Spencer Rumsey

Spencer Rumsey, the Long Island Press’ senior editor, has worked on dailies, weeklies and monthlies, including New York Newsday and the New York Post, the East Village Eye and the supermarket tabloid Star Magazine. Starting at the Press in 2010, he’s written award-winning stories on planning, politics and policy, to name a few topics, and he’s taken on a wide range of targets in his Press blog, Rumsey Punch.

Donald Trump Stomps on the Truth and His Supporters Love It

(Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)


Next Tuesday, thanks to the New York State Federation of Republican Women, a grassroots group based in Nassau, folks can listen to Dick Morris, the triangulating political mastermind and Fox News Channel commentator, promote the latest book he’s written with his wife Eileen McGann.

Packed with provocative buzzwords, the title is “Revolt!—How to Defeat Obama and Repeal His Socialist Agenda—A Patriot’s Guide.” Even though his presentation is called “Winning the Presidential Election,” it’s safe to say that Morris is not peddling free advice so Hillary Clinton can occupy the White House again, although he doesn’t mind getting credit for providing the strategy that engineered President Bill Clinton’s re-election in 1996 when it looked a little hopeless.

Morris must know his audience pretty well, because it takes a lot of balls to profit from calling President Obama’s agenda socialist with a straight face. But for this crowd, they’ll probably buy it. They certainly aren’t paying any mind to a real Democratic socialist, Sen. Bernie Sanders, who could only wish that Obama and, for that matter, his party’s leading rival for the nomination, Hillary Clinton, really were more to the left, especially about reigning in Wall Street power and the cancerous concentration of wealth in this country.

There’s a lot going on in the months leading up to the next election, and it’s neither enlightening nor encouraging—at least if you care about facts. The reality is that the extremists in the GOP base eat this stuff up. According to the polls, Donald “Something Terrific” Trump is still the front-leader of the GOP field, and that’s got a growing number of people concerned, and some of them are even Republicans.

A recent cartoon by the Pulitzer Prize-winner Tom Toles in the Washington Post, featuring a conversation between a pair of elephants in business suits, spells out the conundrum facing the party of Lincoln: “We’ve got a Trump problem,” says one. “He’s appealing to voters who are responding to racism bordering on fascism. It’s a real dilemma. How do we get rid of Trump but keep those voters?”

Conservative Michael Gerson, President George W. Bush’s speechwriter and policy advisor, spelled it out much further in a recent column about the 2016 race: “The presidential candidate who has consistently led the Republican field for four months, Donald Trump, has proposed: to forcibly expel 11 million people from the country, requiring a massive apparatus of enforcement, courts and concentration camps; to rewrite or reinterpret the 14th Amendment to end the Civil War-era Republican principle of birthright citizenship; to build a 2,000-mile wall on our southern border while forcing Mexico to pay the cost. He has characterized undocumented Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers, and opposed the speaking of Spanish in the United States.”

Most of Trump’s appeal is “reactionary,” writes Gerson, before quoting the billionaire himself: “‘We’re going to have to do things,’ says Trump with menacing vagueness, ‘that we never did before.’ And if disrespect for institutions is common, Trump is its perfect vehicle — combining the snark of Twitter with the staged anger and grudges of reality television… Is it possible and morally permissible, for economic and foreign policy conservatives, and for Republicans motivated by their faith, to share a coalition with the advocates of an increasingly raw and repugnant nativism?”

He’s right, but his words probably fall on the deaf ears of those who get their views from Fox News. After all, Trump has just lied that the U.S. is going to take in 250,000 Syrian refugees, that African-Americans are responsible for most white homicides (total falsehood), and, most outrageous, that on Sept. 11, 2001 he saw on television “thousands and thousands” of people in some unnamed “Arab” neighborhood of New Jersey “cheering as that building was coming down.” Not even Gov. Chris Christie, who knows a thing or two about New Jersey, could back him up on that big whopper. But it didn’t matter, because he just doubled-down and his supporters ate it up.

Recently a front-page photo taken at a Trump rally in Birmingham, Alabama, showed a group of haggard-looking white people sitting in the front row, holding placards proclaiming “the silent majority stands with Trump.” Take away their red, white and blue signs and they could have passed for hard-luck people in the Depression, perhaps gathered to hear the Louisiana Sen. Huey “Kingfish” Long, on the stump for his “Share Our Wealth” campaign.

