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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Party Switch Fiascos

Gore Vidal, the legendary 86-year-old writer, died last week and one of his obituaries noted that Vidal’s four favorite English words were, “I told you so.”

It is a sentiment I must reluctantly invoke, while calling attention to my observations from 2009 and 2010, following a New York Post report this month that state Senator Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) met recently with the state Republican committee’s leadership team about running for New York City mayor as a Republican in 2013.

Now, without even assessing Senator Smith as a prospective GOP mayoral nominee, let’s recap the horrific past performance charts of the incumbent Democrats who were inexplicably recruited by high-ranking state Republicans. And feel free to visit my archived columns from July 2009 and March 2010 at to see why Vidal’s observation has a special resonance for me amid talk of a Republican-backed Smith for Mayor campaign.

You may recall that in June 2009 then-state Senators Pedro Espada, Jr. (D-Bronx) and Hiram Monserrate (D-Queens) decided to caucus with the Republicans in the state Senate, thereby switching that chamber of the state Legislature into the GOP column only months after the voters had given the Democrats their first state Senate majority in 40-plus years. Senators Espada and Monserrate returned to the Democrats’ side of the aisle one month later, in July 2009.

Here’s a quick update on these two, one-time Republican allies. Former Senator Espada lost a 2010 re-election bid and was convicted in 2012 by a federal jury of stealing money from a taxpayer-funded, not-for-profit organization Espada oversaw. Meanwhile, Senator Monserrate was expelled from the state Senate in 2010 by his fellow senators after his conviction for misdemeanor assault against his girlfriend. Oh, and Monserrate pled guilty this year to allocating illegally more than $100,000 in government funds, when he was a city councilman, to benefit his unsuccessful 2006 state senate campaign. Monserrate is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 14, and could spend more than two years in jail.

The state GOP’s bad political calls aren’t limited to the state’s legislative branch. They’re adept at finding ethically-challenged Democrats to run for executive-level positions in Albany, too. State Republican Committee Chairman Edward Cox, for example, infamously appeared alongside then-Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy in March 2010, when Levy, a lifelong Democrat, announced he was going to run for governor as a Republican. The Levy for Governor campaign came to an ignominious end at the June 2010 state GOP nominating convention. Chairman Cox and others, such as Suffolk GOP chairman John Jay LaValle, were astonished at the time to realize how few Republican delegates wanted Levy, who had spent his entire career defeating Republican candidates, atop their statewide ticket. In fact, the GOP’s rank and file wouldn’t even give Levy a spot on the GOP gubernatorial primary ballot.

Well, at least we’ll have a Republican county executive in Suffolk, Cox and LaValle told themselves, and there’s no way Levy will lose when he stands for re-election in November 2011. They were right. Levy didn’t lose. Instead, Levy announced in the spring of 2011 that he would not seek re-election and then mysteriously turned his entire $4 million campaign account over to Suffolk County’s district attorney.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: