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Long IslandPoliticsSpin Cycle

Astorino's actions cheer both Kennedy and Bellone camps

The former Westchester County executive emailed fundraising appeals

The former Westchester County executive emailed fundraising appeals to several potential donors to help Suffolk Comptroller John Kennedy in his county executive bid. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, a GOP ex-gubernatorial contender, has sent out email fundraising appeals to several thousand potential donors on Long Island and in the metropolitan area to help Suffolk Comptroller John Kennedy, a Republican, in his county executive bid.

But aides to County Executive Steve Bellone, Kennedy's opponent, are chortling because the mailing came after Astorino, in court papers earlier last week, gave up his bid to recover a $9,000 Rolex watch that was seized by the FBI in in 2016 amid a wide-ranging bribery investigation into the New York City Police Department.

Court papers say Astorino in 2017 released a receipt showing he paid $1,968 for the Rolex, but, at trial, donor and real estate developer Jona Rechnitz, who pleaded guilty and later cooperated with the prosecution, testified he paid the bulk of the watch’s cost to get special favors, including a police chaplain parking placard so he could park anywhere, though he is not ordained.

Astorino, according to court papers, agreed to relinquish his claim to the watch, but admitted to no wrongdoing, denying that the watch was part of an illegal scheme. His spokesman said he gave up his claim to avoid a costly legal fight.

In the fundraising email, Astorino criticizes the Bellone administration for “cringeworthy lowlights,” including seven bond rating downgrades, and a philosophy of “borrow, spend tax and repeat” which had ballooned county debt to more than $900 million.

Jason Elan, Bellone spokesman, said, “Rolex Rob should go back to fighting with the FBI over his bargain timepiece,” adding that any money raised will not help “Kennedy claw his way out of his abysmal record on finance.”

Dean Murray, Kennedy’s campaign manager, countered, “I can’t help but wonder if that lovely little barb he came up with was done while working on the taxpayers’ dime. It could explain why Suffolk is in such dire fiscal straits.” Elan said he made the comment on his own personal time.

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