Rick Brand Portrait of Newsday reporter Rick Brand taken on

Rick Brand is a longtime Newsday reporter who writes about politics and government on Long Island.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone was AWOL from last week’s county Democratic dinner at Villa Lombardi’s in Holbrook that attracted 500 and brought in $350,000.

Bellone’s absence, particularly at an event where Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was the headline speaker, sparked renewed speculation about ongoing bad blood between Bellone and Suffolk Democratic chairman Rich Schaffer, who is also Babylon Town supervisor.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Schaffer said he received a call late on Oct. 24, the day of the dinner, telling him the county executive could not make the event for personal reasons. Bellone’s office gave the same reason, but provided no other details.

Schaffer said he was surprised that Bellone missed the dinner only because earlier in the day Bellone had said he planned to attend when he and Schaffer ran into each at another event.