Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Posted by Nick at Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Many nervous Lighthouse supporters have raised the specter of State GOP chairman Joseph Mondello, who also runs the Republican Party in Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead. Some were concerned that he was pulling the strings in a covert campaign against the Lighthouse, as evidenced by his telling Lighthouse Project supporter Joe Conte to "blow it out [his] dufflebag" at Kate Murray's re-election rally in May. This capped a string of bizarre behavior by the Chairman, as he, earlier that week, sent paid staffers to Tom Suozzi's rally (which was, in a totally non-provocative move - yea, right - held right outside Republican Party headquarters) to heckle and throw teabags at both the County Executive and Nina Petraro Bastardi, who is now running for office as a Democrat but used to be an officer in the Nassau County Young Republicans.
Mr. Mondello's hold on the State GOP has been tenuous for months, ever since the Republicans lost a majority in the State Senate for the first time in decades last November. Behavior such as this only increased calls for the chairman to step aside in favor of fresh leadership. Mr. Mondello, known as a stubborn and tenacious man, responded by attempting to assert his control ever more strongly on the party. This space has speculated in the past that he would be desperate for a win in the Town of Hempstead in the upcoming elections, because the Town was his first bastion of power and could prove a signal that he is still a formidable force that can win elections. Considering his opening salvo aimed at Joe Conte, and the fact that Jay Jacobs, Nassau Democratic Chairman, was recently tapped to lead the state Democrats, this could have become very ugly.
Mr. Mondello ended the speculation yesterday, announcing that he would not seek re-election to his position at the helm of the state GOP at its convention next month, and he will concentrate on his duties in Nassau County.
What it Means for the Lighthouse
Mr. Mondello's decision to leave his post has raised valid questions surrounding the Lighthouse. Some wonder whether he will soften his stance now that he does not have a prominent job to protect, and others rightly worry he will become even more radical now that state-wide (and national) spotlight is off him.
Personally, I think the former will play out. We have seen prominent Republicans, such as Assemb. Bob Barra (R - Lynbrook, a former Islanders employee) and Assemb. Fred Thiele (R-Bridgehampton), throw their support behind the Lighthouse, not to mention all Republicans in the County Legislature not named Nicolello or Muscarella. Above all else, Joe Mondello looked out of touch when, as other members of the party he supposedly leads were talking about the benefits the Lighthouse will bring, he accused a concerned voter of being a paid plant for the Lighthouse Development Group.
Mr. Mondello has an injured reputation as he is, rightly or not, taking the blame for many of the Republican Party's losses in New York over the previous years. He will likely regroup and lick his wounds now that he does not have to defend his statewide office. As another election draws near, Mr. Mondello will concentrate on local races, such as Legis. Ed Mangano's spirited (though, in my opinion, ultimately doomed) attempt to unseat Tom Suozzi, and he will not concern himself as much with the Lighthouse. Ironically, Kristen McElroy's (remember her?) "I'm Running By Making Myself Invisible" campaign may also help this, as Mr. Mondello will let the Town of Hempstead shake out this process on its own.
(Blogger's Note: I am still working on getting a few interviews with people in the Town of Hempstead to shine some light on what they're thinking right now. Stay tuned)
In addition, various sources have strongly disputed the notion that Kate Murray was ever beholden to Mr. Mondello, and this should marginalize him even further as the Lighthouse process unfolds.
At this point, I believe Joe Mondello is a non-issue in the ongoing Lighthouse debate. The final hurdle is between the developers and the Town of Hempstead, as they negotiate the Final Environmental Impact Statement and move toward a zoning hearing. As always, we need to be at the ready to show our positive support for this project, and make sure they know we are still here, dufflebags and all.
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