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11th A.D.: Suffolk Legis. Gregory courted for Sweeney's seat

DuWayne Gregory, seen taking over as presiding officer

DuWayne Gregory, seen taking over as presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, is being courted to run for the 11th District Assembly seat now held by Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), who is retiring at year’s end. (Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas)

The Suffolk Legislature’s presiding officer, DuWayne Gregory, is being courted to run for the Assembly seat now held by the dean of Long Island’s delegation, Robert Sweeney, who is retiring at year’s end.

Gregory, 45, went to Albany on Monday to meet with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle of Monroe County.

“I’m being courted,” Gregory said. “It’s an honor and it’s something that in the past I’ve thought about.” He said he expects to make a decision by week’s end because parties will begin circulating nominating petitions May 29.

Gregory won election to the $118,000-a-year post of presiding officer in January, making him the first African-American to ever lead the Suffolk Legislature. He has been a legislator since 2008.

Gregory was elected even though Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone, behind the scenes, favored Legis. Louis D’Amaro for the leadership post, according to party sources.

However, on the day he was elected, Bellone publicly told lawmakers, “I can tell you that in Legislator Gregory as presiding officer, you have somebody that has the vision, dedication and wisdom to lead our county through what are still difficult times.”

More recently, Gregory blamed Bellone backers for seeking a district attorney’s investigation of his residency in his district. Gregory said he lives in a rented apartment in the district while his wife, who has two sons from a fomer marriage, is living in St. James until her younger son graduates from high school next month. He said that District Attorney Thomas Spota cleared him of the allegations.

Legis. Kate Browning (WFP-Shirley) said she would not like to see Gregory depart and hopes he’ll stay. “Personally, I think he’s an asset to the legislature,” she said. “The way I see things, he’s definitely working to protect the legislature and make sure it’s independent.”

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