By Karl Grossman
This is a moment of many political questions involving an array of Suffolk County people and governments—on the town, county, state and federal levels.
What are the prospects of Rick Lazio, former four-term member of the House of Representatives from Suffolk, in his bid to be New York governor? Mr. Lazio, a Brightwaters Republican, announced last week he’s running. Could he, taking advantage of what polling shows is the low popularity of Democratic incumbent David Paterson, become the first Suffolk person ever elected governor?
But if Mr. Paterson refuses to heed President Barack Obama’s call not to run, won’t former New York City Mayor Rudoph Giuliani, smelling political blood, jump in, too? Becoming governor would for Mr. Giuliani, a weekend Hamptons resident, greatly enhance his chances for being the GOP nominee for president.
If Mr. Paterson does drop out, state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo will be the Democratic candidate for governor in 2010—but then what about attorney general? Look for Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy to reach for that.
Another incumbent with less than solid state backing is Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Readying a challenge is Suffolk Legislator Jon Cooper. He’s the legislature’s Democratic majority leader and, interestingly for this situation, was the Long Island campaign chair last year for Obama. The Obama White House got Representative Steve Israel of Dix Hills to back away from taking on Ms. Gillibrand. Will it try and succeed at getting Mr. Cooper of Lloyd Harbor to back off?
Mr. Cooper was making appearances upstate last week in his “exploratory” moves toward a primary contest against Ms. Gillibrand. The conservative positions of upstater Gillibrand when she was in the House are viewed with disfavor by some Democrats. If he wins a primary against Ms. Gillibrand and then the general election in 2010, Mr. Cooper, the first openly gay elected official on Long Island, would become the first openly gay member of the U.S. Senate.
Will former Brookhaven Town Supervisor John Jay LaValle restore the Suffolk GOP to winning ways? Last week, the once highly powerful LaValle was back in politics, elected Suffolk Republican chairman.
The Suffolk GOP was once all but omnipotent here but has been in a major decline for years. The Suffolk’s Congressional Representatives Israel and Tim Bishop of Southampton are both Democrats. The county executive is a Democrat. The Suffolk Legislature has a Democratic majority. The heavily-populated Suffolk towns of Huntington, Babylon and Islip, for years solidly GOP-controlled, have Democratic governments. The district attorney (an especially sensitive spot in long scandal-racked Suffolk) is a Democrat.
Brookhaven, after Mr. LaValle left the supervisor’s spot in 2005, had, for a time, a town board with a Democratic majority. They ran charging the town had become “Crookhaven” under GOP rule—and this was well-documented by criminal convictions.
Democrat Mark Lesko, a former federal prosecutor, is making a robust run for re-election as Brookhaven supervisor. Will a Democratic town board majority be voted back on Election Day this November 3?
What about East Hampton? It’s been run by Democrats for most of recent decades but upsetting many now is the financial mess the town is in and scandal involving indicted town Budget Officer Ted Hults who says he followed the directions of Supervisor Bill McGintee in juggling funds. Mr. McGintee is not running for re-election. Deputy County Executive Ben Zwirn is the Democratic candidate for supervisor, and he was a reformer as supervisor of North Hempstead. But the GOP nominee, Bill Wilkinson, nearly beat Mr. McGintee two years ago. Will the GOP win big this year in East Hampton?
Is this a good Democratic year in Southampton? Supervisor Linda Kabot, seeking re-election, has troubles because of a split within the town GOP and her recent arrest for alleged drunken driving. She faces a strong Democratic opponent in Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst.
On Shelter Island, where politics is more than local, it’s personal, and with incumbent Democratic Supervisor Jim Dougherty not being opposed by the GOP, what will be the impact of Bill Smith, nemesis of Brookhaven National Laboratory and Plum Island Animal Disease Center, running for supervisor under the banner of his Shelter Island Preservation Party, and Paul Shepherd running for supervisor under the banner of his Local Liberties Party?