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Mar 23, 2010 7:32 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Levy switches parties, announces run for governor

Mar 23, 2010 7:32 PM

After weeks of speculation, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy announced on Friday that he was switching his political affiliation to the Republican Party and would be seeking the GOP nomination in the race for governor this fall.

In his announcement, Mr. Levy blasted state spending habits and trumpeted his candidacy as one that would focus primarily on a “crusade for fiscal restraint.”

“The people of this state are crying out for someone with a proven record as an executive manager who can balance budgets, make the tough decisions to protect taxpayers and save New York from financial ruin,” Mr. Levy, a lifelong Democrat, said in his speech in Albany on Friday afternoon. “I am the only candidate who has balanced a budget, who has cut spending and taxes, who has said ‘no’ to the special interests, and who has extracted concessions from public employee unions.”

The announcement by the county executive—who received an unprecedented cross-endorsement from all four major parties in Suffolk County and won 95 percent of the vote in the 2007 elections, his first reelection campaign—brought praise and support from some key Republican leaders, including Suffolk County Chairman John Jay LaValle and state GOP Chairman Ed Cox, both of whom stood beside Mr. Levy at Friday’s press conferences in Manhattan and in Albany announcing his plans.

“Steve Levy is a Republican—he was never a Democrat in the first place,” Mr. LaValle said in an interview on Tuesday. “He’s one of the most fiscally conservative politicians in the state. We’re in the middle of a financial crisis the last time I checked, and that’s what we need. He’s got the moxie to get this state back on track.”

Mr. Levy has been county executive since 2003. He was spending this week traveling the state to drum up support from other Republican leaders and financial backers.

Mr. LaValle said that Mr. Levy’s announcement has brought a flood of support from Suffolk County businessmen who said they are eager to see his fiscal management at the state level.

Mr. Levy’s entry into the race also brought immediate attacks from Rick Lazio, the former Long Island congressman and senatorial candidate who had been the most talked about name on the Republican gubernatorial dance card until last week. That Mr. LaValle and Mr. Cox stood beside Mr. Levy at his announcement rallies meant that his entry had already started to siphon some of the party support for Mr. Lazio, who has not held public office since giving up his seat in the House to run for the Senate against Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2000.

Even as Mr. Levy’s press conference on Friday was ongoing, a statement went out from Lazio’s campaign headquarters painting his newest opponent as a “liberal Democrat” and champion of tax hikes and the costly economic stimulus package promoted by President Obama.

The release included a profanity 
laced transcript of a wiretapped 
phone call, part of an investigation in 2004, in which Mr. Levy speaks critically of the Brookhaven Town Republican Party.

“Steve is not a Republican. He will be registered as a Democrat on election day. He will be unable to vote in the Republican primary,” the statement from Mr. Lazio reads. “He is a supporter of Barack Obama and has been a close ally of [State Majority Leader] Shelly Silver, and he has voted for the largest tax increase in New York State history. He even said that the Obama stimulus package was ‘manna from heaven’ that would ‘save lives.’”

If Mr. Levy were to fall short in his bid for the governor’s office, Mr. LaValle said that he would be a welcome candidate for another term in the county executive’s seat, this time as a Republican. He would not speculate whether the Democratic Party could be expected to cross-endorse as the Republicans did in the last campaign.

Suffolk County Democratic Party Chair Rich Schaffer said the party will oppose a Republican Mr. Levy should he be on the county ballot again in 2011. Mr. Schaffer said he is meeting with the Democratic Committee this week to ask their permission to start seeking candidates for a 2011 election, either for a special ballot to fill Mr. Levy’s seat should he win the governor’s race, or to oppose his longtime friend in a November general election.

“As a friend of his for 25 years, I’m extremely disappointed in this decision—but nothing surprises me when it comes to elected officials,” Mr. Schaffer said. “The comments I’ve gotten from within the party already are that we need to think about getting a strong Democratic candidate ready.”

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Interesting. I sent him a letter some time ago about his illegal immigration statements - he actually called me on the phone and we chatted about it for 15 minutes or so. I've never had that happen with an elected official. His fiscal responsibility position is pretty good but I think he has a long row to hoe.
By diogenes (57), westhampton on Mar 23, 10 4:51 PM
This kind of blatant opportunism is, quite frankly, disgusting. Republicans and Democrats know that politicians who switch parties show that they have no real convictions and simply float on whatever they believe to be the prevailing winds.
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Mar 23, 10 5:19 PM
OR they have the conviction to believe in their own ideals, ideas and want to serve the citizens despite what a party platform says. The last thing we need is another politician who sits back and does what his party tells him to do.
By eagleeye (82), Sag Harbor on Mar 25, 10 9:09 PM
What about politicians that have no party affiliation? They have no convictions and also float on whatever they believe to be the prevailing winds.
By reg rep (408), Southampton on Mar 23, 10 5:57 PM
Steve is the perfect choice for NY. People misunderstand why Steve "switched parties." Steve has convictions like no other politician. During his time in Suffolk, he was a stalwart representative of community values and fiscal responsibility. Steve was never a Democrat or Republican, he is just an intelligent, hard-working man who knows what is right and will be responsible with taxpayer money. Isn't that what we all really want? Don't be loyal to a party, be loyal to the people.
By DWohl (1), Northport on Mar 23, 10 6:14 PM
2 members liked this comment
If Levy is not loyal to either party, then why declare a party in the first place? Why not call yourself and independent?

He was a democrat when it was popular to be a democrat - even though his ideology did not fit the party platform. Now that he believes it is popular to be a Republican he switches the letter after his name. That is not conviction, that is opportunism at its worst.
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Mar 23, 10 7:01 PM
1 member liked this comment
No such thing as the independent party. Do you mean independence party?
By reg rep (408), Southampton on Mar 23, 10 8:44 PM
No, I do not mean Independence party. What I said was he could declare himself an Independent. "No such thing"? Have you heard of Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman? Please think before you write.
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Mar 24, 10 8:17 AM
Are you really this narrow minded & against all who are not Democrats?
This is the smart move for Levy if he is seeking the governor's office. The Democratic endorsement is going to Cuomo, so Levy is doing the sensible thing by seeking the republican nomination. He is good for the people & their will, no matter what letter is after his name. For you to throw a tantrum because he has left "your" team is foolish as he will still make the call he sees as right regardless of party affiliation.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Mar 24, 10 10:02 PM
Sanders is a socialist and Lieberman is an I because he lost the D primary.
By RemembertheDucks (54), Eastport on Mar 25, 10 6:44 AM
Hey ICE, I see not tantrum in that post you're referring tom but I do see one in yours.. Levy can be whatever the h-- he wants but you think it is sensible since he will lose as democrat for him to switch parties? Do you tell your child that if his little league team is losing he should pick a new team? In case you have not noticed, there are HUGE differences between republicans and democrats so anyone who switches party affiliation just to win an election is clearly someone lacking the courage ...more
By fcmcmann (417), Hampton Bays on Mar 25, 10 8:33 AM
Your little league analogy is weak at best. BTW.... children in little league are not permitted to switch teams so why you attempted to relate that I can't imagine.

Anyway back to Levy he is for LI, I would be inclined to voted for him no matter what party he runs under. He will vote his conscience regardless. It isn't that he won't win as a Dem, it is that he won't get the nomination. He wants to be Gov. so he is seeking the GOP's nomination.

You list HB as your residence? Do ...more
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Mar 25, 10 7:50 PM
Watch out State PD.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Mar 23, 10 7:29 PM
"Steve was never a Democrat or Republican"..so why was he a Democrat..and why is he now going republican???
Is it pure opportunism??
By Bel (86), southampton on Mar 24, 10 9:54 PM
Just like Thiele and Schneiderman. The politics of the new millenium. Is Lavalle and Bishop next?
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Mar 24, 10 10:53 PM
There's a theoretical argument to be made for Steve Levy's move here, in that party labels don't matter so much in the everyday routine of local and county government -- the old idea that there's no Democratic or Republican way to pave the roads, you just pave 'em. There are, however, at least two problems with this position:

[1] In the practical world, regardless of the lower level of party ideology at the county level, Mr. Levy's switch looks, smells, walks and talks like naked opportunism, ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Mar 25, 10 12:02 PM
1 member liked this comment

Andrew Cuomo for governor and Kathleen Rice for Attorney General. Take it to the bank.
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Mar 25, 10 3:20 PM
Probably true, but unfortunate on the Gov. end for LI.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Mar 25, 10 7:55 PM
Levy is a fiscal conservative and will get Repub votes by this move. There is nothing wrong with that. His interest is doing a good job for the people (Dems/Indep/and Repubs.) . End of story.
By Infoseeker (280), Hampton Bays on Mar 26, 10 9:44 AM
Nonsense. Like someone else said, if he is not about party, then why declare a party at all. He is a political opportunist. Nothing more, but let him do what he likes, he has as much chance of beating Cuomo as bigfresh does
By fcmcmann (417), Hampton Bays on Mar 28, 10 1:28 PM
Levy is smart, but not in anyway a public servant.

Few are.

He’s not looking to do anybody any good.

Most are the same.

His sort is referred to as slimy.

The formal salutation is Mr. Executive Slime Ball.

After all, should we not be solicitous?
By fazool (22), Southampton on Mar 27, 10 12:15 AM
Steve Levy would make an excellent governor for NY. He's a ZERO BS individual who's not afraid to speak his mind whether it's about finances or illigal immigration.Unfortunately our state is populated with a majority of left leaning Demokrat Party followers, and that makes his run difficult. Hope he does it though!
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 27, 10 5:44 PM