Jesse Garcia, the veteran Brookhaven Republican leader, was named Friday to succeed John Jay LaValle as Suffolk GOP chairman.
Eight town GOP leaders voted unanimously for Garcia at an hourlong meeting at party headquarters in Holbrook. East Hampton and Shelter Island leaders were not present, but pledged their support.
Garcia, 52, of Ridge will be elected formally at a party convention April 10 at Islip Republican headquarters in Bay Shore. Garcia will have to run again for a full two-year term in early July, after the June 25 primary.
“I’m flattered, honored and privileged that my colleagues elected me to lead their party,” said Garcia. “Ironically, it is on the 12th anniversary or my first election as leader in Brookhaven Town.”
Garcia said his priority will be to rebuild the county GOP committee through the town organizations, repair rifts with minor parties and provide financial support to this year's county ticket, led by Comptroller John M. Kennedy, who is running for county executive.
"The strength of our party is in our town organizations and I believe in working from the bottom up … in a united manner,” said Garcia. “Suffolk needs saving, voters need protection and the county needs John Kennedy.”
Kennedy said Garcia will take the party “in the right direction,” and the GOP campaign “will take us out of the morass we are facing right now.”
During his tenure as Brookhaven leader, Garcia recaptured control of the Town Board for Republicans, along with the town supervisor and highway superintendent's jobs. Republicans had lost control of the town in 2005 after decades of domination, following a series of local corruption scandals.
Under Garcia, the Brookhaven GOP helped Republican Lee Zeldin unseat Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton).
Also, the Democrats' majority in the Suffolk County Legislature fell to 11, below the veto-proof 12, with the election of GOP Legis. Rudolph Sunderman of Mastic in 2017.
Garcia works for the Suffolk Board of Elections as the $138,138-a-year GOP Hispanic outreach coordinator, a post he has held since 2003. He plans to remain in that job and also keep his title as Brookhaven GOP chair. The only other Suffolk Republican to keep both roles was the late Suffolk GOP Chairman John Powell.
“We have competed against each other for a long time, but it's always been professional and I look forward to it staying that way,” Richard Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman, said of Garcia. "I wish him luck, but not too much.”