By Karl Grossman
The results of Election 2013 in Suffolk County had many meanings.
The defeat of East Hampton Councilman Dominick Stanzione, charged repeatedly by the Quiet Skies Coalition with being the “puppet” of aviation interests at East Hampton Airport, illustrates the fate of politicians who link themselves with obnoxious activities. The East Hampton Airport has become the biggest noisemaker on the East End. The helicopter traffic between the field and Manhattan has been especially onerous. The choppers have been flying loud and low over the East End.
The Wainscott-based Quiet Skies Coalition described the election as a “referendum” on the airport, and voters did defeat what it described as the “airport special interests and their puppet Stanzione.” Still, despite the defeat of Republican Stanzione, who has been the board’s “liaison” with the airport, the aviation interests also have clout within the East Hampton Democratic Party. Democrats, who will now have a town board majority, should realize that they, too, will be on the receiving end of voter wrath if Democratic officials side with the “airport special interests.”
In Brookhaven Town, the resounding victory of Ed Romaine for town supervisor — bringing along with him other Republican candidates in Brookhaven — was a testament to one of the finest public officials I’ve covered in more than 50 years as a journalist in Suffolk.
Mr. Romaine achieved victory after victory in his runs for the Suffolk Legislature in a district that included much of the East End, and for county clerk. His overwhelming win last week in Brookhaven, Suffolk’s biggest town, larger than Nassau County, reaffirmed his position as a top Long Island official.
Then there was the landslide defeat of Chris Nuzzi for the Suffolk Legislature seat held by Jay Schneiderman — despite what Mr. Schneiderman describes as Mr. Nuzzi’s “deceptive” endorsement claims. In the campaign’s last days, Republican Nuzzi sent out a mailer titled “Independence Matters” featuring a photo of him and State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. of Sag Harbor and a Thiele statement praising Mr. Nuzzi of Westhampton Beach.
It seemed very odd considering that Mr. Thiele is the Independence Party chairman of Southampton Town, which is part of the district, and Mr. Schneiderman running on the Independence Party ticket. Both Messrs. Thiele and Schneiderman earlier switched from the GOP to join the Independence Party. Mr. Schneiderman is the only Independence Party member on the Suffolk Legislature and Mr. Thiele the only Independence Party member in the State Legislature.
Was Mr. Thiele really endorsing GOPer Nuzzi and not fellow Independence Party member Schneiderman? Mr. Thiele had to take to the phone in a “robocall” to voters after the Nuzzi mailer was out to make clear he was, in fact, strongly supporting Mr. Schneiderman, not Mr. Nuzzi. He emphasized that Mr. Schneiderman “has been an effective” legislator, praised various things Mr. Schneiderman has done and concluded that “together we can protect the East End.”
But it was not just the mailer that Mr. Schneiderman described as an “intentionally false representation” by Mr. Nuzzi. On Mr. Nuzzi’s “Elect Chris Nuzzi Suffolk County Legislator” website was a page labeled “Endorsements.” Under a line reading “Councilman Nuzzi is proud to be officially endorsed” by “the following” was a photo of Mr. Nuzzi, again with Assemblyman Thiele and also State Senator Kenneth LaValle of Port Jefferson. Said Mr. Schneiderman: “Ken LaValle is supporting no one in this race.”
Also, as to others who “officially endorsed” Mr. Nuzzi, the page presented letters from the Southampton Town Patrolman’s Benevolent Association and Suffolk County Police Conference. But a click on the letters and a download of them showed both dated 2009 — when Mr. Nuzzi ran for councilman.
There has been talk of Mr. Nuzzi running for Suffolk Legislature in 2015 if he lost to Mr. Schneiderman this year. In 2015 Mr. Schneiderman, after six two-year terms, would be prevented by county legislative term-limits from running again. Mr. Nuzzi’s slogan in this campaign was “Independence, Experience, Integrity.” Considering the issue of his purported endorsements, will Mr. Nuzzi use the last word in a second run in 2015?
As to the matter of “robocalls,” Election 2013 in Suffolk produced the most of these recorded phone calls — one after another in the closing days of the campaign — that I’ve ever encountered. They are inexpensive, but can be a highly annoying political tool.