Lee Zeldin, Sen. Brian Foley's presumed GOP candidate in the 3rd Senate District, just told us that he "would expect" Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy to campaign for him in the fall, but stopped short of endorsing Levy in his battle with former Rep. Rick Lazio.
"I would expect him to," said Zeldin, 30, of Shirley. "If he truly, if he opposes the MTA payroll tax, if he believes that Long Island’s not getting our fair share of school aid from Albany, if he believes that the 3rd Senatorial District is not being represented right now, I would hope that he would passionately campaign for me and any other candidate that stands for less taxes nad more efficiency and a better quality of life for all Long Islanders."
Zeldin's statement comes on the heels of a tit-for-tat over Foley's camp stating that Levy promised to not campaign against the first-term Blue Point Democrat this fall. Levy spokesman Josh Hills said Friday that Levy is "not supporting Foley" but stopped short of a Zeldin endorsement.
Zeldin said he goes back 10 years with Lazio, having endorsed his ill-fated 2000 U.S. Senate run as president of the SUNY-Albany College Republicans. He recalled going door-to-door around Albany for Lazio, citing that and his Mets fandom as an example of his loyalty.
"I supported his candidacy from when he started to explore a run," Zeldin said. "It was just him and then it was him and Rudy and then it was just him again. I'm a loyal guy and I've been a Mets fan and I've watched a game even when they would lose 100-plus games in a season. I watched every game because I'm loyal. Same thing for this, unfortunately there's not enough loyalty in politics. I believe it to be a rare commodity, loyalty, and to me it’s the most important trait of anyone I surround myself with. That would explain why I stuck with him in 2000, it was because I got behind him early and stuck with him."
Lazio returned the favor by helping Zeldin's 2008 challenge to Rep. Tim Bishop. Of course, going back with Lazio 10 years doesn't mean Zeldin is backing his run for governor just yet. He dodged questions about whether he is backing Lazio or Levy for governor.
"I would say that my support for [Lazio] hasn’t wavered at all throughout this process," Zeldin said. "Whoever is the candidate in November is going to do very well in the 3rd Senatorial District. I'm very hopeful that both of them would be out campaigning to create a Republican majority in the New York State Senate."
Update (8:30 p.m.): Levy spokesman Josh Hills offers this nonresponse: "Right now Steve’s attention is on securing the Republican, Conservative and Independence nominations for governor. Then we will consider how we can coordinate our campaign with other Republican candidates."
We reached out to the Lazio and Foley camps and they have not offered a comment.