A populist Democrat with a demagogic streak, Long was a constant thorn in the left side of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whom the Kingfish called a mama’s boy. He dubbed Congress “the Rich Men’s Club” when he gave a speech in 1932 on the Senate floor he titled “the Doom of the American Dream.” At one point he says, “There is a mere candle flicker here and yonder to take the place of what the great dream of America was supposed to be.” His plan would have imposed a $5 million tax cap on a family’s wealth, a $1 million a year salary cap, and a reliance on “men with the smartest minds” in America to flesh out the details.

“Unless we provide for the redistribution of wealth in this country, the country is doomed,” he said, citing a study by the Federal Trade Commission that “1 percent” owned “59 percent” of the wealth. His figures almost sound quaint today, but he was deadly serious. He railed against both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, saying that “nothing can be squeezed through these party organizations that goes far enough to bring the American people to a condition where they have such a thing as a liveable country.”

On the stump, Trump boasts about his business ability that has made him, the son of a millionaire, a purported billionaire. Nothing he’s proposed so far will actually improve the lives of the poor middle class men and women flocking to hear him. Behind him lurk Charles and David Koch, petrochemical billionaires (in Long’s day he railed against Standard Oil executives), who have pledged to spend almost a billion dollars on the 2016 elections to bring the Republican Party to the White House, and cement their hold on the Senate and the House of Representatives—as the brothers have already done with helping to put a majority of the state houses across the land in Republican hands.

By 1935, Huey Long’s Share Our Wealth organization was collecting tens of thousands of letters a week from people all across the country who didn’t believe that FDR and the Democrats were doing enough to save them from despair, let alone improve their daily lives. As the 1936 election approached, FDR’s supporters feared that Long would challenge him for the nomination.

But Long was playing a different game. He told his closest advisors that he was going to sit it out, perhaps put up a third party candidate who’d siphon enough votes from Roosevelt so that the Republican candidate would win. It was a cynical strategy, as T. Harry Williams noted in his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of the Kingfish, because Long knew that a Republican president would only make the Depression worse—but that would pave the way in 1940 for a savior to come along like Huey Long, who’d promised to “make every man a king.”

Today, when you look at the forlorn faces of Trump’s Republican supporters beyond the beltway, you wonder what they think when they listen to their candidate speak. In his mind, he’s already on the throne. But he’ll never share the crown.

(Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Thinking About Veterans Day, D-Day & The Liberation Of France Today

The view from Omaha Beach in Normandy, France (Long Island Press photo).

Standing barefoot on Omaha Beach, the sand silky soft, the warm waters of the English Channel lapping gently against me, I thought it was a perfect summer day. The sun shone brightly in a clear blue sky. The tide was low, leaving a wide expanse between the sparkling surf and the dark green bluffs past the dunes where a path led to the stairs that would take us back to the American Normandy Cemetery.

It’s so hard to imagine that here was where “all hell broke loose” on that bloody gray dawn of D-Day, June 6, 1944. Officially known as Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy would be the largest amphibious assault in history. There’d be 5,000 ships of all sizes; 11,000 aircraft and some 156,000 American, British and Canadian soldiers, hitting five beaches along a 50-mile front. Omaha was the bloodiest.

In the heat of battle, Col. George Taylor reportedly told his men, “There are two kinds of people who are staying on this beach: those who are dead and those who are going to die. Now let’s get the hell out of here.”

My earliest memories of the D-Day invasion were in black and white, because I’d seen the images taken by famed photographer Robert Capa for Life Magazine. What I’ve since learned is that he shot 108 frames when he landed with the soldiers at Omaha Beach, but a lab technician had ruined all but 11 of them in his haste to process them in time for a flight across the Atlantic to the editors in New York. That explains why the surviving ones are slightly out of focus, too.

In 1962, Hollywood released its black and white movie about Normandy called The Longest Day, which had a cast that included Sean Connery, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, John Wayne and Richard Burton, to name a few box-office stars. Today’s millennials could re-experience the landing by watching the terrifying opening minutes of Saving Private Ryan, starring Tom Hanks, which came out in 1998.

