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LaValle to resign in March

Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump is introduced by Suffolk

Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump is introduced by Suffolk County Republican Party chairman John Jay LaValle at a party fundraiser at the Emporium nightclub in Patchogue on April 14, 2016. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Daily Point

LaValle makes his exit

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.

Rita Ciolli

Talking Point

Looking back on Schneider

Alan Schneider’s appointment to head Suffolk County’s Civil Service agency 36 years ago was every bit as political, contentious and protracted as his expulsion from that office has been, and for the same reasons. The Civil Service chief has tremendous power over  thousands of jobs in county government as well as those in every town, village, library district and agency.

According to Newsday’s archives, Schneider was first nominated for the position in June 1982 but he was not confirmed until late December as Republicans who controlled the county fought over the spoils of the job.

Schneider, who had been the Town of Islip’s personnel director for 11 years, was the choice of GOP  County Executive Peter Cohalan and Islip GOP leader Anthony Pace.

With 10 of the 15 votes on the county legislature, the GOP had more than enough juice to put Schneider in place in 1982, but  Republicans argued that Islip town’s pols were wielding too much influence.

And the Democrats then? They had so little power in Suffolk that the primary complaint reported against Schneider in Newsday was that he had counseled an Islip typist to change her voting registration from Democrat to Republican, only getting her the town position after she did so.

Schneider, 78, started taking his pension, now worth $109,856 a year, on Feb. 13, 2007.

In the current battle over Schneider, the main fight is between prominent Democrats. County Executive Steve Bellone told Schneider recently he would not be reappointed to a seventh, six-year term. But Suffolk County Democratic Party Chairman and Babylon Town Supervisor Richard Schaffer had been ferociously fighting to keep Schneider in the position for more than year.

Schaffer enlisted other town supervisors and county legislators, both Democrat and Republican,  in his fight to keep Bellone from putting his pick, Jo-Anne Taormina, in the position. And on Monday afternoon, it looked like Schaffer was winning. A Suffolk Supreme Court judge temporarily reinstated Schneider in his position, accepting the argument that he could stay until a replacement was approved by the full legislature.

But earlier in the day, the county put out a news release that it had hired outside counsel to investigate complaints against Schneider from female employees in his department. Despite winning the first round of the court fight, Schneider unexpectedly resigned Monday evening delivering a big blow to Schaffer.

Lane Filler

Pencil Point

Not what we had in mind

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Final Point

Will NYC turn out for Public Advocate?

How many of New York City’s 5.2 million registered voters will come out for Tuesday’s special election for city public advocate?

Good estimates are hard to come by, as this is the first citywide special election since the NYC’s Campaign Finance Board was established in 1988.

Strategic consultant Bruce Gyory told The Point that he originally started with a turnout estimate  of 500,000 to 600,000, based off the Democratic mayoral primary vote in the last race without an incumbent — 692,000 in 2013. Gyory pulled the number down a bit to account for cold weather and the off-month.

He now says it could be well under 400,000. One reason: the relative lack of media coverage for the race, whose winner will get a high-profile bully pulpit and be next in line, legally and otherwise, for mayor.

Other city consultants have floated similar 300,000 to 400,000 estimates, though one reminded The Point that NYC voters have been primed since 2016’s election of President Donald Trump to go to the polls, a potential caveat.

If the turnout is low, though, who benefits? Lone elected Republican candidate City Councilman Eric Ulrich, who favors Amazon and has a baseline of GOP support that could be enough when the Democratic vote is split over more than a dozen other candidates?

Or will high-profile endorsements for City Councilman Jumaane Williams and Assemb. Michael Blake form a winning kernel? Will there be an impact from the late-breaking story of Williams’ decade-old arrest over what he called a “verbal disagreement” with his then-girlfriend?

Polls close at 9 p.m., and the city Board of Elections for all its other woes is relatively quick in its counting. Tune in then.

Mark Chiusano