With Steve Levy's campaign for the GOP gubernatorial nomination dead, Suffolk Democrats' next task will be finding a candidate to oppose him in 2011.

Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer said five people have approached him about running for county executive next year - town supervisors Steve Bellone of Huntington, Mark Lesko of Brookhaven, Phil Nolan of Islip and Frank Petrone of Huntington, along with Legis. Vivian Viloria-Fisher of Setauket.

"I'd like to see who can raise $1 million by this November," Schaffer said. "I want to see a field director, a get-out-the-vote effort, who their finance committee will be and if there are creditable people attached to that."

Schaffer, who in March left open the possibility of giving Levy the Democratic line, said Wednesday there is "zero percent" chance of that happening.

Bellone, Lesko and Nolan Wednesday all acknowledged their interest in a Levy challenge, but each said they are focused on their current job. Petrone didn't respond to a request for comment. Viloria-Fisher is traveling and could not be reached.

Levy said Wednesday that the timing of his departure from the GOP race helps his re-election odds.

"Certainly if I were to have gone into the primary and exhausted you know, the money in the bank, any re-election prospects would have been that much more difficult," he said.

Suffolk GOP chairman John Jay LaValle said Levy's "future is bright" and Legis. Tom Barraga (R-West Islip) predicted there will be no GOP primary for county executive.

But Legis. Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches), who lost to Levy for county executive in 2003, didn't rule out a primary run. "Call me back in about 11 months," he said.

In the meantime, Suffolk pols of all stripes said they have no idea how the failed gubernatorial run will change how Levy interacts with them.

"I don't think he'll be happy," said Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore). "The question is, who will he be mad at?"

And Legis. Jon Cooper (D-Lloyd Harbor) predicted the legislature would have more power over a weakened Levy.

"It's not going to be much fun anymore to be county executive," he said.

With Dan Janison, Thomas Maier and Elizabeth Moore

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