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Bergin-Weichbrodt gets Conservative line in Croci challenge

Islip Councilwoman Trish Bergin-Weichbrodt is seen in this

Islip Councilwoman Trish Bergin-Weichbrodt is seen in this Jan. 29, 2013 photo. Credit: Randee Daddona

Suffolk Conservatives are broadening their attack on local Republican state senators by giving GOP Islip town board member Trish Bergin-Weichbrodt authorization to run on the minor party line against freshman State Sen. Tom Croci of Islip.

Conservative Party officials will file what is known as a Wilson-Pakula authorization for Bergin-Weichbrodt as part of their ongoing campaign to pressure Senate Majority John Flanagan, the state’s highest elected GOP official, to force out John Jay LaValle as Suffolk Republican chairman.

Bergin-Weichbrodt declined to be interviewed, but released a statement: “While I’m flattered that the Conservative Party has confidence in me, I did not request the ‘C’ line for this particular race nor can I control what party leaders decided to do with their line.”

Islip’s GOP town board, including Bergin-Weichbrodt, clashed heatedly with Croci over a proposed 64 percent property tax increase when he became Islip supervisor, which was later reduced to 28 percent. Croci in the past also battled with Conservative and GOP party leaders.

Several sources also say Flanagan, the Senate majority leader, called Bergin-Weichbrodt Thursday ordering her to back Croci, but she refused.

The Conservative Party moves, if carried out, could cripple the already fragile Republican Senate majority, because the minor-party ballot line is often critical for Republicans because usually draws 10 percent of the vote, often the margin of victory.

Senate Republican spokesman Scott Rief said the GOP senators declined to comment.

LaValle did not return calls for comment.

Bergin-Weichbrodt becomes the second major Republican elected official the minor party says it will authorize to run on its ballot line against a GOP state senator from Suffolk. Conservatives last week said they will give GOP Assemb. Michael Fitzpatrick authority to run on the Conservative line against Flanagan.

Fitzpatrick said the GOP Senate majority under Flanagan’s leadership has not been conservative enough, but he has made no commitment to run against the East Northport Republican. Fitzpatrick’s Smithtown base makes up the largest part of the district, which runs from Huntington to Brookhaven.

The minor party is also expected to name former tea party activist Frank Seabrook of Wading River against State Sen. Kenneth LaValle of Port Jefferson, who is a cousin of the GOP county leader. In the same filing with Fitzpatrick, Bergin-Weichbrodt and Seabrook, Conservatives also will authorize freshman Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin to run on their line, making a GOP legal challenge problematic because it could jeopardize the line for the Shirley lawmaker.

An unhappy Flanagan, meanwhile, met for 45 minutes Thursday with Smithtown Republican chairman Bill Ellis in an attempt to get Fitzpatrick to decline the authorization to run on the minor-party line. Ellis said he told Flanagan he could ask Fitzpatrick to withdraw, but could not make him do anything. He said Flanagan, who was accompanied by adviser Bill Davison, walked out of the meeting

“We had a discussion and hopefully it will continue at a later date,” said Ellis later. “Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail in the future.”

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