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Walsh seen as 'bully' as he ascended to party leadership spot

Edward Walsh enters the FBI field office in

Edward Walsh enters the FBI field office in Melville on Wednesday morning, Jan. 7, 2015. Credit: Ed Betz

Edward M. Walsh Jr. rose to become one of the most powerful political figures on Long Island since he took over as Suffolk Conservative Party chairman in 2006, leveraging the minor-party line into judgeships for Conservatives, patronage jobs and major-party endorsements for allies seeking top elected office.

Along the way, Walsh, 48, of East Islip, developed a reputation for a brash style that he used to secure political boons and punish his opponents.

Allies say that he was an effective force for Conservative Party power.

"The Conservative Party certainly prospered and was very effective under his leadership," said Michael Dawidziak, a political consultant and Walsh friend.

"No matter what you're going to write about his current situation, I think you have to say he was very effective."

Opponents said he strong-armed opponents in attempts to get his way.

"My opinion of Mr. Walsh is he is a bully who got his way by intimidation and pressure, holding the Conservative Party endorsement over people's heads," Republican Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said.

After being a star athlete at East Islip High School, the 6-foot-6 Walsh attended the University of Maryland on a football scholarship. He was hired with the sheriff's department in December 1990, despite questions that would surface later about a past arrest and a failed drug test for the New York City Police Department application. Walsh's attorney said the charge was ultimately dismissed, sealed and expunged. Walsh has said he was on a prescribed medicine when he tested positive, and never sought to retake the test.

Walsh's father, Ed Walsh Sr., had served as a committeeman with fellow Islip Conservative Michael Mahoney, the brother of then-Sheriff Patrick Mahoney.

The younger Walsh became the Islip Town chairman in 2002.

Walsh has retained strong loyalty despite being under federal investigation. He was re-elected overwhelmingly at September's Conservative Party county convention.

On election night, newly elected Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) embraced Walsh onstage. Zeldin also made a guest appearance at Walsh's fundraiser two days before Christmas.

Walsh took on a series of fights, including with Nassau Republican leader Joseph Mondello, who punched a locker and broke a finger in 2012 over a judicial cross-endorsement deal, and recently stripped Brookhaven Conservatives of the power to cross-endorse town candidates. Walsh also battled with the Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association in 2008 over having the sheriff's department police the Long Island Expressway and Sunrise Highway.

"He made it personal," said Michael D. O'Donohoe, a longtime Suffolk County Conservative Party committeeman and Suffolk's current commissioner of jurors. "He wanted to be the schoolyard bully and the toughest kid on the block."

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