52° Good Morning
52° Good Morning
OpinionColumnistsRita Ciolli

John Jay LaValle announces resignation

Suffolk GOP chairman John Jay LaValle at the

Suffolk GOP chairman John Jay LaValle at the Suffolk Republican election night headquarters in Patchogue on Nov. 6, 2018. Credit: Barry Sloan

Suffolk County Republican Party chairman John Jay LaValle is resigning on March 18 so a successor can be fully in control of running the campaign in this year’s Suffolk County executive race.

LaValle’s email to party leaders minutes ago comes the day after he presided over a  nominating convention that selected county Comptroller John Kennedy as its candidate in the county executive race against incumbent Democrat Steve Bellone.

LaValle told The Point that initially he had decided not to seek a new term as county chair when his term expired in July but later decided his successor should be able to jump into the Kennedy-Bellone race as soon as possible.

A big fundraiser for Donald Trump in 2016, LaValle said he will announce his new plans in a few weeks.  LaValle had previously said he would consider running for state GOP chair if incumbent Ed Cox retired. Under GOP state party by-laws, the state chair cannot simultaneously hold the position of county chair. LaValle, who delivered one of the biggest cache of county votes in the nation for Trump, also has made no secret of his intention to work to re-elect the president in 2020, perhaps as a media surrogate, reprising a role he had in the last campaign.

Currently, the Suffolk GOP job pays $100,000 and includes health benefits and an $800-a-month car stipend. LaValle, who also practices law, hints in his resignation letter that he has two sons “several years away from entering college” and that he has “several opportunities” in front of him. He boasts in his letter that during his tenure Suffolk became the most Republican county in New York, accounting for 11.5 percent of the party vote in the 2018 gubernatorial election, although it also lost two critical State Senate seats.

Through much of  his tenure, LaValle struggled with the county’s Conservative Party making deals with Rich Schaffer, the Democratic county chair, to undercut the party’s power.  

Those vying to replace LaValle in the Suffolk post are Anthony Pancella, the vice president of Suffolk OTB, and Jesse Garcia, the chair of the Brookhaven Town party.