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Long IslandColumnistsRick Brand

Suffolk’s own Hamlet: State Sen. Tom Croci

Croci’s indecision about running again has created a political twilight zone for other potential Republican candidates.

New York state Sen. Tom Croci on Thursday,

New York state Sen. Tom Croci on Thursday, June 1, 2017. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

Suffolk’s own Hamlet on the Hudson, GOP state Sen. Tom Croci, has left people hanging for the last six weeks on when he’ll answer the question: To be or not to be?

But Croci’s indecision about seeking re-election has created a political twilight zone for potential contenders such as state Asemblymen Dean Murray and Andrew Garbarino, Brookhaven Town Board member Neil Foley and Trish Bergin-Weichbrodt, an Islip Town Board member.

Croci, not unlike the presidential indecision of the late Gov. Mario Cuomo, surprised Senate colleagues in early January by saying he had “not yet made up my mind on whether or not to seek a third term.” Days later, his Jan. 15 campaign report showed only $2,028 in his coffers.

“The story started a buzz and people naturally started asking, talking and wondering,” said Murray

Murray, 53, a seven-year Assembly veteran, said he would be “interested in looking at it” should an opening occur. But Croci deserves time to make the “personal decision” and has done “a great job” in the Senate, Murray said.

Murray, of East Patchogue, said a recent fundraiser of his did “better than expected,” more than doubling the $11,335 he had in his campaign fund.

Foley, 50, of Blue Point, a town board member for the last three years, said he was “honored to be mentioned.” But he has four young children, and going to Albany “probably does not work for me at this point in my life,” he said, adding that he expects Croci to run.

Garbarino, 33, son of Islip GOP chairman William Garbarino, said he also expects Croci to run, but “understands his frustrations” with Albany.

“The questions I get is, ‘Do you think he’s running?’ And then, ‘Would you be interested?’ ” said Garbarino, a six-year incumbent who has $41,941 in his campaign coffers.

“But the one thing I’ve learned in politics is you can’t plan the future because you never know what seat will become open, or when,” said Garbarino, who has a re-election fundraiser set for March 19.

Bergin-Weichbrodt, 46, of East Islip, also would not rule out a run, if Croci doesn’t make one.

“This is a very important seat for Republicans to hang onto and whichever one of us steps up to the plate would need time to make a serious run,” said the eight-year councilwoman, who has $23,343 in her coffers.

In the South Shore 3rd Senate District, Brookhaven accounts for about 55 percent of registered voters and Islip 45 percent. Democrats outnumber Republicans 64,187 to 56,332, with 46,962 unaligned with either party. As yet, no Democratic contender has surfaced.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) has said he expects Croci to run, and several GOP officials say Croci may be using his exit threat to gain leverage with GOP Senate leaders in state budget talks.

Christopher Malluso, Croci’s top aide, said Croci is still undecided, has set no deadline for a decision and “right now, is concentrating on the state budget.”

Michael Dawidziak, a campaign consultant who works mainly for Republicans, said the sooner Croci decides, the better.

“If he’s running, there’s no harm done,” said Dawidziak. “But if he’s not, the clock is running” since his replacement will need to get ready for an expensive Senate race.

Dawidziak noted that former New York City Mayor Rudolph Guiliani’s monthlong delay in exiting the 2000 U.S. Senate race against Hillary Clinton hurt former GOP Rep. Rick Lazio’s efforts to launch his campaign.

“Rick got thrown into the race, which gave him literally days and weeks to get his campaign together,” Dawidziak said.

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