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OpinionColumnistsRita Ciolli

Ciolli: Steve Bellone, party of one

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speaks after Gov.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speaks after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces his demand for a property tax cap at Clinton G Martin Park on March 24, 2019. Credit: Jeff Bachner

Steve Bellone, a strong advocate against fusion voting, will not accept the nomination of any existing minor party in his bid this fall for a third term as Suffolk County executive, The Point has learned. Bellone became a crusader for one-party/one-candidate to thwart his own Democratic Party chair, Rich Schaffer, who has made many cross-endorsement deals with the Conservative Party in local races.

If a newly created state elections commission bans what is called fusion voting, the earliest it would take place is 2021 and the latest would be 2023. So Bellone could have accepted a third-party nod, assuming he was offered any, but the optics would have opened him to criticism.

In 2015, Bellone ran with the customary Democratic side dishes: Working Families, Independence and Women’s Equality. All three lines combined brought him an extra 12,547 votes. He won the race by 26,932 votes against James O’Connor, a relative unknown.

But this year’s race is tougher for Bellone. His Republican opponent is John Kennedy, the Suffolk comptroller and an experienced campaigner with a considerable political base. Why toss away some votes in what could be a tight race?

Bellone is considering putting out petitions to create a “Protect The Taxpayer” minor party to give him another line on November’s ballot. The name was first used last year by Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman in his unsuccessful race against Kennedy for comptroller. The thinking is that “Protect the Taxpayer”  would be a catch-all for independents and other voters who can’t bear to mark the box for a Democrat. After all, four years ago Bellone got 6,150 votes on the line of the Independence Party, which is a sham. Its name fools most voters into thinking it’s a neutral zone.

Ironically, Bellone would still run on two lines, but pragmatism does tend to trump principle in politics.

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