Suffolk County Republicans Monday night named a little-known former Nassau official to lead the GOP ticket this fall to challenge Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone.
James O'Connor, 52, a former one-term North Hempstead Town Board member who now lives in Great River, was chosen by acclamation by nearly 200 GOP committee members at the Portuguese-American Hall in Farmingville.
While acknowledging he's little-known, O'Connor said: "I will not disappoint you . . . I would not stand here if I did not think I could do this."
He promised to suspend his law practice to campaign full time, and lashed out at what he called Bellone's "credit-card government" and the "sweetheart deal" that he gave to the Suffolk Police Benevolent Association.
"We can do better, you deserve better and my candidacy is about offering a better alternative than Bellone the borrower," O'Connor said in prepared remarks released before the convention.
Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider countered that Bellone has "moved Suffolk forward, balanced three consecutive budgets while freezing general fund property taxes and invested in the largest expansion of clean water infrastructure in a generation."
Suffolk Republican chairman John Jay LaValle touted O'Connor's work as a troubleshooter who was called in to clean up a North Hempstead building department scandal by former Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman, a Democrat.
In 2001, O'Connor launched a campaign for Nassau County executive that lasted only 48 hours as Republicans tried unsuccessfully to block Conservative Party nominee and Wall Street financier Bruce Bent, whom the GOP later endorsed. Bent lost by 100,000 votes to Democrat Thomas Suozzi and O'Connor lost re-election.
In the top targeted legislative race, Republicans named Steven Tricarico of Wading River to challenge 6th District Democratic Legis. Sarah Anker of Mount Sinai. Tricarico is a Brookhaven deputy highway superintendent and one-time aide to former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy.
In the open 2nd District on the South Fork, Republicans named financial consultant Amos Goodman, the party's first openly gay legislative candidate in Nassau or Suffolk, to take on Democratic Southampton Town Board member Bridget Fleming.
The GOP also named Frank Tassone, an executive assistant in Brookhaven's waste management department and a Patchogue Village zoning board of appeals member, to challenge Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue).
After Assemb. Al Graf (R-Holbrook) rebuffed months of GOP efforts to persuade him to take on freshman Legis. William Lindsay III (D-Oakdale), the party named Mary Calamia, a licensed social worker from Holbrook, as a replacement.
In other county legislative races Republicans chose:
1st District: Remy Bell of Riverhead.
3rd: Bill Toranzo of Shirley.
5th: Donna Cumella, an Independence Party member from Port Jefferson Station.
16th: Thomas McNally of Dix Hills.
17th: Janet Heller-Smitelli of Huntington.
In the 15th District, GOP leaders have made no decision on a challenger to Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville), who intends to challenge Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) next year.
Republicans also have not chosen candidates to run against freshman Legis. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood) in the 9th District, or Legis. William Spencer (D-Centerport) in the 18th.
Republicans also designated the following legislative incumbents for re-election:
4th District: Thomas Muratore of Ronkonkoma.
10th: Tom Cilmi of Bay Shore.
11th: Tom Barraga of West Islip.
12th: Leslie Kennedy of Nesconset.
13th: Rob Trotta of Fort Salonga.
14th: Kevin McCaffrey of Lindenhurst.