Democratic Donors File Suit Against Republican Levy

Tuesday, May 18, 2010  |  Updated 5:15 PM EDT
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Democratic Donors File Suit Against Republican Levy

Steve Levy

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A group of Democratic donors filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, demanding he return their campaign contributions now that he has switch parties to run for governor as a Republican.

Larry Silverman, an attorney and Long Island Democratic activist, filed the suit in Suffolk County Supreme Court. He is representing five plaintiffs but said if the suit is successful it will serve as precedent for others who have contributed to Levy in the past.

"Steve Levy represented that he was a Democrat running for county executive, at the same time he was having conversations with the Republican Party," Silverman said. "Now that he is running as a Republican, effectively, he has no need for campaign funds he raised as a Democrat."

Levy was re-elected Suffolk County executive in 2007 as a Democrat with endorsements from the GOP, Independence, Conservative and Working Families Parties.

He was heavily recruited to run for governor by the Republican Governor's Association and by state GOP Chairman Ed Cox, who say he would be the strongest candidate to challenge state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the all but certain Democratic nominee. Incumbent Democratic Gov. David Paterson is not seeking re-election.

Levy also has the advantage of a prodigious bank account. He began the race with $4.1 million on hand, far more than former U.S. Rep. Rick Lazio, also a Republican and his main rival for the nomination.

Thomas Casey, a Huntington attorney and plaintiff on the lawsuit, said he and others had helped Levy build his war chest as a Democrat and did not want their money being used in a Republican campaign.

"I felt this is a serious breach of good faith," Casey said. "I'm not a big contributor but I did contribute consistently, as many others did. I would not have been contributing if I knew his intention was to change his enrollment."

Several Democratic donors held a protest last month in front of Levy's office in Happauge, demanding he return their money. Charlie King, executive director of the state Democratic Party, spoke at the gathering.

Levy campaign spokesman Josh Hills dismissed the effort as a "stunt" that suggested Democrats are nervous about a potential Cuomo/Levy match.

"Voters on both sides of the political aisle have supported Steve because of his platform to control spending and taxes," Hills said. "Democratic bosses are deathly afraid of Steve Levy emerging as the Republican nominee."

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