Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) will run unopposed this November after Suffolk Republican chairman John Jay LaValle, in a highly unusual move, failed to issue an authorization for Conservative Jeremy Brandt to run for the 2nd Assembly District seat on the Republican ballot line.
LaValle's move came after local Republicans gathered far more than the 500 signatures needed for nominating petitions to qualify the cross-endorsed Brandt, a Hampton Bays plumber, for the GOP ballot line against Thiele.
Edward Walsh, Suffolk Conservative chairman, said he does not know why LaValle failed to issue what is known as a Wilson-Pakula certificate -- which allows a nonparty member to run on another party's line -- but was trying to reach him to find out. LaValle did not return repeated calls to his office and cellphone Tuesday.
"It's a little hard to swallow -- like a kick in the stomach," said Brandt, 36, making his first run for public office. Brandt, who already raised $35,000, vowed to remain active.
Without the GOP line, Brandt, at Walsh's urging, declined the Conservative nomination. "He was a great candidate who has a bright future, but I didn't want to throw him to the lions by just running on the Conservative line," Walsh said.
Sources across party lines say LaValle, at the urging of Senate Republicans, decided against putting up a challenger to keep the popular Thiele off the campaign trail to prevent him from energizing local voters, which could have an impact in other races. Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), the party leader's cousin, could be facing a challenge from former Manhattan prosecutor and Southampton town board Democrat Bridget Fleming if she wins a party primary with Jennifer Maertz. Thiele also shares a home base with Rep. Timothy Bishop (D-Southampton), who's in tight race with GOP challenger Randy Altschuler. Some sources say Thiele may even endorse Kenneth LaValle.
Thiele, a former Republican who now sits with Assembly Democrats, acknowledged his relationship with Kenneth LaValle has long been "extremely close" because they often work together on local legislation, but added, "I've always had opponents before."
Frank MacKay, Suffolk and Independence Party chairman, said it was a "smart move" for Brandt to decline a minor-party run. "Fred is an institution on the East End," he said, "Fred was an independent before there was an Independence Party and he won Southampton supervisor with no major party backing."