Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017 was a bad one for Nassau County’s once invincible Grand Old Party.
The Republicans not only lost the county executive spot and a County legislative seat, they lost control of the crown jewel of their political patronage mill, the Town of Hempstead.
Most embarrassing, the GOP was brought down in Hempstead by one of their own, Bruce Blakeman — the leading political dolt in the county.
Blakeman broke with incumbent town supervisor Anthony Santino, defied Boss Joe Mondello and endorsed Santino’s Democratic challenger, Laura Gillen.
The result: the Republicans lost the town supervisor spot for the first time in one hundred years to a Democrat who spent only $31,000 versus Santino’s $1.1 million.
How pathetic is that!
There was a time, however, when the Nassau GOP was the most respected and powerful political organization in the nation.
During the post-World War II era, when the population of this suburban oasis swelled thanks to the G.I. Bill of Rights, F.H.A. housing loans and builders like William Levitt, Republicans organized the new communities block by block.
Republican committeemen endeared themselves to the new residents, by serving as the middle-man between the neighborhood and county government. The committeemen helped with day-to-day problems from garbage removal to road, park and sewage maintenance.
Working the neighborhoods paid off at the polling booth.
In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, Republicans held just about every elected post in the County.
The large GOP State Senate and Assembly delegations dominated the Legislature in Albany. Major committees were chaired by Nassau legislators and members of the delegation held top leadership posts.
Presidential and gubernatorial wannabees paid homage to the Nassau organization which could turn out more than three thousand party-faithful to its annual fundraising gala.
In 1972, President Richard Nixon, appearing before 15,000 at a Republican rally held at the Nassau Coliseum, turned to the then County boss, and said “This is the biggest and best rally, Joe Margiotta, I have ever seen.”
That year, Nixon received 63.3 percent of Nassau’s votes and Ronald Reagan received similar majorities in 1980 and 1984.
But over time, the GOP machine began to rust.
Efficiently servicing the taxpayers took a backseat to rewarding political cronies with patronage and contracts. Republicans utilized fiscal sleight-of-hand techniques to convince the public that County budgets were “responsibly balance”— all the while pandering to special interests and increasing spending, taxes, and pork.
The first major crack in the organization was in 1981, when the long-time boss, Joseph Margiotta, was convicted on federal extortion and mail-fraud charges.
“In essence,” Newsday reported, “a jury concluded that his patronage system, which was the foundation of his party’s power, had helped it win national prestige and had cheated taxpayers by usurping the authority of elected officials.”
Subsequently, the party under the leadership of Joe Mondello learned little from the Margiotta conviction. Continued political antics brought Nassau’s government to the edge of bankruptcy in 1999.
Admitting they could not trust themselves, Republicans went to Albany and begged for a bailout and creation of a fiscal control board to keep them on the path of righteousness.
These fiscal follies led to the election of Tom Suozzi as County Executive in 1999. He was only the second Democrat to be elected to the post in the 20th century.
Meanwhile, the aging political machine’s influence at the polling booth continued to decline. Barack Obama carried the county in 2008 and 2012 as did Hillary Clinton in 2016.
After the Republicans took back the county executive spot in 2010, it was business as usual.
Posts were filled with political hacks, NIFA seized control of the county’s finances, County Executive Ed Mangano was indicted by the U.S. Attorney, as were Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos and Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto.
The disastrous results on Election Day 2017 were the final nails in the coffin of the once mighty organization.
Political wags are whispering that Boss Joe Mondello, who has presided over this demise, may accept a minor ambassadorship to make a graceful exit.
Word is it’s Costa Rica. Elba or St. Helena might be more appropriate.
Nassau Republicans are finished because their arrogance, incompetence and indifference to voter concerns has caught up with them.
Sadly, current taxpayers and their children and grandchildren will be paying off the debt they leave behind for decades to come.
Nassau Republican Party, Requiescat In Pace.