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Dean Skelos endorses Ed Cox for GOP chairmanship

The state's top elected Republican Saturday endorsed Ed Cox to take over the soon-to-be-vacant state GOP chairmanship.

In a break from some longtime political allies, Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said he believed it was time for the party to "unify" behind Cox, who wants the spot being vacated by Joseph Mondello.

"I believe [Cox] has done his homework and he's going to win the nomination, so really what we should be doing right now is talking about unifying the party, bringing all the county chairs together and move forward," Skelos said. He said he spoke to Cox's rival, Niagara County's Henry Wojtaszek, Friday to spell out his position.

Cox, a Manhattan lawyer and President Richard Nixon's son-in-law, said he'd secured a solid majority among the state's 62 county chairs. "We have 40 of the 51 of the chairs that have decided, and that 40 represents about 60 percent of the weighted vote," Cox said of the state GOP committee's proportional vote.

Both Skelos and Cox were at a strategy meeting of about 70 local and state Republicans and conservatives in a dining room at the Snapper Inn overlooking the Connetquot River in Oakdale Saturday. State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) and Suffolk County Conservative Party chairman Edward Walsh also attended the gathering at which Ron Nehring, the California GOP chairman, made a presentation focused on local party organization.

Skelos' decision appears to be at odds with two political allies: Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno has hinted and Mondello has spoken in favor of Wojtaszek, who also has the backing of possible gubernatorial candidate Rudy Giuliani.

Cox said Saturday his interest in the chairmanship was "about the party." "My position is as it always has been, that Rudy Giuliani would . . . make a great governor," he said.

Said a Giuliani insider: "This doesn't play as much into the governor's race as people say it does. This is a one-issue vote, not a vote for governor."

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