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Mondello backs Blakeman, but won't knock Rice

Joseph Mondello, the Nassau Republican leader.

Joseph Mondello, the Nassau Republican leader. (Credit: Newsday / Karen Wiles Stabile)

Nassau Republican Chairman Joseph Mondello said Thursday that he’s squarely behind Bruce Blakeman’s 4th Congressional District bid.

But that doesn’t mean he has anything bad to say about Blakeman’s most likely Democratic opponent, Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice.

“I’ve always been a fan of Bruce Blakeman,” Mondello said of the former county legislative presiding officer, who announced his campaign last week. “I think Bruce is a very bright guy, and he’s grown a lot since he was in that previous position. I think he can be a real asset, not only to our party but to the people of the congressional district.”

Blakeman, 58, of Long Beach – the presiding officer from 1996 to 1999 – is hoping to replace retiring Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) in the 4th District. If he wins an expected GOP primary against attorney Frank Scaturro, Blakeman may be pitted against Rice, the county’s top prosecutor, who has always been on good terms with Mondello.

“I like her very much and she’s always been a very, very nice person. I think she’s been a very good DA, and I’d be a liar if I said anything different,” Mondello said of Rice. “If Bruce was going for a law enforcement position, Kathleen Rice would have the edge. But he’s going for a legislative position, where, quite frankly, Bruce has the experience in that capacity.

“I think Bruce will make a fine congressman,” Mondello added.

In the weeks after McCarthy announced that she wouldn’t seek reelection, Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray was the prime person on Republican leaders’ wish list. National Republicans were willing to spend big on her campaign, but Mondello echoed statements made last week by Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) that the national campaign will be just as enthused about Blakeman.

“I’ve already started and I intend to continue talking to (National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg) Walden in terms of trying to get financial aid for Bruce,” Mondello said. “My intentions are to continue to be in contact with those people.”

Political analysts expect the 4th district race -- since it involves an open seat -- to be expensive, with candidates likely needing to spend $2.5 million or more to be competitive.

Blakeman has said he will self-fund at least part of his campaign, as he looks at a potential primary with Scaturro. Mondello added that he thought Blakeman could benefit from having to run aggressively at an earlier juncture than if he had no primary challenger.

“I think it helps, as long as you spell the name right and get it out there,” Mondello said. “It’ll let people know who Bruce Blakeman is and what he stands for. He’s articulate, good looking and he gives a very good appearance.”

“Honestly,” he added, “I think he’s a winner.”

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