Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday since 1997, initially as a staff writer for the New
Certainly those who want him out as Suffolk executive would have liked it better if Steve Levy had drained his multimillion-dollar war chest on a hard-fought, summerlong primary for governor against Rick Lazio. But after what has turned out to be a two-month adventure, the two-term Suffolk executive comes away basically saying that it wasn't too shabby that he got 42 percent of a weighted convention vote in a new party he was trying to head.
"Steve Levy is still popular with Suffolk County voters, still has a campaign war chest well north of $4 million, which is going to make him formidable in any race," said Anthony Manetta, of the Roosevelt Strategy Group, who was in the convention hall working for the Harry Wilson campaign for comptroller.
Still, many of the statements Levy made to grow and leverage support and show momentum came up short, and the deluge of defections from Lazio never seemed to materialize. In statements Wednesday right after he lost the floor vote for authorization to run in a primary, Levy said "I'm contemplating my other options - if there's potentially another line to be running on, simply to get the message out."
That message, of course, is about taxes and spending, which the two-term incumbent is likely to roll right into the next campaign - along with the cash. He was ready to work that message right outside the Sheraton ballroom where Lazio, minutes earlier, won his 59 percent to lock down the nomination.
"I've done the job in Suffolk County and if I choose to run again, I'm hoping that the public stands behind a guy who's got a backbone and will stand up to the special interests, to keep the taxes under control," he said.
Late in the afternoon, hours after the crucial vote, Lazio waved hello to Levy as he moved about 30 feet away on the hotel carpet. They exchanged quick pleasantries and thank-yous. But it would be beyond awkward for them to reconcile further at this point. In the weeks leading up to this moment, each camp fed the public explicit rationales for opposing the other guy. For example, the Levy camp rereleased video of Lazio's famous misstep in a debate in 2000 against Hillary Rodham Clinton, when he crossed the stage demanding she sign a soft-money agreement.
This unusual expedition may carry a cost for Levy as well. Bridges back to the state Democratic Party can well be considered charred if not burned. Levy also didn't get the deluge of defections that he predicted and he undoubtedly made an adversary or two, along with friends, in his newly adopted party.
From his vantage point as a state player, Levy may now have a vested interest in seeing Lazio lose. He might be able to show he really was the better candidate, or perhaps become a vocal adversary of Andrew Cuomo from his perch as county executive.
Levy becomes the second Long Island county executive in four years to make a failed bid for a major-party nomination for governor. Former Nassau Democrat Thomas Suozzi tried it in 2006, but from within the party to which he belonged his whole adult life.
Levy declined Wednesday to predict if he might seek statewide office again in four years, noting that period of time is an eternity in politics. Perhaps to Levy's advantage, a Nassau Republican who declined to be identified said, "Let him stay Republican for a couple of years and win an election on our line. Then, who knows?"