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Long IslandPoliticsSpin Cycle

Clash for gov: Battle hymn of the Republicans

Take a step back from the daily crossfire and note:

Recent combat between Steve Levy and Rick Lazio over the Republican nod for governor makes up part of a wider and longer-running war for control of the state party.

Part of this breaks down regionally. One camp is based on Long Island’s east: First-year state chairman and Westhamptonite Ed Cox; first-year Suffolk chairman John Jay LaValle, and the brand-new Republican contender, Suffolk executive Levy, are key players.

The other camp has players to the west: Nassau’s Joseph Mondello, previous state chairman; George Pataki, the former governor, and Michael Long, Conservative chairman, who back Lazio.

More importantly, these battle lines formed last year with Cox’s drive to succeed Mondello as state leader, before Mondello decided to leave.

Once Mondello chose to remain only county chair, he, ex-Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Pataki backed Henry Wojtaszek, the Niagara chairman, against Cox.

“The subplot here is really, who is going to be running things on the Republican side,” said Russ Gugino, former aide to longtime Rep. Jack Kemp who was Western New York campaign coordinator for Sen. John McCain. Gugino, who says he has no horse in the race, asks: “Is it going to be the old guard — with Pataki, Al D’Amato, and (consultant) Arthur Finkelstein — or the new guard, Ed Cox and his group?”

The conflict cuts across other campaigns. Ex-Rep. Lazio’s allies dislike the idea of nominating Chris Cox, the chairman’s son, for Suffolk’s 1st Congressional District seat. And LaValle, a Cox ally, isn’t about to embrace Mondello-backed Bruce Blakeman, the former Nassau presiding officer seeking a U.S. Senate nomination against Joseph DioGuardi and David Malpass.

“I have no position on the Senate race,” LaValle said last week. “I have not endorsed anyone — nor am I doing so any time soon.”

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