It sounded as if Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer may have been indirectly touting County Executive Steve Bellone for a possible opening for lieutenant governor at the party's fundraiser Monday, headlined by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

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Schaffer, reported months ago to be getting the silent treatment from Bellone, called him "our Bruce Springsteen," "creative" and "passionate about what he believes in." Bellone called Schaffer a "dear friend, my political mentor and the greatest political chairman in New York." From the rostrum, Cuomo joked about Bellone's claims to know the "secrets of striped bass fishing" but said that when they fished together in Montauk he caught more than the county executive. Of course, he added, "a state trooper was putting fish on my hook."

Bellone says he's seeking re-election next year, not the lieutenant governorship.-- Rick Brand