William Garbarino, who has been the acting Islip Republican chairman since June, was voted in as the new town GOP leader Wednesday night at a party convention in Bay Shore.
“It went very nicely,” Garbarino said of the 7 p.m. event that drew about 100 people. “We’re unified as a town committee and we’re moving ahead stronger than we were before the election.”
Several votes were cast by proxy, said Garbarino, whose name was the only one nominated.
John Cochrane Sr., the former Suffolk GOP chairman who also had been vying for the post, did not show up to the convention, Garbarino and other sources said, and he was not nominated.
Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter, who had been supporting Cochrane Sr., also was not at the GOP headquarters for the meeting. She did not return a call for comment.
Cochrane said Wednesday night he was “honored” with the support he received, and explained his absence without providing details. “We will not, however, participate in what can only be characterized as a biased process which violates the law and the rules of the committee, and fails to honor the will of the committee. As a result, we will seek a remedy which will restore the integrity of our great committee.”
Garbarino described as “incendiary” a comment made earlier this week by a Cochrane backer that the convention was “going to be a blood bath.”
“I’m trying to make things better and unify whatever problems people think exist,” Garbarino said. “I look forward to the challenge and look forward to getting everyone together and move forward.”
Garbarino, a Sayville attorney and the party’s first vice chairman, took over temporarily as town leader in June when Frank Tantone resigned as party leader to run for Family Court judge as part of a four way cross-endorsement deal. The winner at the convention will lead the town party until September 2017, the remainder of Tantone’s term.
Those involved in town politics said both sides lobbied intensely with the 300 committee members to garner support.
Carpenter and the GOP town board majority backed Cochrane, and had substantial clout by controlling town patronage.
Garbarino and his backers will have an important edge in controlling the convention process itself.
Garbarino last week sent a letter to GOP committee members saying he has received complaints that some have “received pressure” to back a certain candidate for chairman or face “repercussions concerning your job” or “a matter that may come before certain boards.”
Garbarino, 70, said the alleged threats are “unethical and may be illegal,” and urged victims to make complaints to authorities.
Cochrane, 86, called Garbarino’s letter a “stink bomb” aimed at unfairly tarring the town supervisor.
“I think I’ve shown successful experience in leadership positions,” said Cochrane, who served as Suffolk’s GOP chairman for three years, and earlier as town GOP leader.
“I think the organization could use someone like myself who could stabilize the party and end the splintering that has been going on there,” said Cochrane, who also served for 21 years as a state assemblyman and 12 years as Suffolk County treasurer.
Carpenter has countered with a letter to the town committee opposing the often combative Garbarino because he appears before various town zoning and planning boards, “creating the appearance of a conflict of interest.” She said the next chairman “needs to bring people together . . . and be a consensus builder.”
Garbarino would not predict the outcome of the convention but emphasized “we must move forward” so the town GOP will be ready for the fall campaign. Garbarino’s son, Andrew, is a Republican state assemblyman from Bayport.
Before stepping down, Tantone sought to clear the way for Garbarino by removing three Carpenter supporters — including second vice chairman Joseph Stassi and zone leader John Cochrane Jr., Cochrane’s son, who is a town board member — from the 21-member member town executive committee.