Long before this week’s bombshell erupted over Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy’s campaign fundraising investigation, the longtime Democrat-turned-Republican failed gubernatorial candidate was no stranger to controversy.
We thought we’d take a quick glimpse back at some of the issues throughout Levy’s tenure that grabbed the headlines, both here on Long Island and nationally. Enjoy:
Steve Levy has been a fixture in Suffolk County politics for 25 years. Levy began his political career when he was elected to the county legislature as a Democrat in 1985 at the age of 26. During his time in the county legislature, Levy served as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and as deputy presiding officer. In 2000 was elected to the New York State Assembly.
In 2003 Levy defeated Suffolk County Legis. Ed Romaine, Republican, in the county executive race. He will hold that position for the rest of year unless he decides to resign his post. If Levy does resign before his term is over the chief deputy county executive would take over until a special election could be held in 90 days. Last year, Levy switched parties to run for governor of New York. He lost the Republican primary to former U.S. Congressman Rick Lazio.
Throughout his tenure, Levy has been known as a fiscal conservative. In earlier years, he gained support from Suffolk County residents as an anti-tax Democrat.
Levy’s anti-immigration rhetoric gained national attention after the highly publicized murder of Ecuadorian-immigrant Marcelo Lucero in 2008, who lost his life during a vicious attack by seven teenagers in Patchogue.
Levy Elected Suffolk County Executive in 2003
Levy’s career as county executive began with a bang, when Suffolk Democratic Chairman Rich Schaffer and the Democratic Party backed Levy instead of former Nassau County Chief Deputy Executive William Cunningham, who was endorsed by Long Island’s lone daily newspaper. Newsday Editorial Editor James Klurfeld infamously stated “This is war,” Schaffer told the Press in 2003.
Levy went on to defeat Romaine to become Suffolk County Executive.
Marcelo Lucero stabbed and killed in November of 2008
The 2008 slaying of Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero ignited a firestorm, not only on Long Island, but nationally, as the killing grabbed headlines across the country. The Lucero slaying was one of the major hate crime incidents in the history of Long Island, putting national spotlight on race relations on Long Island. The killing also prompted the U.S. Justice Department to investigate Suffolk County police response to hate crimes.
Seven Medford teenagers said they went out on that unforgettable night looking to attack Hispanics.
Levy further stoked the flames with what many perceived as his anti-immigration rhetoric, such as when he said Lucero’s murder would’ve been a “one-day story” if Lucero was killed in Nassau.
Seven Medford teenagers were charged and convicted of the crime. Jeffrey Conroy was the only one convicted of manslaughter of a hate crime and is currently serving the first year of his 25-year sentence.
During a Martin Luther King Jr. speech last year discussing housing discrimination in Suffolk County, Levy was again criticized for using a minority name to make a point.
“Even Shaniqua could file a complaint,” Levy said in his speech.
The county executive was blasted by NAACP Regional Director Tracey Edwards for his “stereotypical generalities” of his remarks.
“I was not making a joke; I was being very serious that someone named Diaz, Chang, Mohammed or Shaniqua might be discriminated against by a landlord simply because of their name,” Levy said in a statement after the incident.
Levy the Republican
During the 2010 New York gubernatorial race, Levy left the Democratic Party and became a Republican. Levy had always been known as a fiscal conservative, but for most of his 25 years in office, he was a Democrat.
His former party members criticized him and the move prompted former adversaries in the Republican Party to align themselves with Levy. Suffolk County Republican Chairman John Jay LaValle backed Levy instead of former congressman and lifelong Republican Steve Lazio, creating some tension within the Suffolk GOP. Levy lost to Lazio in the primary, who was eventually defeated by Buffalo Tea Party candidate Carl Paladino.
Levy Announces he won’t run for third term
On Thursday Levy announced he won’t seek a third term because of issues surrounding improper fundraising activities which amassed him a $4 million campaign war chest. He turned over the funds to the district attorney.