Monday, September 15, 2008

Newsday says infighting in Islip may not be helpful to Trunzo

No kidding.

State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos cannot be happy.

A flurry of calls after last week's primary went back and forth to end the fight between state Sen. Caesar Trunzo and dissident Islip Republicans. Trunzo was to announce he would step down as town GOP chairman after Election Day, with a new leader elected by year's end.

In return, mavericks would back Trunzo for re-election in what is becoming the toughest race of his 83-year life, against Brookhaven's Democratic Supervisor Brian Foley.

Instead, warring factions issued dueling press releases, only inflaming an already tense situation.

"This is not what Dean wanted," said one veteran Republican insider, adding that the new Senate GOP leader pressed Trunzo to put the issue behind him. "He wanted everyone standing together doing a kumbaya and posing for pictures."


Trunzo declined to be interviewed, but through a spokesman said, "I reached out my hand ... and this is the response I get. I find their response unfortunate and disappointing."

Dissident leader Frank Tantone said he was just as disheartened. He said encouraging talks through emissaries early Wednesday soured by 9 p.m.

"We could have coronated him," Tantone said, alluding to a group fundraiser set for tomorrow. "He would have gotten a hero's welcome."

Critics say the breakdown came because Trunzo, as in talks last year, wants to "handpick" party vice chairwoman Jeanette Messina as his successor. They also feared the party leader would name "phony paper committee members" before the convention to ensure Messina's election. They say Messina, long the day-to-day town leader but recently ailing, shares blame for losing the supervisor and town board and failing to get the GOP district court judge slate on the ballot.

"Chairman Trunzo has to stop listening to those who are operating out of the same tired, self-serving playbook which has resulted in the committee's current ... disarray," Tantone said in the group's scalding news release.

Schettino said Messina's son, Vincent, former town attorney and shrewd party lawyer, told him, "We control the gavel; we'll control the convention."

They are in a real bad spot. Caesar can't campaign for himself anymore. Anyone who has seen the man in the last few years knows that. So the party is going to have to do it for him and they are in a state of open civil warfare. And who should they blame? They should blame Caesar Trunzo (and Joe Bruno for keeping him so long). He's held on about 10 years too long and everyone knows it. Now they are stuck with a helpless candidate and a divided party.

Yeah you could say that Dean Skelos isn't happy.

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