Tax and tax, and then tax some more

A new report from the Community Service Society of New York is further ammo for progressives looking to gather support for revenue raisers in Albany.

The 19-pager from the anti-poverty nonprofit lays out the merits of three approaches: raising income tax rates on high earners, taxing accrued wealth, and reinstating a stock transfer tax.

All three are being floated by state legislators, and the report seeks to rebut criticisms of those potential measures.

Would high earners widely flee the state if new taxes suddenly applied? The final report mentions multiple Albany proposals for raising taxes, from one including progressive increases starting with individuals earning $300,000, to others increasing taxes on incomes of more than $1 million or $5 million. The report notes that, at least before the pandemic, wide-scale high-earner migration didn’t happen in New Jersey when marginal rates were increased on income above $500,000 in 2004. And a comprehensive study by the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Stanford University that "draws on 25 years of administrative data on high taxpayers from the state of California, spanning three waves of tax reforms," finds "negligible migration response to changes in top tax rates."

Would a wealth accrual tax like the one introduced by Queens Sen. Jessica Ramos and Manhattan Assemb. Carmen De La Rosa be unconstitutional? "[T]ax proposals focused on wealth could face legal challenges in New York State per its constitutional requirements, specifically with respect to taxes on intangible property," the report notes. However: "Legal experts point out that although a tax on intangible property, such as stocks, bonds, and the ownership of companies may not be allowed, there are no obstacles in taxing unrealized capital gains on those properties."

Finally, would a stock-transfer tax be unusual or unusually onerous? The CSS report notes that it’s a small tax already levied by other stock exchanges, would be simple to administer, and could even have the benefit of "dampening some of the frenzy associated with high frequency algorithmic trading."

It could be that the federal government steps in to help with the current pandemic-caused state revenue shortfall and the projected one for the next fiscal year, but the report argues more money is needed for another reason: to reduce inequality.

Emerita Torres, one of the authors of the CSS report, said that the pandemic has only accelerated the gap between the haves and have-nots.

"If we don't take these steps, that gap is going to widen," she told The Point.

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano