Suffolk Dems distance themselves from Levy, celebrate Bellone

11/09/2011 10:13 AM |

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Suffolk Democrats toast County Executive-elect Steve Bellone at the elction night gathering at the IBEW Hall in Hauppauge.

Election Day was supposed to be a major opportunity for Suffolk Republicans, with three seats in the Legislature and the county executive’s office up for grabs.

Instead it was the Suffolk Democrats who walked away smiling, victors in the race for County Executive and still in control of the Legislature.

“Tonight, the voters of Suffolk County have given us a huge victory,” said Suffolk County Executive-elect Steve Bellone.

Mr. Bellone posted a double-digit win over his Republican opponent, Angie Carpenter, in the race to succeed Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy. The Babylon Town Supervisor secured 130,000 more votes than his opponent, taking in 56 percent of the vote.

A Democrat has now won the county’s highest office three straight elections, but Democrats were doing everything they could Tuesday night to distance themselves from Mr. Levy, who surrendered $4 million in campaign cash and didn’t seek reelection after prosecutors made inquiries into his fundraising practices.

The County Executive had changed his party affiliation to Republican in 2010 with hopes of making a run at the Governor’s mansion. In their election night speeches, county Democrats painted Mr. Levy in an unfavorable light.

“We’re going to have a County Executive we can be proud of,” Suffolk Democratic chairman Rich Schaffer said of Mr. Bellone. “We’re going to have a Steve that works well with other people.”

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Mr. Bellone said he hopes to open Suffolk County government up to the people.

“We made an effort to reach out because of what happened over the past eight years,” said Mr. Bellone, speaking at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Hall in Hauppauge. “We’re going to be a county that brings people together.”

Meanwhile, not far down the road at the Sheraton Long Island Hotel in Hauppauge, Republicans were singing a similar tune. Suffolk GOP chairman John Jay LaValle called Mr. Bellone a “good man” with a difficult challenge ahead.

Ms. Carpenter, who will continue to serve as County Treasurer, conceded shortly before midnight, when she urged all elected officials in Suffolk County to work together.

“We have some real challenges ahead of us, and as disappointed as we might be, we have to pull ourselves up by the boot straps,” she said to a crowd of Republican supporters. “We have got to pull together, because it’s not going to be done by one person alone.”

One man who will join in that effort is North Fork Legislator Ed Romaine, a Republican who won his bid for reelection with 78 percent of the vote against a Democratic opponent who ran a lackluster campaign.

Mr. Romaine and fellow Legislator Jay Schneiderman, an Independent with Democratic backing, will continue to represent the East End for two more years.

Preliminary results from the Suffolk County Board of Elections show Democrats likely won all three open seats to maintain a 12-6 majority in the Legislature.

Mr. Romaine said Tuesday night that he will continue to do everything he can for the people of the East End, even if Democrats still control the majority.

“I’m the only voice for the first district, and I need to be a strong voice,” he said.

Jennifer Gustavson and Samantha Brix contributed reporting to this story.

gparpan@timesreview.com