Republican Assemb. Anthony Palumbo said Wednesday he will not challenge Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone this fall, saying "it's not the right time" to be making a countywide race.
"I have not made this choice lightly and I truly appreciate the wide range of support and calls that I have received," Palumbo said. The New Suffolk lawmaker said he and his wife, who have two young children, "don't feel comfortable" exposing the family to the demands of a county executive race.
He also said he did not want to make the move while issues such as the Common Core curriculum are pending in Albany.
One state lawmaker who did not wish to be identified said Palumbo also was concerned that the Suffolk GOP could not provide adequate financing for a county executive contest. John Jay LaValle, Suffolk Republican chairman, did not return calls for comment last night.
Palumbo's decision came as Republicans were preparing for a $100-a-head fundraiser Thursday night in Patchogue, and weeks before local Republicans are scheduled to hold their convention to name a county executive contender for the fall campaign.
Republicans saw Palumbo, 45, a state lawmaker for the past three years, as a fresh face with strong law enforcement credentials as a former supervisor of the Suffolk district attorney's East End trial bureau.
Republicans have tried unsuccessfully to woo state Sen. John Flanagan of East Northport into the race. Experts say no one has emerged as a potential candidate with time running short.
Without a credible contender at the top of the ticket, some party officials worry that it could impact Republican turnout and hurt GOP efforts to make gains in the county legislature, where Democrats and their allies hold a 12-6 edge.
Despite his decision not to run, Palumbo Wednesday took a shot at Bellone, a Democrat. He accused Bellone of bringing Suffolk "to the brink of financial disaster," with "smoke and mirrors and one-shot" revenues.
Richard Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman, discounted Palumbo's criticism.
"It doesn't matter who Republicans run," he said. "We have the best candidate with County Executive Steve Bellone, who has reduced the size of government, developed clean water initiatives and put the county on the right track."
Only once have Suffolk Republicans cross-endorsed a Democrat for county executive. They backed fiscally conservative former Democratic incumbent Steve Levy in 2007. Levy later switched to the Republican Party in an unsuccessful attempt to run for governor.