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

Mike Sapraicone speaks at the NYS Republican Nominating Convention in Binghamton on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024.  Credit: Newsday/Keshia Clukey

Daily Point

Donald Trump, Ed Cox and Joe Cairo -- the weekend drama over NY Senate seat

Mike Sapraicone, the state Republican Party designee for the U.S. Senate, is standing firm against intense pressure from the Nassau County GOP organization and the New York Young Republican Club, which at one point tried to enlist Donald Trump to the cause to get Sapraicone to walk away from the race against Democratic incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand.

Under state election law, the deadline for the former NYPD detective to decline the party’s designation is Thursday. But Sapraicone, who has the strong support of state GOP chair Ed Cox, said Wednesday he is not standing down.

Since his designation as the GOP’s Senate standard-bearer at the state convention in Binghamton on Feb. 22, Sapraicone has been attacked on social media by New York Young Republican leader Gavin Wax and by radio and TV commentator John Tobacco, among others, as a never-Trumper. Their beef: Sapraicone is disloyal because in 2022, his security firm gave $1,000 to New York Attorney General Tish James’ reelection campaign.

On Saturday, Sapraicone was called to a meeting at Nassau GOP headquarters with party chair Joseph Cairo and Long Island House members Andrew Garbarino and Anthony D’Esposito. Fearful that a backlash from the party’s right flank would hurt the GOP ticket this fall, Sapraicone was asked to step aside.

D’Esposito, in his first term, is considered especially vulnerable with the presidential race at the top of the ticket and the Senate race as the second contest on the ballot before voters select House candidates. The meeting was described as “candid but cordial” as Cairo expressed concern that Sapraicone would alienate Trump supporters who view James as the archenemy because of her lawsuits against Trump and his businesses.

The dispute got kicked upstairs to party chair Cox who stood by Sapraicone, thinking he had a positive message and was a moderate who would appeal to suburban voters — a message that was relayed to Trump, who had inquired about the donation, to reassure him there was no cause for concern, sources said.

But Cairo, who is also under attack by the same New York Young Republican Club critical of the GOP establishment for his choice of Mazi Melesa Pilip to run in the special election in the Third Congressional District, was still worried. And on Wednesday morning, one day before the deadline, Pete King, the familiar face of the Nassau GOP, took the fight public on a WABC talk show to withdraw his endorsement of Sapraicone.

“Finding out he donated to Tish James, I don't see how Nassau Republicans or others across the state can continue to support him,” said King, who represented Long Island in Congress for 28 years. Sapraicone’s donations to Democrats, however, were well known before he was selected as the nominee.

Responding to King’s remarks, Sapraicone put out a statement saying he “would never drop” out of the race and that he was “full speed ahead” in the effort to defeat Gillibrand. The statement profusely praised Donald Trump, pledged support, and tried to quiet the critics.

“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,” it read.

Sapraicone got 84% of the vote at the party’s convention last week, overwhelming the two others seeking the nod — celebrity boxer Cara Castronuova of Elmont, who ran for Assembly in 2022, and upstate entrepreneur Josh Eisen.

Sapraicone, who has sold his successful private security business, initially sought the Nassau and Queens GOP nomination to challenge Tom Suozzi in CD3 but Cairo selected Pilip, who lost by eight points.

Sapraicone who recently told The Point that he thought he would challenge Suozzi in the fall if Pilip lost, decided to take on the U.S. Senate race where there was no obvious GOP favorite.

— Rita Ciolli rita.ciolli@newsday.com

Pencil Point



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Reference Point

Decades of coastal concerns

The plaint seems almost quaint in retrospect.

Save our wetlands, Newsday’s editorial board implored in the final week of February 1964.

Long Island was in the midst of a building boom, and developers — with the complicity of local governments — were creating new lots for construction along the region’s coastline.

“These wetlands are disappearing,” the board wrote. “Home developers, discovering the ease with which fill may be pumped in, are absorbing them for residential developments, cutting the public off from the ocean. In some cases they are falling to the industrial developers, now hard-pressed for large tracts of vacant land.”

In its piece called “Saving the Wetlands,” the board documented the loss: In the previous five years, Nassau County had lost 17% of its wetlands and Suffolk, whose development lagged that of its neighbor, 7.5%.

“There are less than 20,000 undeveloped acres remaining,” the board wrote. “Some progress in public acquisition is being made, but not nearly fast enough.”

Newsday’s board painted a picture of what was at stake, invoking the Island’s poet laureate.

“The most priceless natural possession of Nassau and Suffolk counties are the wetlands — the tidal marshes that used to encircle all Long Island, a haven for game birds and fish, a peaceful reminder of Walt Whitman’s Paumonok,” the board wrote.

The board shared the bard’s reverence and keenly felt the looming loss: “In this aspect of natural resource preservation, it is later than we think.”

It is chilling to read that now because the warning did little to stop the appropriation of marshland. Decades later, we now understand that the damage was not only to the game birds and fish and to our access to the ocean and our sense of the region’s beauty. Those beloved wetlands also were part of Long Island’s natural defenses against storms, and their absence at a time when storms are growing ever fiercer is ever more lamentable.

Six decades after Newsday sounded that alarm, one wonders what modern warnings we will ignore and rue six decades from now.

— Michael Dobie michael.dobie@newsday.com, Amanda Fiscina-Wells amanda.fiscina-wells@newsday.com

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