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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

NY's GOP delegates bury conflicts for week

New York State Republican Party Chairman Edward Cox

New York State Republican Party Chairman Edward Cox speaks to media August, 27, 2012, during the New York State Republican Party Delegation's breakfast at the Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort in Clearwater, FL. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

TAMPA, Fla. - Like a big family wedding or an old-timers' game, this gathering of New York Republicans reminded a guest or two of who has feuded with whom.

Few political wars of yesteryear are forgotten, but truces between combatants can be reached, as evidenced this week under the banner of the Romney-Ryan ticket.

State chairman Edward Cox may never become best buds with the predecessor he nudged out of the job three years ago, Nassau chairman Joseph Mondello. But by all accounts, state party personnel treated county representatives cordially in Florida, smoothing some rough edges.

Suffolk GOP chairman John Jay LaValle noted with surprise Thursday that perhaps a dozen people expressed satisfaction that the two Long Island counties were getting along. "It was the first time Joe [Mondello] and I have been together in front of the delegation," he said. "People were coming up to me and saying it's a great thing Nassau and Suffolk are together."

Two years ago, LaValle was allied with Cox and even switched his support for governor from Rick Lazio to ex-Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy — an alliance that froze relations with Mondello.

But that was in 2010, and this week Lazio was serving as a delegate at the national convention. John Faso, the 2006 nominee for governor, was on hand, too. The irascible Carl Paladino, who beat Lazio for the gubernatorial nomination, but lost the governorship, was not.

Some attributed the lack of conflict to attention from Tony Casale, the upstate consultant, former state assemblyman and State Liquor Authority chairman, who now serves as Cox's chief aide-de-camp.

Other battles go back further.

In 2008, Cox supported Sen. John McCain for president while Rudy Giuliani was running in the primary. Giuliani, a longtime McCain ally who called Romney a flip-flopper as recently as January, made it to the state committee's final breakfast Thursday, attacked President Barack Obama on most fronts and praised Cox's efforts as chairman.

Former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, a onetime Giuliani nemesis, and ex-Gov. George Pataki greeted state delegates earlier in the week. Another veteran of old wars, former state GOP chairman Bill Powers, has been serving as one of the state's two national committee members.

Why did the succession of delegation speakers seem a bit like an oldies concert? Operatives in both parties say recruiting new blood is very difficult, because you're asking people to be away from their families and running around on party business on evenings and weekends.

"This is about the presidency and the vice presidency. We are here to nominate [those candidates], so we have been putting speakers here, people who have been there and done it, to address the topic of the day," Cox replied. "But meanwhile, here in the audience, we have up-and-comers."

That is, rather than dwell on the old-timers' game, he wanted to talk about prospects. He mentioned Assemb. George Amedore of Rotterdam, Assemb. Andy Goodell of Jamestown, state Sen. Lee Zeldin of Shirley and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, and others.

"Old people do young things, too," Cox added. "Look at Bob Turner," the 71-year-old rookie congressman from Brooklyn and Queens.

"New York needs a good opposition party," Cox said with a jarring dose of optimism, "that will someday be a majority."

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