County Executive-elect Laura Curran on cleaning up Nassau politics
On Tuesday, Laura Curran was elected to be the next Nassau County executive. Curran, who will be the first woman to hold that post and only the third Democrat, ran a campaign that was heavily focused on ethics reform, especially since current County Executive Edward Mangano was indicted on federal corruption charges last year. In an interview with City & State's Grace Segers, Curran discussed her victory on Tuesday and her priorities on entering office.
C&S: How do you feel after your victory on Tuesday?
LC: It was a long campaign, and I feel that our message was very consistent. I got into this race because I was fed up with watching our tax money wasted on corruption, and that's basically what I've been talking about for a year, and it's very satisfying to know my message resonated with so many Republicans and Democrats across Nassau County. It's a very good feeling.
C&S: What is your first priority upon entering office?
LC: Restoring trust in government, and working – the Republicans have held onto the legislature – so working across the aisle and finding common ground to get things done for the people that we represent, and to really show and prove that we have a government that is accountable to the people that we represent.
C&S: Do you think that the Republican-majority county legislature will be amenable to bipartisan action on ethics reform?
LC: I am looking forward to sitting down and having very constructive conversations and seeing where we can find common ground, and then build on that. It's going to take a lot of diplomacy and I'm really looking forward to it.
C&S: Before being elected as county executive, you were a Democratic legislator. Do you think you will be able to leverage some of the relationships you may have built as a legislator in working as county executive?
LC: As a matter of fact, I do. As a legislator, I have been independent, I have crossed the aisle at times when it was the right thing to do, and I think I do have a good starting place in my relationships with the legislature.
C&S: It became a nasty campaign, especially by the end. Do you think that there are any divisions that need to be healed in Nassau County?
LC: I do. I think that, the main issue being corruption, it really wasn't a Republican or Democratic issue, it was more about the system being broken and the culture of corruption. However, the fact that you have Republicans and Democrats – of course there's going to be divisions, and of course there's going to be conflicts and disagreements. That's just human nature, and it's the nature of the political process. But that doesn't mean you can't get things done. I always look to the example of President Reagan and Tip O'Neill. They were diametrically opposed in many ways, but at the end of the day they could get together and hammer out compromises that benefited the American people. And I think that's something we can do on the local level as well.
C&S: Not only were you elected, but the Town of Hempstead elected Laura Gillen as its new supervisor – the first Democrat in that position in over a century. Do you think that your election and Gillen’s election is part of a larger trend to Nassau going Democratic?
LC: I do. I think it wasn't so much a partisan thing, I think it was more that people were fed up. And I had so many conversations throughout the campaign with Republicans who said, “You know, I've never voted for a Democrat before, but I'm voting for you because I'm sick of this corruption.” I think that this was perhaps more a result of that feeling than a partisan feeling.
C&S: You are the first woman elected to this position. How do you feel about achieving that milestone?
LC: When I talk about breaking up the old boys' club, I think it has a certain resonance because I am the first female candidate for this job. I didn't make a big deal about it during the campaign, but I think it's pretty cool.
C&S: What do you think is the first thing to accomplish before ethics reform can happen in Nassau?
LC: Putting safeguards in place to guarantee that we are hiring people based on what they know – not who they know, which has been the machine way – and also cleaning up the contracting process. I'll give you one example: I am very much looking forward to severely limiting the amount of political contributions vendors and contractors can make.