Three weeks ago, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy said he called his former aide, Legis. Brian Beedenbender, to tell him that he had to get tougher in his first re-election bid.
Levy told him he should "let the public know his opponent is a former PBA union boss" and use the illegal immigration issue as he did two years ago. "But he didn't want to go there," Levy said.
The result is Beedenbender's Republican foe, Thomas Muratore, has an unofficial lead of 243 votes, though Beedenbender will not concede until after a recount. Two others - former Levy chief deputy James Morgo and Levy's top legislative aide Ben Zwirn - also lost.
Yet neither Republican nor Democratic officials are saying the results say much about Levy's clout. "I don't think Levy has any responsibility whatsoever," said John Jay LaValle, the new Suffolk GOP chairman. "What Democrats do during an election cycle is they attach themselves to Levy . . . but quickly move to the left. . . . It didn't work this time." He also said that Levy's attacks on Legis. Jack Eddington helped GOP challenger Dean Murray run a close race.
Richard Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman, said the close races Democrats faced followed a national trend, but the local losses were "site and time specific," and not connected to Levy.
He also said the low turnout hurt local Democrats. In one district he canvassed, Schaffer said, "a hundred votes evaporated from two years ago."
Some critics differ, saying frequent Levy targets like Eddington and Legis. Kate Browning survived, despite his attacks. "It does tarnish him a little bit," said Jeff Frayler, Suffolk PBA president.
While Levy campaigned intensely for Beedenbender in 2007, the freshman lawmaker this year went largely his own way, running on his record. "In 2007, Tom Muratore felt he was in the county executive race," said Jesse Garcia, Brookhaven GOP leader. "But Tom never stopped running."
Turnout was only 20 percent, but GOP officials say other local contests involving GOP town board member Kathleen Walsh and Nick Caracappa, the GOP highway superintendent candidate from a well-known political family, helped spur the local GOP vote.
Similarly, the new Islip Republican regime, trying to make its mark, defeated veteran town board member Christopher Bodkin with a party turnout sparked by two lopsided GOP legislative races, anger over town layoffs and Bodkin's defection to the Democrats.
Legis. Ricardo Montano (D-Central Islip) said the Democrats' failure to put a minority candidate on the ticket also caused many Latinos and blacks to sit home.
Meanwhile, Bill Wilkinson thrashed Democrat Zwirn for East Hampton supervisor. Zwirn could not overcome voter anger over the town's fiscal mess, an issue Wilkinson raised two years ago in a 104-vote defeat. Since then, the town's top fiscal aide was indicted and former Supervisor William McGintee resigned. "He was the prophet whose warning came true," said Michael Dawidziak, his campaign consultant.