Democratic County Legislator Laura Curran said that it was never her plan to get into politics. Nevertheless, on Jan. 1, in below-freezing weather, Curran took to the steps of the legislative building in Mineola and was sworn in by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as Nassau’s first female county executive.
Curran brings with her years of frustrations — and hopes — that were expressed by voters in the Nov. 7 election, in which she was chosen over Republican Jack Martins. She succeeds Republican Ed Mangano, whose administration was marred by corruption scandals and who did not seek re-election.
Vowing to repair the property assessment system and to retake control of the county’s finances from the Nassau County Interim Finance Authority, Curran declared that “these are not partisan political issues — they are Nassau issues.”
Cuomo, along with Senator Charles Schumer, expressed confidence in Curran as a leader who would get results for the county’s middle class.
“This is a special day, and these are not ordinary times, and Laura Curran is no ordinary person,” Cuomo said.
A former school board member and reporter for Herald Community Newspapers, Curran was elected to the legislature in 2014, and made restoring funding for the NICE bus system, as well as pushing for downtown revitalization and transit-oriented development in Baldwin and Freeport, focuses of her advocacy.
In October 2016, Curran was banned from attending minority caucus meetings after breaking rank to vote for $50 million in borrowing for capital projects.
For much of the campaign, Curran and Martins refrained from attacking each other, with both stressing the need for ethics reforms in county government and mainly disagreeing on how to best implement the changes. As the race wound down, however, Curran went on the attack, zeroing in on Martins’s relationship with disgraced former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. Martins, meanwhile, tried to frame Curran as weak on crime and himself as the candidate who could best protect Nassau residents from the El Salvadoran street gang MS-13.
A few days before the election, Martins distributed a racially charged mailer depicting three menacing, tattooed Latino men and bearing the message that Curran was “MS-13’s choice for county executive.”
The mailer may have done Martins more harm than good in the long run, according to political analyst Larry Levy, of Hofstra.
“There was backlash there that hurt Martins,” he said. “These kind of ads used to be used by Republicans to make voters feel that Democrats, if elected, would make Long Island look like the city. … It would either look black and Latino or look high-rise and urban.”
On Nov. 7, Curran took 51 percent of the vote to Martins’s 48 percent — 147,102 to 139,204, approximately an 8,000-vote margin.
“Tonight, Nassau voted to end the culture of corruption,” Curran said in her victory speech, “and to give our county the fresh start we deserve.”
Curran praised the County legislature’s recent unanimous bipartisan vote to create an independent inspector general post, and told those in attendance that solving the county’s issues “will take all of us working together.”
Quoting John F. Kennedy, Curran implored residents “not to despair, but to act.”
“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer,” she continued, “but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past — let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”