CLEARWATER BEACH, FLA. - CLEARWATER BEACH, FLA.
The rumors were flying back home that this Republican National Convention might mark a kind of last hurrah for Nassau GOP Chairman Joseph Mondello.
For those who would say it or believe that, Mondello, 74, had a message Wednesday: "You can tell them that I have already made my reservations for the 2016 convention."
Even in the multilayered messaging of party politics, with its wiggle room and feints and secondary meanings, that definitely sounded like a denial.
"I'll stay here until I feel that I'm not going to be of use to the committee any more," added Mondello. "Let me tell you -- there is something to be said for serving this long and for having been instrumental in electing virtually all of these people. It keeps the party coalesced, you understand? It keeps everybody together . . . rowing the boat in the same direction."
During an interview at the Clearwater Beach Hilton, from which the New York delegation decamps daily for the big convention hall in Tampa, Mondello also expressed admiration for District Attorney Kathleen Rice and said he doesn't believe she will be the Democratic candidate next year for county executive against his man Edward Mangano.
When it comes to re-electing Mangano, "to my mind, this is the year that counts" in laying a foundation even if the vote is in 2013, he said. Also, "I don't think Kathleen Rice is going to run. I have no proof of that. She's certainly a formidable candidate, and a hell of a nice person, too."
Mondello says he no longer worries the way he might have as a young leader, that he no longer looks over his shoulder. "I don't have that any more," he says. "It's not that I'm so perfect, it's just that I guess I've reached a time in my life, and a mental state, where I've said, well, look, whatever will be will be. . . . And usually I get what I want with people in the party."
Quickly he explains: "When I say I get what I want, I think I look at things objectively. I try to do the right thing. But my mind isn't closed. If people want to advise me, I certainly appreciate it and I welcome it."
His health? "I feel good. There's nothing wrong with me. I go to doctors. I'm in pretty good shape. I'm not a kid any more -- but I think I'm doing quite well."
Whether the county executive candidate turns out to be, perhaps, Legis. David Denenberg of Merrick or North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman, he said he doesn't see them raising the necessary funds so far.
"Eddie [Mangano] is really a class act," says Mondello. "I feel a little sorry because he was a one-day-a-week legislator and a good one. However, he got thrust into being the county executive in the middle of a huge financial problem." He says he doesn't believe Mangano gets enough credit in news media for handling it.
As to those rumors back home about Mondello stepping down, Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) and other top elected officials said that, at a luncheon honoring the chairman here Tuesday, there was "no hint" of departure. Rather, King said, "it was an affirmation" for the chairman.
That's what they're saying, anyway, and we have no evidence otherwise.