George Maragos turns Jay Jacobs from ally into target

Noah Manskar
Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos is seen in September 2016. (Photo by Noah Manskar)

Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs welcomed county Comptroller George Maragos to his party with open arms in September, standing next to the former Republican when he launched his county executive campaign.

But their relationship took a sour turn last Monday when Jacobs backed county Legislator Laura Curran — not Maragos — to run for the office, turning Jacobs from Maragos’ newfound political ally to his primary target.

Between tweets about holidays and photos from community events, Maragos has used Twitter in the past week to attack Jacobs as an underhanded political boss, Curran as his “puppet” and Jack Schnirman, the Long Beach city manager running for comptroller, as “clueless.”

“Dem boss [Jacobs] had [opportunity] to uphold party principles by selecting Best Qualified candidate for ppl, Chose #PuppetCurran,” Maragos tweeted Feb. 1.

Other tweets called Jacobs a “slumlord” for owning a house that violated Town of Southampton building codes, blamed Curran for injustices in Nassau’s property tax system and criticized Schnirman for what he called a lack of understanding of county finances.

The tweets are part of a primary campaign between Curran, Maragos and state Assemblyman Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) that Jacobs tried to shut down, said Hank Sheinkopf, Maragos’ head campaign strategist.

Curran last week criticized Maragos as a “yes man” for Mangano, who has pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges stemming from an alleged bribe and kickback scheme.

“You can’t attack a decent person using boss rule tactics and get away with it,” Sheinkopf said.

Maragos switched parties in September after more than two decades in the GOP. He had become a more vocal critic of Mangano, who he was elected alongside in 2009 and 2013.

At the time, Jacobs said he was “delighted” and “proud” to have Maragos as a Democrat, noting the significance of a countywide official making such a change.

The two had met and maintained a congenial relationship since then, Jacobs said last Friday.

Now, Maragos’ tweets resemble Republican President Donald Trump’s, which have targeted and berated Trump’s political adversaries by name, and show his apparent bitterness about another Democrat winning the backing of a party he opposed until it was politically expedient, Jacobs said.

“The opportunity was with the Democrats and I think that he felt that if he demonstrated a willingness to pump his own money into the campaign that that would win the day, but I had to look at the bigger picture and the broader sense of issues,” he said.

Maragos, an entrepreneur from Great Neck, has loaned his campaign nearly $1.5 million.

But his previous conservative stances on issues such as abortion rights, health care reform and same-sex marriage will likely hurt him in the primary, Jacobs said.

Curran, of Baldwin, echoed Jacobs in a statement, calling Maragos “an impostor Democrat who has spent the years trying to out-Tea Party the Tea Party.”

In a court settlement, the Town of Southampton agreed to dismiss the code violations against the 3,400-square-foot house Jacobs uses to house employees of a summer camp he runs, Jacobs said.

Sheinkopf declined to specify Maragos’ current stances on the political issues Jacobs raised, but said they will be made clear in his campaign.

Sheinkopf called Jacobs’ comparing Maragos to Trump “completely idiotic.

The chairman acted more like a “political authoritarian” and affronted his party’s values by endorsing a candidate, Sheinkopf said.

“This is not about personal relationships,” Sheinkopf said. “This is about a political campaign and the desire somehow that the political boss should just wave people away because he decided not to endorse them.”

A spokeswoman for Schnirman declined to comment.

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