Omaha and Utah were the codenames for the American landings to the west; the British had Gold, Juno and Sword beaches to the east. One of the military goals was to seal off Normandy’s Cotentin peninsula and eventually seize its port, Cherbourg, but by the time the Allies finally captured that city, the Germans had left the harbor in ruins.

These days, Normandy thrives on a tourist industry catering to veterans and others who want to remember the war. Today, driving from Omaha Beach to Utah Beach takes about a half hour, but traversing those 47 kilometers through the impenetrable hedgerows of the Bocage region took days of bloody fighting in 1944.

In Saint Mere Eglise, you can see a dummy dangling from the church tower high above the central square. Back on D-Day, the GI named John Steele was less conspicuous—and therefore survived—because this paratrooper from the 82nd Airborne Division had gotten his parachute stuck on the tower’s other side when he landed as part of the pre-dawn aerial assault behind enemy lines. In The Longest Day, Steele was played by Red Buttons, a carrot-topped American comic actor born in the Lower East Side who became a top star in the early days of television. His scene is one of the few comedic moments in that very long war movie.

Before the Normandy invasion, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme commander, was a nervous wreck, smoking up to five packs of cigarettes a day and consuming bottomless cups of coffee. The first week of June the weather had turned bad. A huge storm barreled into the English Channel, churning up the seas with high winds and complicating the coordination plans. He knew there was only a small window when the tidal conditions would be right for the kind of amphibious assault the Allies intended: a low tide rising at daybreak.

The remains of Nazi bunkers built by the Germans in Brittany as part of the Atlantic Wall defenses in the years before the Normandy invasion (Long Island Press photo).
The remains of Nazi bunkers built by the Germans in Brittany as part of the Atlantic Wall defenses in the years before the Normandy invasion (Long Island Press photo).

It was no secret the Allies were coming by sea. Germany’s Nazi ruler, Adolf Hitler, had put Field Marshall Erwin Rommel in charge of stopping the invasion, authorizing him to build the Atlantic Wall, a 2,400-mile fortification of cement bunkers, long-range guns, landmines on telephone poles jutting out of the sand, booby traps underwater, spiked iron staves designed to rip open the hulls of incoming boats, and other metal obstacles that would pin down our men in high or low tide.

Rommel knew the invasion was coming but he didn’t know where, or when. The Allies had created a deception, complete with Hollywood-concocted fake tanks and bogus planes, codenamed Operation Fortitude, to make the Germans think Gen. George Patton, whom they regarded as the Allies’ smartest general—a perception he also shared—would cut across between Portsmouth and Calais, the shortest distance between England and France. They wouldn’t dare crossing the widest part of the English Channel, would they? When the storm rolled in, Rommel convinced himself that he could leave his elegant chateau estate near Bayeux and celebrate his wife’s birthday back home in Germany. Today the chateau still stands but it’s in private hands.

By June 5, 1944, Gen. Eisenhower had already held back the invasion 24 hours and he didn’t want to delay another day. Many men were already on their ships and landing crafts, getting cold and seasick. He feared that one German surveillance aircraft flying over the Channel might eliminate the element of surprise, which really was one of the only advantages the Allies had. Fortunately, even the Germans had grounded their planes that day because of the weather.

Before the troops boarded, each soldier, sailor and airman of the Allied Expeditionary Force had been given a copy of the “Orders of the Day,” a letter Eisenhower had drafted:

“You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brother-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.”

The plan was to start the invasion at 6:30 a.m. And so it went. Relatively speaking, Utah Beach was a cakewalk, even though Gen. Teddy Roosevelt, Jr., the president’s 57-year-old son, had landed 2,000 yards off target because of the strong currents and the stiff winds. He turned to his men and said, “We’re going to start the war from here.” He faced minimal opposition, as did the Brits and Canadians on their beaches.

At Omaha Beach, the Americans ran into a shit storm. The naval bombardment had been cut too short to do any damage to the defenses, and the Allied aircraft had flown too far inland where their bombs did nothing but kill cows and horses. The tanks and bulldozers intended to provide cover on the beach had been released too far from shore and many sank immediately. The first wave of soldiers were too loaded down with heavy packs that impeded their maneuverability. Yet, ahead of them lay hundreds of yards, all under unrelenting enemy fire from crack reinforcements from a German division that had recently been on the Eastern Front fighting the Soviets. Not at all the level of resistance the brass had led them to expect.

