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Blank Slate columnists share thoughts on county executive, gubernatorial races in virtual forum

Robert Pelaez
Four Blank Slate Media columnists discussed state and local politics in a virtual forum last week. (Screenshot by Robert Pelaez)

A panel of Blank Slate Media’s columnists shared their thoughts on Nassau’s county executive race, skewering the Republican choice, and potential candidates for governor in a virtual forum last week.

The forum, moderated by Blank Slate Media’s editor and publisher, Steven Blank, featured four of the outlet’s opinion writers on Thursday evening. The group included Adam Haber, a former trustee of the Roslyn Board of Education who also spent time as the Town of Hempstead’s head of economic development and is currently a principal head of SKB Real Estate, Jerry Kremer, who spent 23 years as a member of the New York Assembly and currently serves as a Hofstra University trustee and board member of the school’s medical board, George Marlin, an author and editor who previously served as the executive director for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Karen Rubin, the former editor of the Great Neck News who is a news and photography publisher and does general feature and travel pieces for Blank Slate Media.

Blank kicked off the panel asking the columnists for their views on the controversy over U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming). Cheney was voted out of her high-ranking position in the Republican Party on May 12 due to her rejection of former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent. 

Blank said he wondered if the vote to oust Cheney or even Trumpian political tactics could have ripple effects on the  Nassau County executive race, which features one candidate with direct ties to the Trump administration.

“I don’t think the Trump playbook is going to really apply very much to Nassau County,” Kremer said. “I don’t think you can nationalize a county executive race. It’s going to boil down to personalities and turnout, but surely, Liz Cheney and Trump-derangement-syndrome or whatever else is going on nationally will impact Long Island.”

“County races are about things like clean water, real estate taxes and potholes,” Haber said. “It’s a very local kind of mentality and that’s what people care about. ‘What affects me that I can see and touch,’ not some esoteric things happening in Wyoming or California.”

“I have the feeling that Republicans don’t really support Trump,” Rubin said. “They’re using him as an excuse to advance these voter suppression policies all around the country.”

When it came to Town of Hempstead Councilman Bruce Blakeman, a Republican who is running against Democratic incumbent Laura Curran for county executive, the panel did not shy away from expressing their opinions on how he stacks up as a candidate.

“Bruce Blakeman is probably one of the worst candidates I’ve ever met in my life,” Marlin, a Conservative, said. “I tried to teach him about municipal finance when he ran for comptroller many years ago and I realized I might as well talk to the wall.”

Haber, who worked with Blakeman in the Hempstead town office for two years, said the Republican candidate did not listen to any of his ideas on how to potentially improve the state of the town, including electronically signing documents, reducing the use of typewriters and starting energy-efficient initiatives.

“I [told Blakeman] we have people’s lives in your hands, we could affect in a positive way and you could take the credit for it,” Haber said. “[Blakeman] said, point blank, ‘I don’t care’ … I’d be very disappointed if he became our county executive because I don’t think he will improve the lives of his constituents.”

“It is conceivable that Bruce Blakeman in the campaign that he runs will use some of the national tactics, just as a laboratory test to see what you know sticks to the wall,” Kremer said.

The panel shifted its focus to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who is in the middle of a flurry of scandals revolving around claims of sexual harassment from a handful of women including former political aides and probes into the accuracy of the administration’s count of coronavirus deaths among nursing home patients. 

Marlin wrote a book titled, “The Myth and the Man,” which dives into the life of Andrew’s father,  former Gov. Mario Cuomo. Marlin also acknowledged that while more in-the-know about the Cuomo family, his opinion on nursing home deaths may be biased after his mother died in the Queens Catholic Nursing Home in Bayside last March.

“I’m not shocked about Andrew Cuomo playing with the [nursing home death] numbers because he was looking to become the great hero of the nation,” Marlin said. “He was known to threaten [people], to be mean, and to be nasty to people at all times,” Marlin said. “He’s wounded, I don’t think he can govern effectively.”

Rubin contested Marlin’s claims, touting Cuomo’s effectiveness as the head of New York’s government for the past decade.

“He’s the most effective governor we’ve seen since Franklin Delano Roosevelt and he has been amazing in terms of economic development,” Rubin said. “You may not like the guy, you may not like his personality, you may say he’s got character flaws, but he’s been a fantastic governor in my opinion.”

Rubin and Kremer also said they would want to see where the sexual harassment claims lead  before making a decision. Kremer echoed Rubin’s claims of Cuomo’s impact on New York. 

“When you want to talk about things that people get done, the kinds of things that [Cuomo’s] gotten done are the kinds of things that Robert Moses was able to do. And nobody’s done that since,” Kremer said. 

Haber also touted Cuomo’s economic and developmental advances but said his alleged misleading of the public about the number of coronavirus deaths among nursing home patients was a red flag for voters in next year’s gubernatorial race.

“You have to trust that your government is helping you and protecting you and doing things to nurture and improve your community and lying about how things were regardless of your issues or reasons is unacceptable,” Haber said.

When it came to who would run in the state’s 2022 gubernatorial election, the panel members each proposed different Democratic candidates, but agreed that it would take a unique Republican candidate to have a chance at winning. 

“I think it’s a person by the name of [U.S. Sen.] Kirsten Gillibrand, who I think is ready to move out of the shadow of Chuck Schumer,” Kremer said. “It’s a tossup between her and [Attorney General] Letitia James.”

“I’m hoping it’s going to be Kathy Hochul,” Rubin said. “You’ve never had a more active and engaged lieutenant governor.”

Marlin tabbed Cuomo as his pick for seeking a fourth term as governor “because he wants to do something his father could not achieve.”

Haber said he could see both U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone running for the Democratic nomination to replace Cuomo.

“I think they’re both very capable and I do believe New York has a host of great candidates,” Haber said. “I think we have a bright future with who our next governor will be. I just sincerely hope that the narcissism of our current governor doesn’t throw his hat in and muck it up.”

The full discussion can be viewed on The Island Now YouTube channel, or by following this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-Tf5WUAmb8.

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Robert Pelaez

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