The Executive Committee of the Nassau Republican Party voted unanimously Thursday night to back Mineola attorney Grant Lally in a potential GOP primary against Stephen Labate, a financial planner from Deer Park.
The winner will challenge Democratic Rep. Steve Israel in the November general election. The 3rd Congressional District straddles Nassau and Suffolk counties and includes parts of Queens.
Nassau GOP Chairman Joe Mondello said both candidates are “fine men” but that Lally works in Nassau and comes from a politically active Republican family.
“Grant is a good solid Nassau Republican,” said Mondello.
Suffolk GOP Chairman John Jay LaValle said that since the district is primarily in Nassau, he would defer to Mondello.
Nassau Conservative Party Chairman Daniel Donovan, Jr. said the party is leaning toward Lally but has yet to make a final decision.
Lally, 52, of Lloyd Harbor, is a managing partner at Lally & Misir LLP in Mineola, previously worked on George W. Bush’s 2000 Florida recount battle and is the son of former Supreme Court Justice Ute Lally. Lally ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1994 and 1996 against then-Rep. Gary Ackerman.
In 1998, Lally agreed to pay a $280,000 fine to the Federal Election Commission for accepting illegal campaign donations during the 1994 election, and falsely reporting them.
Mondello said the fine occurred is decades old “and did not factor into my decision.”
Labate, an Iraq War veteran as a member of the U.S. Army Reserves, lost to Israel two years ago 56 percent to 43 percent and is planning to run again.
In a statement, Jake Menges, a Labate consultant, said the candidate has “the utmost respect” for Mondello but that he was moving ahead with his campaign.
“Stephen Labate is a soldier and patriot who has never shied away from a fight in his life,” Menges said. “We know that Long Islanders will see Stephen as the candidate of integrity and change and we feel confident he will win the primary and he looks forward to taking on Steve Israel.”
Suffolk County Democratic Chairman Rich Schaffer, meanwhile, has labeled Labate as a “Tea Party extremist” and Lally as a “Republican Party hack who paid one of the largest fines for illegal campaign contributions in history.”