“The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.”
– Gen. Eisenhower

When the doors of the landing craft opened, the embarking soldiers were exposed to the dark bluffs where the Germans were entrenched in concrete bunkers. It was like shooting ducks in a barrel. Our troops had to wade waist-deep past the dead bodies floating in the incoming water. They had been trained to ignore the cries of the wounded and head straight to the dunes where the Germans held the high ground with their protected artillery. Casualties reached the thousands.

By 10:30 a.m., the invasion was going so badly that Gen. Omar Bradley, watching from a ship off shore, wanted to call it off and rescue the remaining men. His German counterpart, looking at the carnage on the beach from his protected bunker on the bluff, came to the same conclusion, sending a message to his commander that the Germans had turned the tide.

Both officers were wrong.

Today you can walk freely around the most strategic part of Omaha Beach, Pointe du Hoc, where the Germans had their artillery emplacement that enabled them to blow ships out of the Channel and rake our troops on the wide stretch of sandy beach. You can stand at the edge of a 130-foot cliff that our Army Rangers had to climb rapidly in order to knock it out of commission. You don’t hear the machine gun fire, the bombs blasting, just the wind and the sea below, as you try to put yourself in their shoes. 

When my wife and I were in France this summer, two off-duty U.S. military members and their friend had tackled and subdued a heavily armed man on a high-speed train bound for Paris, reportedly “breaking up what could have been a deadly terrorist attack.”

Childhood friends from Sacramento, Calif., the three Americans were enjoying the ride through Belgium when they heard a gunshot. Twenty-three-year-old Airman First Class Spencer Stone—a great name if I do say so myself—ran and tackled the gunman. His pal Army Spc. Alek Skarlatos, 22, a member of the Oregon National Guard, who had been deployed in Afghanistan, grabbed the assailant’s AK-47 rifle while their friend Anthony Sadler, 23, a student at Sacramento State University, assisted them.

The gunman was a 25-year-old Moroccan man named Ayoub El-Khazzani, whom French intelligence officials said belonged to “the radical Islamist movement.” He’d emerged from an onboard restroom heavily armed when an unnamed French man trying to enter confronted him. That’s when the first shot rang out and the Americans sprang into action.

French President Francois Hollande wanted to personally thank them for their bravery in an official ceremony at the Elysee Palace. When they later met President Obama in the Oval Office, he said they represented “the very best of America and the American character.”

“They were thinking they were just going to have a fun reunion in Paris and ended up engaging in a potentially cataclysmic situation,” Obama said at the White House. “Because of their courage, because of their quick thinking, because of their teamwork, it’s fair to say a lot of people were saved, and a real calamity was averted.”

The news of their courage made me think of my sons back home who are around their age. Then I got to thinking of the brave soldiers landing on Normandy Beach who once were their age as well. When I was in my early 20s, I was protesting the Vietnam War because I was draft age. Years later, my ex-brother-in-law, who fought in the dense jungles around Da Nang, forgave me. I don’t know what I would have done in the heat of battle, and I hope I never find out.

But I do know that this summer was a good time to be an American in Paris.

An angry Donald Trump glaring from the front page of France’s Liberation newspaper with the tagline: "The American Nightmare."
An angry Donald Trump glaring from the front page of France’s Liberation newspaper with the tagline: “The American Nightmare.”

The Allies had liberated the City of Light in August, 1945. My wife and I arrived 70 years later. As we got off the train from Nice, the beautiful city overlooking the French Riviera, the first newsstand I saw had a rack of angry Donald Trumps glaring from the front page of France’s Liberation newspaper. It was the quintessential “ugly American,” and I was taken aback because I hadn’t thought about his presidential campaign for weeks.

But he wasn’t the only Yankee the French seemed to be thinking about in August. Plastered on walls all around Paris were posters of JFK and Jackie. It turned out to be a promotional campaign for a photo exhibit devoted to the Kennedys. When we saw the show on a Sunday afternoon, about two dozen people were packed into the gallery’s upstairs room watching a French documentary recounting the president’s assassination.

