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Sniping has already begun behind the scenes as Suffolk Republican leaders last week began mulling who should run for State Sen. Lee Zeldin’s seat, now that he has launched a campaign for Congress.
The first shot came, according to sources, after Suffolk GOP chairman John Jay LaValle told town leaders that he asked state Senate Republicans to do a poll on four potential contenders — including Islip Supervisor Tom Croci, who is serving in the U.S. armed forces in the Mideast.
The sources say that Islip Town GOP Chairman Frank Tantone objected because the the town did not put forward the supervisor’s name, he has no indication that Croci is interested in the race, and has concerns about finding a replacement supervisor cadidate. Tantone, who has often clashed with Croci, did not return calls for comment.
LaValle, reached later, said “it is inapppropriate for me to discuss what is goes on in a leaders' meeting,” but acknowledged he has asked Senate Republicans to do a poll “to look at the candidates and see which one is the best for the position.”
The others who will be polled include Brookhaven GOP town board member Timothy Mazzei, Islip Conservative town board member Anthony Senft and former Assemblyman Dean Murray.
Edward Walsh, Suffolk Conservative chairman, said he has heard rumors about Croci, but “no one is talking to the right people” if Croci wants to run. “Conservative Party is with Anthony Senft and Anthony Senft only,” he said.
The fallout may splatter Zeldin, who is close to Croci his former aide. Said Walsh, “I think Zeldin should concentrate on running for Congress and let the political people concentrate on who is running for State Senate.”