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Nancy Reagan’s life and work recalled by LI officials

Nancy Reagan talks with the Nassau County GOP

Nancy Reagan talks with the Nassau County GOP chairman Joseph Margiotta on Oct. 20, 1980 at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. The former first lady died Sunday, March 6, 2016; Margiotta died in 2008 Credit: Newsday / Karen Wiles Stabile

Here are reactions from Long Island elected officials to the death of former first lady Nancy Reagan:

Joseph Mondello, chairman of the Nassau County Republican Committee

Mondello wrote in a statement that “Mrs. Reagan personified class and dignity. I had the privilege of speaking with her on several occasions over the years, and I was always impressed with the love and commitment she had for her husband, her family and her country.”

Mondello said in an interview Sunday that he met Nancy Reagan several times over the years in Washington, D.C. and New York City, including at White House events and Republican presidential conventions. He recalled her as “a good wife, deeply concerned about her husband at all times, it was always Ronnie first.”

Mondello was a Hempstead Republican Committee leader when Nancy and Ronald Reagan spoke in the late 1970s at the former Colonie Hill, a hotel and catering hall in Hauppauge.

Mondello said she was “a good standard-bearer for the party.” He added, “it’s a shame that we lost somebody of that magnitude.”

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford)

King remembers Nancy Reagan’s solo appearance at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury on Oct. 2, 1980, a month before her husband was elected President.

“At the time, Ronald Reagan was considered not to be a strong candidate in New York, and certainly, he ended up winning Long Island and New York. Having Nancy Reagan here at the time had an impact and showed a very human side of President Reagan,” King said. “She was a woman of great class, and great dignity, a true patriot. She couldn’t have been more polite, more friendly, more courteous.”

King said he recalled Nancy Reagan speaking at several other fundraisers in Nassau County in 1979 and 1980, including with her husband. King said he was then a “young councilman” from the Town of Hempstead. “She spoke with everyone and was extremely gracious, extremely knowledgeable. It remains with me to this day.”

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley)

Zeldin recalls Nancy Reagan’s Just Say No anti-drug campaign in the 1980s.

“I’m thinking a lot about the various efforts she initiated in the ’80s because of the challenges we face on Long Island with heroin, opioid and prescription drug abuse,” he said. “We’re desperately in search of a new and better ways to educate our youth.”

Zeldin said her death caught him off guard.

“I have a lot of thoughts. Nancy Reagan was a woman respected for her incredible intellect and fierce loyalty to her husband,” Zeldin said. “She was tough on her husband’s critics and helped bring relevance to the White House and the roles and opportunities presented to a first lady.”

He added, “she got a lot of credit for Reagan even becoming president.”

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)

“You didn’t have to be a Reagan Republican to admire and respect Nancy Reagan. She was a tower of strength alongside her husband, had strong beliefs, and was not afraid to chart her own course politically,” Schumer said in a statement. “She persuaded her husband to support the Brady Law, and their advocacy was instrumental in helping us pass it.” The law mandated federal background checks on firearm purchasers in the United States, and imposed a five-day waiting period.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone

Bellone, a Democrat, said Nancy Reagan’s death “came as a bit of a shock.”

“She had an extraordinary life and a powerful impact on our country, particularly our youth,” he said, recalling he was a teen during the 1980s when she promoted her anti-drug campaign. “It’s an ongoing battle” Bellone said of drug problems on Long Island.

Former Sen., Alfonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.)

“No president had a more devoted first lady and more devoted wife than Ronald Reagan with Nancy Reagan,” D’Amato said in an interview Sunday. “She was totally devoted and committed to him and cared for him, and cared about his interest as a person and as a husband and as the president,” D’Amato said.

He recalled that Nancy Reagan was instrumental in securing the ouster of Donald Regan as her husband’s chief of staff and recommending James A. Baker as his successor.

He recalled visits from the Reagans to New York City. At an April 1981 lunch with Reagan after his election at Café Ferrara in Little Italy. “We had a wonderful lunch, my parents were there, all he could think about was bringing back was an assortment of Italian pastries — from Ferrara’s pastry shop — back to Nancy,” D’Amato said.

“She was always first and foremost on his mind,” D’Amato said. He added that “she was a great first lady, some people criticized her for being overly protective. Guess what? What women should be criticized for being protective of her spouse, and she was.”

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo

“It’s very sad, she was an elegant woman, she was a great first lady, and she served the nation very well,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, told reporters at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. “We can have political differences, but there’s no doubt that she was a great first lady and she’ll be missed.”

Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano

“Let us pause and remember the life of former first lady Nancy Reagan, who passed away today,” Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, said in a statement. “Mrs. Reagan’s dedication to saving lives through the Just Say No campaign will always be remembered, as will her service and love for our nation.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio

De Blasio, a Democrat, called Nancy Reagan a “very strong first lady and someone who particularly focused on substance abuse at a time when that issue needed to be engaged more.”

“We’re still working on that issue deeply today,” he added of his administration’s focus on mental health and substance abuse services. “She left a very big impact on the country.”

With Emily Ngo

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