Local elections like those in Nassau County this year could help propel Democrats to political success on a national scale in 2018, the Democratic National Committee chairman told Nassau Democrats on Monday.
The chairman, Tom Perez, expressed optimism that Democrats could take control of the county Legislature and said the DNC would lend a hand in municipal races such as those this year.
“The new mission of the new Democratic National Committee is not simply to help elect the president of the United States; it’s to help elect Democrats up and down the ticket, from the school board to the Senate,” Perez told the crowd of about 1,200 people at the Nassau Democratic Committee’s spring fundraising dinner in Woodbury Monday evening.
Perez was the event’s keynote speaker after a weeklong nationwide “unity tour” with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who ran an outsider presidential campaign as a Democrat last year.
Perez was elected the DNC chairman in February after a contested race with U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, a Sanders supporter who had backing from the party’s left wing.
Perez, a Buffalo native who served as U.S. labor secretary under former President Barack Obama, stressed the importance of party unity to Democrats’ political success.
“Our unity is our greatest strength as Democrats,” he said. “It is Donald Trump’s worst nightmare.”
Perez touted the success of Jon Ossoff, the Democrat who won 48 percent of the votes in an 18-way all-party primary in Georgia’s deeply conservative 6th Congressional District, as proof of the DNC’s momentum following President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
In his travels around the country, Perez said, voters have told him they need to know more about what Democrats stand for, besides their opposition to Trump and his administration.
While he presented a litany of Democratic values — such as supporting a higher minimum wage, access to abortion and protecting the rights of women, immigrants and LGBT people — much of Perez’s 20-minute speech slammed Trump and his policies.
He lambasted the president’s failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s landmark health care law, and his efforts to fund a southern border wall in the federal budget while defunding social programs such as Meals on Wheels.
“This is what you see every day with this president: carnage and chaos,” Perez said.
Perez addressed Nassau Democrats as they seek to take control of the county government in this year’s elections following several indictments of Republican officials, including County Executive Edward Mangano. He has pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges.
County Legislator Laura Curran, the Democratic committee’s chosen county executive candidate, faces a three-way primary with state Assemblyman Charles Lavine and county Comptroller George Maragos.
Jay Jacobs, the Nassau County Democratic chairman, said Democratic victories here would “send shivers down the spines of Republicans everywhere” by defeating one of the nation’s oldest and most powerful local Republican parties.
“First let’s take back our county, then let’s take back our country,” Jacobs said.
At Monday’s dinner, Democratic leaders announced candidates for eight of the 12 county Legislature seats held by Republicans. Democrats currently hold seven seats.
Mal Nathan, the Town of North Hempstead’s chief bay constable, will take on Legislator Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park), and Nassau corrections officer Carl Gerrato will oppose Legislator Vincent Muscarella (R-West Hempstead). Both ran for the same seats in 2015.
Dino Amoroso, a former CEO of Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. who ran for Hempstead town clerk in 2015, will face C. William Gaylor III (R-Lynbrook) in the 6th Legislative District.
Other candidates include Alex Melton in the 12th Legislative District, Eileen Napolitano in the 13th District, Michael Sheridan in the 15th District, Joshua Lafazan in the 18th District and Jeff Gold in the 19th District. Napolitano also ran in 2015.