Suffolk GOP taps Robert Conte for legislature

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Suffolk Republicans named Robert Conte, brother of late Assemb. James Conte, as the candidate to take on freshman Legis. Dr. William Spencer, at their convention last night.

"We think he has a good shot, particularly because of the family history," said Toni Tepe, Huntington Republican chairwoman. "His brother was a well-respected assemblyman and he is a well-respected businessman."

Robert Conte's older brother was a 24-year Albany veteran who died last fall at 53 after a lengthy battle with cancer. At the time of his death, Conte, a strong advocate of organ donation who himself lost a kidney, had risen to the GOP Assembly's second ranking post, minority pro tempore.

Conte, 48, of Huntington Station, owns Play and Trade, a Huntington video game store. He ran two years ago but lost to veteran Democratic town tax receiver Ester Bivona, who also has Conservative and Independence backing. Conte got 32 percent of the vote.

However, Tepe said Conte's chances are stronger because he is facing Spencer in the 18th district, who is a freshman lawmaker. "You're always vulnerable in you're first re-election," she said.

Conte was one of 12 GOP challengers named during the convention at the Radisson Hotel in Holtsville seeking to make inroads on the 12-6 Democratic majority. The party also named all of its current incumbents except for Legis. Lynne Nowick (R-St. James), who is term-limited.

"We're definitely poised to make gains in the legislature," said Legis. John Kennedy (R-Nesconset), minority leader. "I see a vacuum and absence of leadership from the other side. I think people feel it's time to give Republicans a chance . . . because all we have now is chaos."

Richard Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman, countered, "Kennedy is the king of chaos. . . . He probably is the biggest spender on the legislature and offers no solutions. All he has to do is look in the mirror to see the real problem with county government." Schaffer also expressed confidence in Spencer's prospects because of his community ties as a local doctor and leadership on issues that aim to protect children's health.

Other new GOP contenders for county legislature include:

1st L.D. -- Alain V. DeKerillis, 47, of East Marion; 2nd L.D. -- Christopher Nuzzi, 39, Westhampton Beach; 3rd L.D. -- Christopher Clark, 33, Bellport; 5th L.D. -- Theresa Laucella, 41, Stony Brook; 6th L.D. -- Jennifer Juengst, 48, Shoreham; 7th L.D. -- John Halverson, 44, Patchogue; 8th L.D. -- Anthony Musumeci, 36, Bohemia; 13th L.D. -- Paul Hennings, 53, St. James; 14th L.D. -- William Barci, 54, North Babylon; 16th L.D. -- Lisa Taranto-Fernandez, 40, Melville; and 17th L.D. -- James Martin, 46, Melville. Republicans left two districts -- the 9th, represented by Democratic Legis. Rick Montano, and the 15th, represented by DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville), vacant and made no nomination in the second district Assembly seat vacated by Republican Dan Losquadro, elected Brookhaven highway superintendent in March.The GOP also named countywide nominees -- Democratic District Attorney Thomas Spota, GOP County Treasurer Angie Carpenter and Conservative Sheriff Vincent DeMarco -- for re-electon as part of a cross-endorsement deal.

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