Democratic candidate for NY State senator John M. De Vito...

Democratic candidate for NY State senator John M. De Vito is greeted by supporters as he arrives in Patchogue to await the results of today's primary election. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

First time Democratic candidate John DeVito, who had a $2,000 campaign mailing go astray a week ago, suffered another stumble Wednesday in his state Senate campaign.

DeVito, 25, a law student taking a semester off to run for the seat, scheduled a news conference to attack his Republican opponent, Sen. Tom Croci, for taking money from a local Republican club that never disclosed the contribution to the state Board of Elections.

DeVito got it backward: Croci donated money to the East End Republican Club, which struggles to keep its doors open, not the other way around.

DeVito sent out news releases and a complaint letter to the state elections board, charging that Croci and other GOP officials got $45,000 in unreported cash. The only thing that saved him from more embarrassment was that no media showed up at his news conference outside Croci’s Patchogue office.

John Coughlin, club president, said the club, where Croci serves on the board, never gave any money to Croci or any other candidates because it barely has enough money to stay afloat. If GOP officials want to use the white clapboard clubhouse on Main Street, he noted, they have to pay $250 to rent the place.

“It’s inexperience,” Coughlin said of DeVito. “And it’s a sign of a desperate candidate trying score a cheap political point.”

Earlier, DeVito spent $2,000 with a Michigan printer on a mailing that was supposed to arrive the weekend before the Sept. 13 primary. He won the contest, but the mailing only began showing up in district mailboxes on Tuesday, a week late.

DeVito said he remains undeterred.

“I remain focused the need for ethics reform to dispel the corruption in Albany,” he said. “It was and remains our message.”

Christine Geed, Croci’s campaign spokeswoman, said the senator anticipates more attacks.

“This just the first of several false accusations we are expecting from him,” she said of DeVito.

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