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Glen Cove councilman's death could trigger 'ferocious' fight over vacant seat

Nicholas DiLeo, a veteran Glen Cove councilman who

Nicholas DiLeo, a veteran Glen Cove councilman who served the city where he was born for several terms, died of an apparent heart attack, colleagues said. Credit: James Escher

The death of Glen Cove City Councilman Nicholas DiLeo has opened the door for Republicans to dominate the longtime Democratic stronghold.

Both sides of the political aisle are mourning last week's loss of the veteran Democrat lawmaker, who apparently died from a heart attack, but conversations have begun about the council's new makeup.

Under the city charter, Mayor Reginald Spinello, and the City Council must appoint a replacement to fill the seat until the November general election, when someone will be elected to serve through 2015.

The death of DiLeo, 56, left the council with three Republicans and two Democrats, although members do not always vote along party lines.

"Republicans are going to have to bring their A game and include a list of candidates who are not only recognized but respected across party lines," said Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University. He said November turnout will favor Democrats because of the gubernatorial race.

Democrats said they prefer a Democratic appointee while Republicans, who have the numbers to control the process, did not offer a preference.

"You can be sure that the politics will be absolutely ferocious because this is one of those unusual times when the filling of a vacancy can determine the control of a city," Levy said.

“Control of the city opens up the possibility of not just reshaping policy but building up the [political] organization through control of patronage — hiring employees and contracts,” he added.

Glen Cove voters last year elected an evenly split City Council that gave Republicans an edge because Spinello, an Independence party member who ran on the Republican line, could break some ties.

Asked about the prospect of the Republicans getting a supermajority on the council, Spinello said he hadn't thought about it. He also said he had not yet considered nominees.

Councilman Timothy Tenke, a Democrat, said a Republican-dominated council concerned him and Democrats plan to nominate a candidate. "I would like to see it filled with a Democrat since Nick was a Democrat," Tenke said.

Councilman Michael Famiglietti, a Democrat, initially said it would be "honorable that the council would appoint a Democrat" but backed away from a firm party line after talking with Spinello. He said the mayor told him he was looking for someone "who is apolitical and everyone would welcome."

Councilman Efraim Spagnoletti, a Republican, said he had no party preference. "I almost would like to see a person put in there that has no intentions of running for office," Spagnoletti said. "That way . . . the person really is going to come in and do what's best for Glen Cove."

Councilman Anthony Gallo, a Republican, said the appointee should be guided by public service. "This person . . . should be cooperative, be reasonable, be fair and would put the people of Glen Cove above politics," he said.

Republican Councilwoman Pamela Panzenbeck said she wasn't sure what should happen. "It's a tough one because we just had the election three months ago," she said.

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