Nassau Republican chairman Joseph Mondello for the second year in a row shut out Suffolk Conservative chairman Edward Walsh from playing a significant role in state Supreme Court nominations by making a last-minute cross- endorsement deal Thursday with Nassau Democrats.
"I've had a change of heart," said Mondello, who until last year had refused to cross-endorse judicial candidates with Democrats for three decades. "This is my profession; we need quality judges."
However, one high-level Nassau GOP official, who declined to be identified, said the deal was aimed at reining in Walsh, who has used the clout of his minor party to extract more than its share of judicial posts.
"We want to send the message that as long as Walsh is there, they get nothing," the official said.
"This is fairly monumental," said Jay Jacobs, Nassau Democratic chairman, who said he hoped the deal could lead to further agreements. Jacobs also had cross-endorsement talks with Walsh Thursday but said his final decision had nothing to do with the minor-party leader "who I respect," but was rather aimed at "getting the best arrangement for the Democratic Party."
Under the agreement, reached less than 90 minutes before the bicounty GOP convention in Holtsville began, Mondello and Jacobs -- whose relationship has often been strained -- agreed to support two Republicans, District Court Judge Anna Anzalone and County Court Judge Angelo Delligatti, as well as Democratic District Court Judge Sharon Gianelli.
Because both Anzalone and Delligatti are 69, their state Supreme Court positions will become open again next year when they hit 70. That means they can potentially be permitted to serve as state Supreme Court judges for several years but their elected seats are vacated. Next year, Republicans have also agreed to back two Democrats in return for supporting a Republican candidate for another vacant state Supreme Court seat.
Jacobs said one Democrat likely to get a nomination for state Supreme Court next year is County Court Judge James McCormack.
The backroom maneuvering comes after Mondello shut out Walsh last year in a judicial cross-endorsement deal with Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer and Suffolk GOP chairman John Jay LaValle. Mondello, in 2011, broke his finger punching a locker when Walsh pressured him to back an extra Conservative judicial candidate.
Nevertheless, Walsh was overwhelmingly re-elected Wednesday night at his own party's convention in Hauppauge, attended by 745 minor party faithful, despite a federal probe and efforts by the county sheriff to fire him as a correction lieutenant. Walsh declined to comment.
The Suffolk slate for state Supreme Court posts -- part of last year's cross-endorsement agreement -- was unchanged. The GOP last night endorsed Republican incumbent A. Gail Prudenti, the state's chief administrative judge; Democratic Appellate Justice Sandra Sgroi; and Independence Party incumbent Thomas Whelan for re-election. Democrats are expected to back all six candidates at their convention Sept. 25 in Plainview.