Marks of Santos in Suffolk County race
A Santos shadow in Suffolk exec race?
As political operatives around Suffolk County are well aware, Republican Ed Romaine, the Brookhaven Town supervisor now running for county executive, used to employ the consulting services of Nancy Marks, whose role in indicted Rep. George Santos’ fishy finance filings has come under scrutiny in recent months.
Local Democrats would like this to be an issue for voters to consider in the fall as Romaine faces Democrat Dave Calone in the county executive race.
Published reports going back 20 years in Newsday show Marks has old ties to Romaine. After working on his 1992 congressional campaign as a volunteer, Marks was employed in Romaine’s county clerk office. She was also Romaine’s campaign treasurer until 2003, when her government boss, Legis. Fred Towle Jr., was forced out after pleading guilty in part to misusing campaign funds.
While Romaine dropped her as treasurer amid the Towle scandal, she did later work for him. From 2007 to 2014, during which he served as legislator and then Brookhaven supervisor, Romaine’s campaign paid Marks and her firm, Campaigns Unlimited, more than $27,000 for various services including fundraising and printed materials, disclosure filings show.
The 2022 Santos campaign’s highly irregular filings have been under scrutiny from the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department. “We think given the seriousness of the Santos campaign problems that Marks was personally culpable for some of that,” Saurav Ghosh, director for federal campaign finance reform for the Campaign Legal Center, told Newsday as the story unfolded in February.
Marks hasn’t been charged with any wrongdoing and the big question is whether she is cooperating with the federal prosecutors investigating Santos.
Marks has had an extensive Long Island clientele. Campaigns Unlimited collected $1.29 million for work on Republican state and local campaigns from 2008 to 2022 and $1 million from congressional campaigns since 2009, Newsday reported in February. Last year, Marks was the treasurer for GOP governor nominee Lee Zeldin, of Shirley, a longtime client, as well as attorney general nominee Michael Henry.
Reached by The Point on Tuesday, Anthony Portesy, chairman of the Brookhaven Town Democratic Committee, sought to highlight Marks' associations in the context of this year’s campaign season. “There is a long standing culture of corruption in Brookhaven and a reason people call us ‘Crookhaven,’” Portesy said in a statement.
He noted Romaine and Marks “worked together for years,” during a period of chronic allegations and charges of misused campaign funds. Portesy said Marks “used that experience to help elect George Santos under false pretenses.”
Suffolk GOP chairman Jesse Garcia told The Point he doesn’t think this matters in the campaign, except in the sense that Romaine “has the insight and good judgment of character” to have cut ties with Marks “more than a decade ago.”
Since Santos — currently famous for his fake qualifications and made-up biography — was elected to the Nassau-Queens 3rd Congressional District last year, his name has been deployed as a political projectile. The extent of any resulting damage remains to be seen.
— Dan Janison @Danjanison
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The Suozzi factor
Expect to see at least one familiar name on the ballot if the 3rd CD seat becomes vacant by the resignation of George Santos or his expulsion by the House of Representatives.
Since it’s a compressed time frame there is no primary, which means Republican and Democratic county leaders, in conjunction with the state party officials, will put forth candidates.
Democrats are eager to erode the slim GOP majority in the House, as part of their drive to win it back in 2024.
Right now, House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries considers Tom Suozzi the most winnable name out there and his recommendation would carry the day with party chairs: Nassau’s Jay Jacobs and Queens’ Rep. Greg Meeks. Suozzi, a former Nassau County executive, didn’t seek reelection to the House in 2022, instead making a failed bid for the gubernatorial nomination.
While Gov. Kathy Hochul is the titular head of the party and could block her former rival who was very critical of her during the primary, she’s not expected to do so because of her weak showing in 2022, which some blame for the loss of a few New York seats in the House.
Republican officials have been less clear about their direction with some insiders saying the Democratic Party choice will influence their pick. If Suozzi is the Democratic candidate, the GOP would be less inclined to run any of its stars such as State Sen. Jack Martins, who lost to Suozzi once before in the 2016 House race, or current Nassau County Comptroller Elaine Phillips.
But when the special election takes place could also make a difference in that calculation.
If Santos departs before Aug. 9, Hochul must call a special election within 90 days. If the vacancy is later, the replacement race would be held as part of the general election on Nov. 7. That would put the CD3 race at the top of a ticket that also includes contests for North Hempstead Town supervisor and two county legislative seats.
But all of the political jockeying down the line depends on Santos, and his next move is anyone’s guess.
— Rita Ciolli @ritaciolli