Mike Sapraicone speaks at the NYS Republican Nominating Convention in...

Mike Sapraicone speaks at the NYS Republican Nominating Convention in Binghamton on Feb. 22.  Credit: Newsday/Keshia Clukey

Do New York Republican leaders think they will gain ground with a U.S. Senate candidate who as a private businessman in 2022 contributed $1,000 to ex-president Donald Trump’s archnemesis, Democratic Attorney General Tish James?

The jury is out on that one.

Michael Sapraicone, the retired NYPD detective and Nassau County resident who founded, ran, and sold a successful company called Squad Security, emerged last week as the state party’s favorite to face Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has been in office since 2009, in November.

Neither of Sapraicone’s marginal rivals, Westchester entrepreneur Josh Eisen, or amateur boxer and celebrity trainer Cara Castronuova, who ran and lost for State Assembly in Nassau County, even came close when state Republicans convened in Binghamton. But now, after several days of frantic backroom talks, the viability of Sapraicone’s nomination is in question.

Why? Businesses in New York often contribute to both parties. That’s the norm.

Yet in a highly unusual move, Peter King, an official of the Nassau County Republican Committee and formerly Long Island’s senior congressman, publicly withdrew his endorsement of Sapraicone. King cautioned that he isn’t judging the morality of businessmen donating to candidates of both parties, but said James is seeking to “destroy Donald Trump legally and financially” and the ex-president appears likely to top the ticket again in November.

Trump, of course, is appealing his $454 million civil fraud judgment in a case won by James by challenging Judge Arthur Engoron’s finding that he faked the finances of his real estate business.

For all we know, Sapraicone might be the GOP’s best chance for the seat. He is one of a growing group of recent regional candidates with backgrounds in the New York Police Department. And he’s all-in on Trump, and attacking President Joe Biden on the issues.

“Congratulations, President Trump!” Sapraicone tweeted this week. “The South Carolina win was just another stop for the freight train heading for Joe Biden. The Republican Party is energized like never before . . . united behind President Trump — time for Nikki Haley to get out!”

Sapraicone on Wednesday saw fit to issue a statement that sounded like a personal loyalty oath: “President Trump and I were both born in the same hospital in Queens, built successful businesses and attended Mets games in adjacent boxes where I was lucky to share a hot dog and a brief word with him on a few occasions . . .

“President Donald J. Trump has my vote and full support for President. I will work hard to both return President Trump to the White House and carry his agenda in the U.S. Capitol.”

GOP politicians haven’t won statewide in Democratic New York without acknowledging the necessities of bipartisanship. And in the past, late-to-the-party Republican businessmen Mike Bloomberg and Donald Trump won office after years of donations to Democrats.

This latest episode is an odd and opaque exercise in questions of MAGA solidarity. The most prominent downstate group of Trump adherents is the maverick New York Young Republican Club, whose president Gavin Wax has been dogging Sapraicone and has an audience in Mar-a-Lago.

“We’ve nuked him in more ways than one,” Wax mused Wednesday. “We gave [state GOP chairman] Ed Cox and [Nassau chairman] Joe Cairo an earful.” Wax tweeted: “Mike, do everyone a favor and drop out. We know you want to.”

Sapraicone insists he’s staying in — undoubtedly hoping this bizarre intramural drama will subside. Will it?


COLUMNIST DAN JANISON’S opinions are his own.

Newsday Logo

ONE-DAYSALEUnlimited Digital Access25¢ for 5 6 months