Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday since 1997.
First, Levy issued a statement slamming Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy for saying on upstate radio that county executives throughout the state need to examine their spending. "This is the first step," with relief from certain state spending mandates to follow, Duffy had said.
"I do not need lectures on how to control my own spending," Levy declared, citing his county's years of budget restraint. He said reducing aid to localities helps the state balance its own budget, but that while state leaders discuss a property-tax cap -- which Levy supports -- New York hasn't imposed a cap on itself.
Levy, who ran for governor last year and who leaves office Dec. 31 after two terms, wouldn't leave it at that. So the Democrat-turned-Republican went on to attack Duffy's showing up in Oakdale yesterday for a speech promoting the Cuomo agenda, on short notice. Levy then offered Duffy "a guided tour of the public health centers that the governor's $20 million in cuts to Suffolk health services have imperiled."
At first, Cuomo spokesman Joshua Vlasto replied with this political diss: "We have no comment on Steve Levy's statement, his decision to leave office, or the circumstances of his departure." This was, of course, the point where a studio audience watching this show would have said "Oooooooh," given the allusion to a still-shrouded district attorney's probe that ended with Levy's forfeiture of $4 million-plus in campaign funds.
Then, the talkative Duffy showed up at Dowling College and addressed about 100 people. Seated up front were Babylon Supervisor Steve Bellone, the putative Democratic candidate for county executive; Islip Supervisor Phil Nolan and Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone, and several Democratic county legislators. GOP Assemb. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue) also was on hand.
Duffy delivered his pitch for the Cuomo priorities, vouched dutifully for the governor's integrity and courage and, when prodded by media questions, disputed Levy's remarks. Duffy noted he never referred to Levy, who "has worked hard to reduce spending." He termed Levy's retort "an overreaction."
Duffy said he knew he was coming to Long Island "probably two or three days ago" for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's "People First Campaign," now in its first week. "Let me be clear. While it may be in vogue for someone to criticize this, there's no insidious conspiracy here," he said.
Duffy said he was just learning of county-state friction over health subsidies going back to 2008. He said he was arranging meetings with health officials about a solution. Services threatened "are optional services," he said. "Suffolk County has the option to continue those. So I think it becomes a blame game pointing fingers at the state."
Suffolk Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley) -- who questioned Duffy on the health centers after his speech -- described official accounts of the problem as muddled. "I'm hearing one story from the state and another from the county executive," she said.
Of Levy's statements, Bellone said: "Well, I think he thinks he still may be running against the governor." Bellone noted that by Duffy's account, mandate relief is a priority.
For now, this is a quick glimpse of a governor's race that wasn't.