In a major surprise, the Long Island Contractors' Association, which represents the construction industry, has named Democratic state Senate challenger Jim Gaughran as this year’s “political action committee honoree” in a year Republicans are fighting to hang onto their slim majority in the chamber.

The honor — a first for a Democratic Senate challenger — was disclosed before 200 people at the group’s legislative breakfast last Friday in Hauppauge. Only two GOP Senate candidates — incumbent Phil Boyle, who faces Democrat Louis D'Amaro in the 4th District, and Assemb. Dean Murray, running against Democrat Monica Martinez in the 3rd — were present.

Marc Herbst, contractors' association executive director, said the industry’s “major litmus test ... is that we want a relationship and a dialogue” with office seekers.

Herbst said Gaughran, chairman of the Suffolk County Water Authority, knows the construction industry and has been “very good” on water issues. He said Gaughran even gave the group advance notice when he opposed the cross-sound tunnel, a project the group supports.

Herbst recalled that after the legislative breakfast, he got a call from Sen. Carl Marcellino, whom Gaughran is challenging.

“He asked, ‘why we didn’t tell him in advance?’ I asked why weren’t you here? He didn’t answer me,” Herbst said of Marcellino.

Marcellino countered, “we’ve had a relationship over the years. I was at his [Herbst’s] ordination as a minister.” Marcellino said the association, “never called ... or gave me an interview.”

As for his absence at the breakfast, Marcellino said he had two other prior appointments, including the renaming of a street in honor of a police officer who died in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Gaughran said the honor “shows the viability of my campaign,” in which he is “making a major issue that Long Island is not getting its fair share of infrastructure money.”

The contractors will hold a breakfast fundraiser for Gaughran at the Melville Marriott Oct. 29 with suggested donations from $250 to $500.  

Later in the day, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins of Westchester, accompanied by freshman Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford), met with the Long Island Builders Institute at their Islandia headquarters, where she made a pitch for a Democratic Senate majority.

The meeting preceded the screening of candidates for the group’s political action committee in the coming week. Mitch Pally, the group’s executive director, called it a “good discussion,” about issues, but there was no talk about any specific races.

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