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John Jay LaValle was elected Friday night to a third two-year term as Suffolk Republican chairman after potential opposition failed to materialize at a party convention in Holtsville.
LaValle, 46, was approved by acclamation, although Islip GOP chairman Frank Tantone had earlier said he was weighing a bid for county leader and Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio asked state GOP officials earlier this week to oust LaValle for party disloyalty during a bitter town primary.
“We have overwhelming support,” said LaValle prior to the vote. “Our message is to stay unified and work hard between now and Election Day.”
LaValle backers say the leader had the support of nine of 10 towns going into the convention. Critics say that LaValle's support comes about because he controls GOP patronage appointments at the Board of Elections and at Suffolk Off Track Betting Corp. where several party leaders work.
Vecchio had written to state Republican Chairman Edward Cox seeking LaValle's removal because in a pre-primary mailing, LaValle listed primary supervisor challenger Robert Creighton as the party’s choice, rather than Vecchio, who narrowly won the party’s backing at a town GOP convention. LaValle also failed to include on the list town board member Thomas McCarthy, a Vecchio supporter. A Cox spokesman declined to comment on Vecchio’s letter.
LaValle said he did not expect Vecchio’s letter to have any impact, citing the supervisor's past support for Democrats like Rep. Tim Bishop. “The difference between us is that I choose the better Republican in the race while Pat Vecchio chooses Democrats over Republicans. My loyalty to the party has never wavered.”
Tantone has also said he was considering a run for leadership because he was receiving a large number of calls from people who wanted a change. However, Tantone also said he wanted to avoid creating a major divide in the party. A Tantone bid could have affected the chances of his ally William Garbarino, a contender for state Supreme Court nomination.
LaValle put off all discussion of pending state Supreme Court judgeships until after the leader issue was resolved. There are three Suffolk judicial nominations which will be filled Monday night at a bicounty convention as well as one from Nassau.
There were 85 people at the convention.
All 10 town leaders, including Tantone, seconded the nomination. Tantone declined to comment on not seeking the leadership. Vecchio did not attend.
LaValle thanked the committee for its support and vowed to continue the party comeback in which the GOP has taken back 18 town and county seats since he took over.
"We've been running into the wind for several years, but the wind is now slightly at our backs," he said, and predicted the party would take control of the Huntington Town board this fall and increase the GOP's number of seats in the county legislature.
LaValle said the local GOP at times has been hurt by the national GOP. "The national party has not helped us at time," he said. "This is not Texas."
"My mission is to win and to make this a better place for our families," he said. "Thank you for your faith. I will not let you down."