Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Monday night endorsed Steve Bellone for Suffolk County executive at the county Democrats' fall dinner, saying the Babylon supervisor has a proven "record of social progress and fiscal discipline."

"We have to make Steve Bellone -- County Executive Steve Bellone," Cuomo told a standing-room-only crowd at the Huntington Hilton in Melville. "He can make the government work and do good things but he's also made the government efficient and effective and respected the tax dollar."

Nearly 600 party faithful and donors attended the $400-a-head event, which was expected to add nearly $500,000 to the $2 million Bellone has raised for the race. Guests included 100 donors who each contributed between $5,000 to $15,000 to be part of a VIP reception during the event.

"It's a tremendous help," Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer said of Cuomo's appearance on Bellone's behalf. "It's significant . . . because he knows Steve Bellone is going to do for Hauppauge and Riverhead what he's done in Albany."

However, other Republicans questioned Cuomo's impact.

"It's an open seat and the people of Suffolk County are going to take a long, hard look at each individual" county executive candidate, said Legis. Thomas Barraga (R-West Islip). "I don't think well-known political figures coming in from outside the area going to help that much."

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GOP county executive candidate Angie Carpenter said having Cuomo come to Suffolk "only helps all of us" -- but having him headline a fundraiser only means "Mr. Bellone needs more money."

She added, "It is not changing anything I do. From Day One, I've said it's going to be a grassroots campaign. We're not soliciting special interests -- people want a candidate that is accessible, approachable and not for sale."

But Desmond Ryan, a veteran Republican lobbyist, said Cuomo's appearance will not only boost Bellone's credibility, but also help the governor politically by keeping the Suffolk GOP from regaining power and building a suburban Democratic base to make his own re-election easier.