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Opinion

Watch out Zeldin

Good afternoon and welcome to The Point!

Breaking Point

Possible Zeldin challenger

The federal midterm elections are more than 19 months away but it’s a fair bet that Long Island’s 1st Congressional District will once again be a toss-up seat to watch. And now a significant potential challenger has emerged for Rep. Lee Zeldin.

Democratic leaders on the East End have approached Fred Thiele, a long-term member of the State Assembly, about making a run. And Thiele is considering it.

“If you had mentioned ‘congressional seat’ two years ago, I would have chased you out of my office with a pitchfork,” Thiele told The Point, and he still puts his chances of entering the race at less than 50-50. But, he admits that he’s bothered by what’s happening nationally.

“If you’re motivated by public service, what got us all involved in this to begin with, it’s hard to watch what’s going on in Washington and feel you could have made a contribution and you sat by the wayside,” Thiele said.

Thiele, 63, an Independence Party member who caucuses with the Democrats, has been in the Assembly since 1995 and has a strong track record of working with Republicans and getting effective legislation passed. He says he still enjoys his job and knows he’d have to give it up to make a run for Congress, but “at this stage of my life, I’m willing to make that move.”

Thiele, who said he’ll make a decision toward year’s end, said he worked well with Zeldin when the Shirley Republican was in the State Senate. “But the idea of canceling your town hall meetings, I didn’t like that,” Thiele said. “I need to see more, but I am concerned.”

Michael Dobie

Talking Point

De Blasio news good for Mangano

The potboiler criminal case against New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ran out of steam Thursday when both federal and state prosecutors said no charges would be filed after their probes into his fundraising practices. The feds had been investigating whether there was pay-to-play going on at City Hall that allowed big campaign donors to get favors from de Blasio’s administration. In a brief statement, the U.S. attorney’s office said that “absent additional evidence,” the investigation is closed.

There could be some rays of sunshine here for Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano.

One of the de Blasio donors cooperating with the U.S. attorney in Manhattan was Long Island restaurant owner Harendra Singh, who also ran The Water’s Edge restaurant in Queens. In 2014, Singh was negotiating a new lease with the city, and emails from the mayor’s staff indicated de Blasio was paying attention to that deal, even asking for briefings from the agency head in charge of the lease arrangement.

Was there not enough evidence that de Blasio and his aides tried to steer favors to Singh, or was Singh just not a credible witness upon which to build a solid case? Although the circumstances are different, the answer is important. Singh is the crux of the federal bribery and fraud indictments the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn brought against Mangano and then-Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto last fall. If federal prosecutors in Manhattan didn’t think much of Singh or that he didn’t intend to buy influence with his campaign donations, perhaps a jury on Long Island would reach the same conclusion.

Mangano has defended himself by saying Singh’s gifts of vacation trips, and the job Singh gave his wife, were just exchanges of favors between friends.

Rita Ciolli

Pencil Point

If you missed Colbert last night...

Bonus Point

Imagine Trump’s March Madness bracket

Another Barack Obama tradition has been trashed: President Donald Trump is not filling out a March Madness bracket.

But we were leaked the first two pages of a memo outlining his thinking:

1) Pick every university with a journalism school to lose in the first round.

2) Support all six teams from Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

3) Back the Electoral College all the way.

4) Say that whatever teams reach the Final Four were my real picks. Any reported bracket to the contrary was fake news.

5) No picks in the women’s tournament. Say, “No one has more respect for women, but it’s like my tax returns — nobody cares.”

6) And no bets on Trump University — I already lost $25 million on it.

Michael Dobie

Columns