Thu, 12 Sep 2002



As supporters wished him well, Kevan Abrahams, the youngest lawmaker ever elected to the Nassau County Legislature, was busy Wednesday preparing for the transition from legislative employee to the First District legislative representative. But it’s not as if the Hempstead Democrat will have a lot of time to get his feet wet. Awaiting Abrahams and other Democrats who are back in the majority is a host of initiatives -- contract set-asides for minorities and women businesses, a good sportsmanship law for county parks and numerous open job and committee appointments -- that have been on hold because of the 9-9 deadlock with the Republican minority. Abrahams, who won a special election Tuesday, will be under pressure to support potentially painful proposals by Democratic County Executive Thomas Suozzi to raise taxes and to back layoffs. Meanwhile, his predominantly minority constituency will be watching to see if he will put party politics before the community’s needs for better housing and schools. "He should always choose the people who elected him," said Mary Cameron, executive director of the Uniondale Early Childhood Center and a community activist. " If he backs only the party, what will he tell the people when he’s up for re-election?" Abrahams, 28, easily defeated Republican Ricardo LaRosa of Uniondale, giving Democrats a 10-9 majority on the 19-member legislature. Abrahams takes the place of former Democratic Legis. Patrick Williams, who resigned in July before pleading guilty to a federal conspiracy charge of submitting false documents for prospective homebuyers. "It means a lot to get that kind of support," Abrahams said. "With any new job you have that queasiness going in. But I’m ready." Supporters said Wednesday that the measures the neophyte lawmaker chooses to support or to oppose will speak volumes about his leadership abilities and his standing within the legislature. With the Democrats holding only a one-vote majority, Abrahams will face pressure pressure to follow the party line on Suozzi initiatives to fix Nassau’s finances. They include a proposed 19.4 percent property tax increase and the possibility of laying hundreds of county workers because of a growing fiscal gap which Suozzi says could hit $428 million by 2005. Abrahams, the former legislative majority budget director, will have to attend to the needs of his community, which he said is tired of "hand-me-down" housing, schools and services. Rev. Reginald Tuggle, pastor of Memorial Presbyterian Church in Roosevelt and a longtime Republican who backed Abrahams, said, "The political process sometimes forces elected officials to vote in ways he might not like for the sake of quid pro quo. I like his sincerity and idealism and if he remains true to that, he will be successful." Abrahams has already given some indication that he won’t rubber stamp items just because the administration wants them. For weeks, the Suozzi administration has tried to get the director of the Office of Minority Affairs approved. But the item was pulled from the upcoming legislative meeting because Abrahams wouldn’t agree to back it. And with Suozzi preparing his budget for 2003, Abrahams said he’s not willing to balance the county’s budget on the backs of the youth service programs in his community. "I wouldn’t be gun shy about expressing my extreme disapproval," Abrahams said. "I hope [Presiding Officer Judy Jacobs] and Tom don’t put me in the position to vote against cutting services in my district that would be detrimental. Don’t ask me." Abrahams said that over the next few days he would be making the rounds to talk with various leaders in the community. A key focus of his will be to do some "fence mending. "We had two primaries in our district and there are some hurt feelings," he said, referring to the special election and the Democratic primary in the 18th Assembly district. "The community is fine. But the community leaders, we need to talk." As for how he will be treated by his new colleagues in the Democrat majority when he resigns as the legislative budget director, Abrahams said it will be an interesting process. "I think I’ve earned the respect of my colleagues, Democrat and Republican," Abrahams said. "To see me move from staffer to legislator will be tougher for some to accept than others. That’s not my problem." Legis. Roger Corbin (D-Westbury) said party leaders were already taking notice of Abrahams. He’s seen as someone with the potential to run for Congress should he do well in the legislature. "He’s young, talented and a lot is expected of him," Corbin said. "He can’t allow himself to be marginalized. He has to concentrate on the entire playing field and those issues in his district will be taken care of."

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