Rick Brand Portrait of Newsday reporter Rick Brand taken on

Rick Brand is a longtime Newsday reporter who writes about politics and government on Long Island.

While Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer is sitting on the sidelines, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has sent out a last-minute letter to help Assembly contender Christine Pellegrino in Tuesday’s special election in the 9th District.

“Christine has a unique understanding of what our children need to succeed . . . and that success cannot be measured by a standardized test alone,” Bellone said in endorsing the veteran teacher from West Islip.

Bellone said Pellegrino, who is making her first run for office, “felt compelled to run after witnessing too many public officials abuse their office and leave office in disgrace.”

Bellone, whose relations with Schaffer are strained, attended a Pellegrino fundraiser with Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

Schaffer has said he is neutral in the race because he may be called as a witness in a possible civil suit by state elections officials over a $40,000 donation he refused to take from New York State United Teachers. Schaffer said he refused the contribution because the union wanted it earmarked to one State Senate candidate, which is not allowed by law.

NYSUT is providing $200,000 in independent expenditures for Pellegrino, who also has the Working Families Party line.

Pellegrino’s opponent, Conservative Thomas Gargiulo said he’ll “proudly match my record as a teacher, coach and opponent of Common Core” with Pellegrino’s.

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Gargiulo, who also has the Republican and Independence ballot lines, dismissed Bellone’s backing of Pellegrino, citing the county executive’s “failed financial leadership,” and his “continued record of overregulation and extended fiscal failure.”