Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone surprised an audience of about 370 at his preholiday fundraiser Monday by announcing two years early he will seek a second term as the county's top official.
"I'm not going to be making any news tonight," Bellone teased when he first got to the podium at the Huntington Hilton, but then he added, "I am announcing tonight that I am going to be running for re-election."
No one has come forward yet to challenge Bellone in 2015 from the Republican Party in Suffolk.
Bellone later said he had not planned his announcement and had not even told his wife, Tracey.
Richard Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman, said Bellone told him his intentions just before the county executive got up to speak.
"It was spontaneous combustion, but I'm very happy he's running," Schaffer said.
Speaking to the crowd earlier, Schaffer said the fundraiser was a kickoff to the Democrat's 2015 campaign.
Party officials said Bellone grossed about $400,000 at the $300-a-head event.
In November 2011, Bellone defeated Republican Suffolk Treasurer Angie Carpenter, who had sought to become the first female county executive on Long Island, by more than 30,000 votes.
During his 2011 campaign, Bellone promised he would focus on making Suffolk County government more efficient and has touted a reduction in the number of Suffolk workers as among the key accomplishments of his first term. But critics have charged he has boosted Suffolk's political patronage payroll at the expense of county workers' jobs.
A Newsday analysis of county records published in November showed that Bellone hasn't expanded the number of nonunion appointees under his control, compared with his predecessor, Steve Levy.
With Paul LaRocco