County Comptroller and North Fork native Joe Sawicki is considering jumping into the county executive’s race, and said this week he’s “50-50” on whether to seek the GOP nod to run in place of Steve Levy, whose decision last week to drop out of the executive’s race instantly altered Suffolk’s political landscape.
“I’ve been getting a lot of encouragement, which is extremely flattering,” said Mr. Sawicki of Southold, who served in the state Assembly for 11 years. “It could develop into a very interesting scenario.”
Topping his list of concerns is the potential impacts on his family, which he cited as the reason he left Albany in 1993 to become comptroller and chief financial officer for Suffolk Off Track Betting.
“The Albany life was really difficult on my family,” Mr. Sawicki said, adding the same could hold true in serving as county executive.
“As chief executive of the county you’re working 24/7,” he said. “There’s a part of me that’s excited about that challenge. I’m sure I could do a good job.”
Even so, “I really relish my private family time,” said Mr. Sawicki. “In politics you live most of your life in a fish bowl and it would be more so as county executive. I don’t need to be in the press seven days a week like some politicians.”
Mr. Sawicki, who met with Suffolk’s 10 town GOP leaders on Friday, said, “I’ll know in a week or two. I’m on the fence, 50-50, but giving it serious consideration.”
Should he decide to run he’ll be fighting for the nomination against County Treasurer Angie Carpenter of West Islip, who announced her candidacy Monday. The list of potential Republican candidates includes State Senator John Flanagan and
Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick, both of Smithtown. Mr. Sawicki said he expects have a dozen Republicans to throw their hats in the ring.
He left OTB to serve as chief deputy county treasurer, a job he held until up until his winning the comptroller’s seat in 2002. He’s enjoyed Democratic cross-endorsement in his last two elections. He developed a friendship along the way with Democratic
Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota, who appeared on the same ballot as Mr. Sawicki and received GOP support in his last two elections.
The district attorney figured prominently in Mr. Levy’s shocking announcement Thursday that he will not seek reelection.
Mr. Bellone, the Babylon Town Supervisor since 2002, is the current favorite to earn the Democratic nomination. Mr. Bellone said he was “seriously considering running for county executive” against Mr. Levy during a county-wide “listening tour” stop at the Riverhead Free Library earlier this month.
Republicans would be foolish to underestimate Mr. Bellone, Mr. Sawicki said.
“He’s a very formidable candidate,” the comptroller said. “Clean image, good fiscal reputation. He’s also got a million and half in campaign contributions so it wouldn’t be a cakewalk against him.”
Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches), whose district covers eastern Brookhaven, Riverhead and the Southold towns, said he had fully expected Mr. Levy, who ran unopposed four years ago, to square off with the Babylon supervisor come November.
“I was surprised and shocked,” said the legislator, who ran unsuccessfully against Mr. Levy in 2003. “But Steve Levy has always accepted responsibility for his actions. I wish him well in his future endeavors.”
Supervisor Bellone called the news of Mr. Levy’s decision “indeed surprising and concerning. But the challenges and opportunities facing us are greater than any one person and I am confident Suffolk County will grow and thrive with new leadership.”
Suffolk County Democratic Chairman Richard Schaffer said Mr. Levy’s decision not to run opens the door for the Democrats’ return to the county executive’s office.
“I remain as confident as ever that in November we will have a terrific new county executive, Steve Bellone,” he said.
Michael White, Vera Chinese and Grant Parpan contributed to this story.