Editorial: Levy, Bellone share more than just a first name

Steve Levy was a Republican. He liked Ike, pulled the lever for Nixon and had a poster of Reagan on his office wall.

At least that’s the picture Suffolk County Democrats painted at the victory celebration for Steve Bellone Tuesday night.

Except that’s not exactly the real history.

The truth is Mr. Levy has represented Suffolk County residents for more than 25 years, and in each of his 11 bids for re-election two things have remained constant: the perfectly groomed mustache on his face and the ‘D’ next to his name.

That’s why it was peculiar Tuesday night when Suffolk Democrats spoke of Mr. Levy as if Karl Rove had run each of his campaigns.

Both Mr. Bellone, who becomes the third Democrat to hold Suffolk’s highest office since 1988, and party chairman Rich Schaffer spoke of the past eight years of county government as if they were among the worst in Suffolk history Tuesday night. In his victory speech, Mr. Bellone said, “We made an effort to reach out [to the people] because of what happened over the past eight years.” That was moments after Mr. Schaffer said, “We’re going to have a Steve that works well with other people.”

While it’s no secret Mr. Schaffer and Mr. Levy were never the closest of party allies — the two did not get along while serving together in the Legislature — it’s just as true the latter was endorsed for county executive twice by a Suffolk County Democratic Committee chaired by the former. There are plenty of pictures out there showing Mr. Schaffer raising Mr. Levy’s arm to prove they were in this together for much of the past eight years.

Did Mr. Levy turn his back on the Democrats last year when he saw an opportunity in Albany? Absolutely. But has he ever appeared on a ballot as the nominee of the Republican Party alone? No. In fact, the man who Dems now say worked so poorly with others was cross-endorsed by Republicans and Democrats — Independents and Conservatives, too — in 2007, and he won re-election with 96 percent of the vote. He received 106,000 votes from Democrats that year, nearly twice as many as he did from Republicans, some of whom chose to sit out that county executive race.

Mr. Levy wasn’t just the better choice in 2007, he was the only choice, all due respect to the Integrity Party’s Peter Busacca and his 5,440 supporters.

Like Mr. Levy four years ago, Steve Bellone was the right choice this time around. That’s why he will serve the next four years as county executive. He wasn’t elected because he came from the opposing party of the disgraced current county executive, nor should he be making that claim.

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