GOP taps John Gomez to challenge Israel

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Backed by boyhood friend Sean Hannity, John Gomez has won the Suffolk GOP nod to challenge Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) this fall.

Gomez, 47, of Bayport, is a former radio talk-show host who registered as a Republican in January. Suffolk Republican chairman John Jay LaValle Tuesday touted him as the best of the half-dozen candidates who sought the party's backing.

"He shares common beliefs in the same principles and ideals that we in the Republican Party promote," LaValle said. "He'll be able to deliver the message in a concise and clear manner which will assist us in defeating Steve Israel."

"Being a political commentator myself, you always wonder how it happens, and here I am doing it," said Gomez, who has never sought political office. "It gives me an opportunity to do something historic, and I'm saving my country too."

Gomez said he plans to campaign on national and local issues, such as property taxes. He said he opposes the national health insurance legislation enacted this month.

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Gomez said he intends to raise $3 million for the campaign. Israel, according to campaign finance reports filed in December, has $1.67 million in campaign cash.

Israel's spokeswoman declined to comment about Gomez. But Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer dismissed Gomez as "a right-wing radio host who is going to try to make a dive into politics."

"It's someone who really doesn't have much connection to here or a list of things he's accomplished."

David Wasserman, the U.S. House editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said the race is not considered competitive. "We have seen some surprises in county executive races in the past year but I don't think it's likely that Steve Israel would be caught asleep at the wheel," he said.

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