Rep. George Santos and Nassau County GOP chairman Joe Cairo.

Rep. George Santos and Nassau County GOP chairman Joe Cairo. Credit: Alex Wong / TNS, Barry Sloan

Nassau County Republican chairman Joe Cairo burst momentarily into the national spotlight last month to issue an extraordinary and futile demand. 

He wanted a recent surprise win at the polls by his own team nullified.

Rep. George Santos, the new 3rd Congressional District representative who faked nearly every aspect of his life story, defied the calls to resign by Cairo and other Long Island House members. “I was elected to serve the people of #NY03 not the party & politicians,” Santos tweeted.

Santos still clings to the office. Faced with an impending congressional ethics review, he drew attention Tuesday mixing and preening in the House chamber at President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech.

Back home, Cairo, who uncoincidentally also heads Nassau OTB, remains empowered as ever. His organization has recouped all the county's major elected offices. His alibi for giving Santos nominations in 2020 and 2022 was widely reported. He said he was faked out by the Queens-based candidate: “We trusted him and shame on us for doing that."

The Santos episode showed Cairo, the Nassau chairman since 2018, in a rare failure to have his way on home turf. But by all accounts, the flap so far has caused no internal rebellion worth his worry, beyond Queens Republicans' refusal to echo his resignation demand. The city piece of CD3 sits outside Cairo's patronage network.

Murky partisan issues may still loom on the Nassau side.

Investigators will be peeling back the sketchy details of Santos’ finances. That should include the multiple, apparently unusual ways he worked with Cairo-controlled committees and Cairo-friendly donors to raise and spend cash. It's rare for a spotlight to shine on how the fundraising sausage is made, especially in a way that might embarrass loyal party contributors.

But the rich-mouthing Santos is the immediate focus.

Frank Scaturro, who hails from New Hyde Park, was never one of the flock. His interest in the GOP has long been intellectual and serious. As a result, he challenged Nassau machine favorites in CD4 in 2010, 2012 and 2014, and lost.

Scaturro was quite a different kind of free agent than Santos. Before running, Scaturro achieved modest fame for successfully agitating to restore Republican President Ulysses S. Grant’s tomb in Manhattan.

Scaturro, 50, throws a well-earned wrench at the machine. He wrote last week in The Wall Street Journal: “Mr. Santos faced no primary competition because Republican primaries in Nassau typically don’t happen — and when they do, they usually aren’t competitive.

“The chairman of the Nassau GOP has sole power to make candidate endorsements, and he is so preoccupied with what’s in it for him that he readily undercuts the interests of Republican voters,” Scaturro alleges.

Privately, some Nassau GOP insiders say the same.

Scaturro these days is senior counsel for the Judicial Crisis Network, a Washington-based group that advocates and advertises for conservative judges. He said in an interview he votes in Maryland these days — and sounded highly unlikely to try another congressional bid in his home state.

A member of Cairo’s inner circle, who preferred his name not be used, predictably replied: “Frank Scaturro is an angry failed candidate who’s been unable to get over it.”

So don't expect a pop-up army of "good-government" Republican reformers to arise and besiege Cairo’s newly enlarged domain.

That’s just not how this county rolls.

Columnist Dan Janison's opinions are his own.

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