Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano went to bat for the Independence Party Monday -- and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to some extent -- and lashed out at a leading Democrat who has called the minor party a corrupting influence in state politics.
Mangano, a Republican, delivered a blistering attack on Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs, saying Jacobs' criticisms of the minor party were "nothing more than petty politics at an absurd level from a failed leader who likes to bully people." Jacobs countered that while Mangano personally attacked him, he failed to address the issue.
Just as notable as what Mangano said is where he said it. He assailed Jacobs while sitting next to Cuomo, a Democrat, at a State Capitol news conference about property taxes.
When the question-and-answer session moved to other topics, Cuomo was asked about Jacobs' remarks last week in which the Nassau chairman called the Independence Party "corrupt" and said major-party candidates should shun its endorsement. Jacobs said the party "stands for nothing, supports virtually no political activity and appears to exist only for the financial benefit" of its "formal and informal leadership."
Jacobs named Nassau Independence Party chairman Rick Bellando, state chairman Frank MacKay and Oheka Castle owner Gary Melius, who employs Bellando. Melius' hotel and catering hall has been used for party screenings, functions and mailings. Melius was shot in the head last month by an unknown assailant in an Oheka parking lot. He is recovering at the Huntington facility, where he lives.
Cuomo, who received the party's endorsement in 2010, sought to dodge the question, beginning, "I don't, um, I don't consider myself an expert on that" -- only to be interrupted by Mangano.
"This is such a joke," Mangano said as he lashed into Jacobs. "First of all, this is sour grapes. This guy has lost election after election. He lost the county executive race. He lost the comptroller and he's lost seats in the [county] legislature . . . When Jay Jacobs was getting the Independence Party endorsement, it was a great party. Now because he's lost some races . . . he's attacking the party."
After jumping in for Cuomo, Mangano was asked if he's endorsing the Democrat governor. The county executive said it wasn't the political season yet.
Reached in Nassau, Jacobs said the personal barbs don't address the substance of his complaints.
"This has been a continuing tactic, first by Frank MacKay and now continued by his ally, Ed Mangano," Jacobs said.
"What I think this makes clear is that in none of these opportunities have they ever attempted to deny any allegation I have made against this party," Jacobs said.
"If it makes Ed Mangano feel better, you can tell him I'm the worse guy in the world," he continued. "But the fact remains is this party is corrupt . . . All evil in Nassau County politics goes through Oheka Castle and Mangano is one of its most frequent guests."
MacKay shot back: "Jay Jacobs' classless and arrogant attack against the Independence Party and Gary Melius in the days after he was shot amounts to the most disgusting kind of political opportunism I have ever witnessed in all my years in politics."