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Boyle GOP pick for Johnson seat; James Conte won't run

Assemb. Philip Boyle got the Conservative endorsement for

Assemb. Philip Boyle got the Conservative endorsement for his run for a State Senate seat. (July 13, 2012) Credit: Barry Sloan

Assemb. Philip Boyle will replace veteran state Sen. Owen Johnson (R-West Babylon) as the GOP candidate for the seat that the 83-year-old lawmaker has held for 40 years.

Republicans also will have to decide by Friday who should run for Boyle's 8th Assembly District seat and for the 10th District seat of Assemb. James Conte, who has disclosed an ongoing battle with cancer and formally decided Monday not to seek re-election after 24 years in Albany.

The selection of Boyle, of Bay Shore, came Sunday night at a meeting of local GOP leaders. Johnson formally declined the nomination and Boyle accepted it in filings at the Suffolk Board of Elections Monday.

Republicans acted after officials of both the Independence and Conservative parties over the weekend publicly stated their preference for Boyle.

Boyle, a 14-year Albany veteran, first won election in 1994, but was reapportioned out of his seat in 2002. He ran again and won in 2006.

"It's not unexpected," said Suffolk Legis. Ricardo Montano, the Brentwood Democrat who is seeking Johnson's seat. ". . . This was a safe Republican seat. Now it's an open seat that leans Democratic. I think we're in a good position to capture it."

Frank Tantone, Islip GOP chairman, said Boyle was chosen over freshman Suffolk Legis. Thomas Cilmi (R-Islip) because of his experience in office and the fact he is well-known in Johnson's Senate district. "Ric Montano is a good candidate, but we are very confident we are going to win," Tantone said.

Tantone said Islip zone leaders were scheduled to meet Monday night, but declined to say who might be under consideration to replace Boyle. Names mentioned include Town Attorney Robert Cicale and former town attorney Pierce Cohalan.

Meanwhile, Democrats also have to find a candidate for the 8th District seat by Friday. Sources say the party is talking to former Islip Town Board members Christopher Bodkin and John Edwards.

At the same time, Huntington Republicans are also scrambling for a contender after Conte's retirement announcement.

Conte, 53, of Huntington Station, said he was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma last spring. In May, he said the cancer had spread. Conte is receiving chemotherapy at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. Conte said the decision not to run was "very hard for me," but I "realized that in order to fully recover, I must devote my full energies to regaining my strength and beating this disease."

Toni Tepe, Huntington GOP chairwoman, said the executive committee was to meet Monday night to discuss naming a replacement candidate by week's end. Among the potential contenders are attorneys Dan Fucci, Ed Smyth and Josh Price, as well as Conte's brother, Robert; Huntington Bay Mayor Herb Morrow; Huntington school board member Richard McGrath, and Conservative Michael Helfer, a former Bronx prosecutor.

State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) called Conte's decision "a tremendous loss for the town . . . Everything about the Contes is steeped in the Town of Huntington."

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