Those Not-So Good Old Days
On the Democratic side, Babylon Town Supervisor Steve Bellone is the main contender. The Suffolk Democrats will hold their nominating convention April 27. LaValle insists that Bellone is vulnerable because he’s “in possession of $1.4 million in questionable campaign funds.” The GOP chairman said he’ll tie Levy to Bellone. “The common string is the Democratic Party,” he says.
Rich Schaffer, chairman of the Suffolk County Democratic Party scoffed at the comparison.
LaValle has been “misinforming the public about Bellone’s record,” Schaffer tells the Press. “He’s been spreading half truths. I don’t expect that to change.”
But even with the upended political landscape, Schaffer admits, “Any race for us is going to be tough because they’ve got the county registration numbers, which favor the Republicans still. But because of what happened in the 6th L.D., we know that with a strong grassroots operation, we can win.”
Schaffer had been a longtime supporter of Levy.
“I have nostalgia for the good old days when Levy was someone different than he is today,” Schaffer says, adding that Levy seemed to change after he got endorsed for re-election in 2007 on both the Republican and Democratic lines. “He started acting very big for his britches.”
The Democratic chairman says he wasn’t surprised by Levy’s party switch last year.
“I’ve learned that Levy’s in it for his political opportunity,” Schaffer says. “That’s pretty much what guides him.” But Schaffer was astonished by Levy’s forfeiting his campaign funds. “He’s someone who’s not afraid to fight… Whatever the D.A. showed him convinced him that there was no fight here.”
“For any public official to leave a war chest of some $4 million behind when you’re still a young man tells me that there’s some really incredible things that happened that need to be explained,” says Suffolk Legis. Ricardo Montano (D-Central Islip). “If the facts warrant it, then he has to go.”
Montano, a former federal civil rights attorney now in private practice, admits, “I’ve never had a good relationship with the county executive.” He once accused Levy of using the Hispanic community “as a punching bag.”
After Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadoran immigrant, was killed in Patchogue in November, 2008, the Southern Poverty Law Center, a national hate-watch group, studied the climate of anti-immigrant sentiment in Suffolk and singled out Steve Levy as “the enabler in chief” in its subsequent report in 2009, “Climate of Fear: Latino Immigrants in Suffolk County, N.Y.” Then the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department launched its own investigation and its report is slated for release any day now.
Montano wouldn’t speculate about how the government’s findings might roil the waters even further.
“What’s important is whether Levy can continue to govern,” Montano says. “I think his ability to lead is diminished, and that’s bad for the county. And if there’s a special election, we need to get that done.”
“I think you stick a fork in him,” said another Republican legislator who didn’t want to be identified. “Levy’s done.”