Hardwick's county executive campaign raises $23,000 -- all from Oheka Castle owner

Former Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick speaks about his Former Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick speaks about his campaign for Nassau County executive at the Nassau Supreme Court in Mineola. (Oct. 2, 2013) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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Former Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick’s long-shot campaign for county executive on Tuesday released its first financial disclosure of the campaign.

State Board of Elections records show Hardwick, who plans to run on the new “We Count” ballot line, received more than $23,000 in contributions from July 26 through Sept. 5, all from Gary Melius, the owner of the Oheka Castle catering hall in Huntington.

Democrats have said Melius is propping up Hardwick’s campaign to siphon minority votes from Thomas Suozzi, the party’s nominee for county executive, and to help Republican County Executive Edward Mangano win a second term.

Melius has described Hardwick as a “close friend” and has previously said he would support his candidacy.

Democratic sources said many of Hardwick’s petitions to get on the ballot were collected by Oheka Castle employees. But Hardwick said he only hired petitioners from the community.

In addition, Dina Magliocco, the treasurer of Hardwick’s  campaign account, is an administrator at Oheka, records show.

Rick Bellando, the catering manager at Oheka Castle, is also executive director of the Nassau Independence Party, which has endorsed Mangano.

Hardwick’s campaign also spent nearly $23,000, primarily for individuals it hired to collect signatures to get on the ballot, the filing shows. Hardwick’s campaign has only $224 left in the campaign account.

Democrat attorneys have spent the past week challenging Hardwick’s petitions in Nassau Supreme Court, claiming they were riddled with fraud and inconsistencies. Supreme Court Judge Dana Winslow is expected to issue his ruling at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.

Hardwick will hold a news conference immediately afterward to discuss the ruling. 

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