Suspending a decades-old policy, Nassau Republican chairman Joseph Mondello Monday night agreed to a cross-endorsement deal with Democrats to back State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Pitts after Suffolk Conservatives balked at backing Mondello's Supreme Court candidate.
Under the deal made hours before Monday night's bicounty judicial convention, Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer, Mondello and Suffolk GOP chairman John Jay LaValle, agreed to back Pitts, along with the Nassau GOP Supreme Court choice, Nassau County Court Judge John Galasso, whom Suffolk Conservatives would not support. The agreement also includes bipartisan backing for Suffolk GOP Supreme Court contender David Reilly, vice chairman of the Huntington Republican Committee. The judgeships pay $167,000 a year and carry a 14-year term.
The more than 200 Republican committee members at Levittown Town Hall also backed former County Court Judge Gary Weber, a Republican, who lost a race for Supreme Court justice last year. However, he is not part of the cross-endorsement because Nassau and Suffolk Democrats last week also nominated Family Court Judge Hope Zimmerman, who will run on the party's line.
"I have always played it straight in my 31 years as leader and I expect others to do the same," Mondello said. "But having been burned . . . I can't sit back and take it."
The Conservative Party held its judicial convention Monday night in Islip, but party leaders did not return calls for comment.
The deal came together after Suffolk conservative chairman Edward Walsh, who controls a majority of bicounty conservative judicial votes, would not commit to backing Galasso.
Walsh hedged even though GOP leaders had already agreed to support conservative Matthew Hughes, a law secretary to State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Pastoressa, a conservative.
Mondello's move comes after Walsh had pressured Nassau Republicans for extra judicial nominations for past two years.
"We can't continue to have the tail wagging the dog," Mondello said. He also said that Walsh's hard-line stand on Galasso cost his party a judgeship. "Now they get nothing," he said.