Longtime Nassau Republican chairman Joseph Mondello on Monday backed Donald Trump for president, breaking with the national GOP leaders who hope to block the New York businessman’s path to the nomination.
Mondello, a past Republican National Committeeman and past chairman of the New York Republican State Committee, said in an interview that Trump “obviously has hit a chord with people — they’ve spoken and they’re tired of politics as usual.”
Mondello said Trump offers “somewhat of a new, refreshing approach.”
Mondello, who has led the county party for more than 30 years, said that, “not everything he says I’m buying, but there aren’t many people that I agree with everything they say.” He noted that, “I’m not sold on building walls,” a reference to Trump’s plan to build an $8 billion wall to secure the Southern border.
But Mondello said he doesn’t believe Trump’s rhetoric is inflaming racial animosity or encouraging attacks against protesters at campaign rallies, as critics contend.
“I think the average person out there is not interpreting this as a guy who is in favor of violence,” Mondello said.
Mondello’s endorsement of Trump comes more than a month before New York’s April 19 Republican primary, in which Trump is heavily favored.
It also breaks from endorsements by two of the Nassau GOP’s most prominent elders, former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, who is backing Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), who backs Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
King, who has called Trump “not fit to be president, morally or intellectually,” said in an interview that Trump nevertheless appears to be highly popular in Nassau. A Newsday/News 12/Siena College poll last month found Trump had a 37 percentage point lead on Long Island over Kasich and Rubio, who were tied for second.
“Certainly from a political perspective, Donald Trump is doing extremely well on Long Island, so Joe is definitely going to be on the winning side,” King said.
Suffolk County GOP Chairman John Jay LaValle, who has not endorsed a candidate, did not immediately return a request for comment Monday.