Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen announced the full slate of Democratic candidates for the upcoming November election on July 23 at Wynsum Avenue Park in south Merrick.
“We have a Republican joining my ticket,” Gillen said at the news conference, “because he knows we are pushing forward a good government initiative.”
Running for council seats in the 2nd, 3rd and 5th Districts are Thomas Tweedy, Shari James and Lora Webster, respectively. Also on the ticket is Chandra Ortiz for receiver of taxes and Sylvia Cabana for clerk. Gillen and Cabana are the only two incumbents.
“I bring a resume of 16 years of public service and accomplishments in a full-service village,” said Tweedy, who served as the mayor of Floral Park between 2011 and 2017. “I am running to break the culture of nepotism, cronyism and favoritism that wastes your tax dollars and has become the hallmark of Hempstead GOP leadership.”
Tweedy will run against incumbent Tom Muscarella, who was appointed to the Republican-controlled board after a seat was left vacant by convicted Councilman Ed Ambrosino.
“Since Laura Gillen was elected in 2017,” Tweedy added, “petty, partisan party politics have dominated town meetings and decisions.”
Ortiz, a private attorney and adjunct professor at Molloy College teaching real estate law, said that her experience with property taxes gives her an edge. “I have represented many individuals and businesses over the past 20 years in complex real estate and business transactions,” Ortiz said, “many of which involve property tax considerations.”
This is the first time Ortiz is running for political office. As a working mother in law school, Ortiz worked as a teacher’s assistant and joined the Nassau County Bar Association. Through the association, she offers pro bono legal advice to town residents.
“I’m a finance kind of girl,” James said. “To me, if you follow the money, you follow the priorities.”
James’s family moved to the town in the 1970s, when she was 2. She studied finance at St. Johns University while working on Wall Street for JP Morgan, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Bloomberg. Eventually, she decided to do work “that benefits the people of Nassau County,” she said. She formerly served as the chief deputy comptroller for the county, monitoring a more than $3 billion budget and was also the comptroller for the City of Long Beach.
“Corruption on Long Island doesn’t just happen,” James concluded. “Rising taxes at unsustainable levels doesn’t just happen. Run-down parks, unfilled potholes and deplorable road conditions — that doesn’t just happen. Believe me when I say we are paying a corruption tax.”
James is running against Councilman Bruce Blakeman, who originally served in the position from 1993 to 1995, but returned after his appointment in 2015.
Webster is a Paralympic volleyball player, stay-at-home mother and a childhood cancer survivor, she said. This year she takes her first dive into politics after realizing “how mismanaged our tax dollars are,” she said. Webster also condemned the appointments of five of the six current Republican board members.
Webster will challenge Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney, who was appointed to the board in January 2015 and then elected to a four-year term in November 2015.
Webster and the other candidates also said Gillen has been “stonewalled” by the Republican majority since her election. “We need to be a government for the people,” Webster said, adding that she will campaign by walking door to door.
“We are moving forward,” Gillen said. “The Town of Hempstead is more modernized, more transparent and more accountable to residents than it has been in decades.”
Election Day is Nov. 5.