Surrounded by dozens of supporters and constituents, Babylon Town Supervisor Steve Bellone, a Democrat, announced on a cloudy Wednesday morning in his native North Babylon that he will run for Suffolk County executive.
Standing in the parking lot of the North Babylon Fire Department and across the street from the high school where he graduated, Bellone was joined by local leaders, business owners and residents, saying he will listen to constituents and called himself a “working class kid.”
“I have listened and now it is time to lead,” said Bellone, who reportedly has raised up to $1.5 million for the campaign. “And that is why I’m proud today to announce that it is my intention to become the next Suffolk County executive,” he said to cheers from dozens of supporters in the crowd.
His announcement came five weeks after County Executive Steve Levy, a lifelong Democrat who turned Republican last year in an unsuccessful gubernatorial bid, declared he will not seek re-election and turned over his $4-million war chest amid a criminal investigation into his campaign fundraising practices. County GOP leaders have yet to nominate a candidate to run against Bellone, but Suffolk County Treasurer Angie Carpenter became the first Republican to declare her candidacy earlier this month.
The supervisor was introduced by Vincent Sciacca, President of the Sunset City Civic Association, who said he has known Bellone for more than 15 years.
“Republican or not,” Sciacca said, “I’m 100 percent behind Steve Bellone.”
Standing behind the podium with his wife Tracey at his side, and his two daughters running around the parking lot, Bellone reflected on a “listening tour” he began six weeks ago.
“Since that time I’ve been meeting with leaders and business owners and residents across our county,” he said. “I realized that while the terrain was new, the concept has been with me forever.”
He credited his mother, for teaching him how to listen, and his father, who “taught me from an early age that in this country, even a working class kid like me can be or do anything that he wants to be.”
As supervisor he said he’s listened to residents and business owners who wanted lower taxes and more efficient government. “We have delivered in the form of a 5-percent tax cut, a 15-percent reduction in debt, and a government that is nearly 50-percent smaller than when I arrived,” Bellone said.
With Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association President Jeff Frayler in attendance, Bellone said he will work with and “not against” police officers who “don’t deserve to be used as a political football.”
“I will work to bring people together in this county to get things done, ending the notion that divisive politics and press statements are a substitute for actual leadership,” said Bellone, who was first elected as supervisor in 2001, succeeding Rich Schaffer.
Schaffer, now the Suffolk County Democratic Chairman, said, “I’ve sat back in awe as a resident of the Town of Babylon and I’m just amazed at how great a job he’s done over the past 10 years. I couldn’t of thought of a better person to turn the reigns over than Steve Bellone.”
Sciacca said Bellone’s biggest challenge going into the campaign is familiarizing himself with the rest of the county.
“I just wish more politicians are like him, and not always looking for what political favors can be done.” he said. “He’s a true politician as far as what the people need, what the people want.”
Alice T. Cone, 71, of the Belmont Lake Civic Association, said Bellone “is a good listener and he is aware of the problems.”
Bellone noted that the county is in the middle of a fiscal crisis and is facing a difficult challenge going forward, but said he has “no doubt that we can overcome.”
“I can promise you this,” he said. “I will continue to seek the support, the vote, and the input of every one of those residents because I have been taught over many years, and by many smart people, to never stop listening.”