From left to right: The view from Pointe du Hoc overlooking Omaha Beach in Normandy, France; a sign at the U-Boat Memorial in Camaret-sur-Mer and one of the remaining Nazi 88mm U-boot deck canons.
From left to right: The view from Pointe du Hoc overlooking Omaha Beach in Normandy, France; a sign at the U-Boat Memorial in Camaret-sur-Mer and one of the remaining Nazi artillery canons.

In January, the big news in France was about Charlie Hebdo, the satirical weekly, whose offices had been attacked by armed gunmen allegedly angered over the publication’s depiction of the Prophet Mohammad. Twelve staffers had been slain, including the editor. As offensive as the publication deliberately was, it was a bastion of free speech.

We didn’t plan to visit the site of the massacre but we did come upon a packed opening one night for the Galerie Glenat in the Marais district featuring renderings of Titeuf, a well-known French cartoon character of a kid with a bright yellow tuft of hair sticking out of his head. On the wall was a Charlie Hebdo magazine cover by an illustrator named Luz, which showed an adolescent Titeuf wearing a backpack facing his mirror image with a yellow beard who had an AK-47 on his back. The latter one says, “I have jihad tomorrow.” His schoolboy friend replies, “You have it good. I have math.” For the exhibit, Luz had dropped red ink on one corner of the cover. It was a subtle reminder of the blood shed that day.

When we went to Notre Dame, like so many tourists before us, we learned there’d been a ceremony honoring surviving American veterans of WW II that very morning. They were long gone from the cathedral by then. But knowing they had been welcomed for their service decades ago still resonated in the air.

And on this Veterans Day, 70 years after the end of the Great War, it’s the right time to pay tribute to all the soldiers who’ve gone before and honor the ones who survive.

On the eve of D-Day, just as he was about to board his ship, Keith Douglas, a 24-year-old British poet, started a poem he called “Actors in the Wings,” and it had this stanza: “Everyone, I suppose, will use these minutes to look back, to hear music and to recall what we were doing and saying that year during our last few months as people, near the sucking mouth of the day that swallowed us all into the stomach of war.”

He never wrote another line. He was killed by a mortar round a few days after landing in Normandy.

From Mets to Meh: Coping with World Series Withdrawal

For millions of Mets fans, it’s been a week without baseball. A cold, bleak week in November. That sentence alone sounds incongruous, but it’s worth noting because it’s so different from the norm.

Now we must rejoin the regularly scheduled sporting events in progress and let our memories of this amazing season fade away.

But not so fast. Hold on a little longer.

Game 5 of the 2015 World Series started Nov. 1 and lasted 12 innings before the Royals celebrated their 7-2 win at Citi Field late Sunday night and into early Monday morning. Even Yogi would have to concede that it was finally, irrevocably over.

If only the Mets could have, would have, should have…you get the idea. What we’d give to have had them play one more game—hell, let’s be honest—two more games, even if it meant they’d be going to Kansas City.

It’s been 15 years since the Mets had played any World Series games, and considering how improbable this prospect looked back in July when the team was playing so pitifully, it’s almost a miracle they got this far. It’s understandable we’d still want to be obsessed with the “what ifs” because it was such a great, wild ride.

Let’s imagine if that slow chopper had just bounced a little higher and landed smack dab right into Daniel Murphy’s glove instead of pulling a Bill Buckner behind second base and scooting into right field in Game 4. Or if Lucas Duda’s throw from first base had been a little more on target so Travis d’Arnaud could have caught it at home plate and tagged out the Royals Eric Hosmer before he could score the tying run in the ninth inning in Game 5. Or, for that matter, what if Terry Collins hadn’t let Matt Harvey jawbone his way back to the mound when the manager originally intended to have closer Jeurys Familia come on in relief.

In that fateful encounter, the Dark Knight faced two batters with a 2-0 lead and did not record an out. He gave up a leadoff walk to KC’s Lorrenzo Cain and a double to Hosmer. Far from his usual m.o.

But now, Harvey won’t be pitching until next year. So it goes. Certainly he could use the rest, since he pitched 216 total innings—the most any pitcher ever threw in one season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, according to ESPN.

To his credit, Collins took the blame for trusting his heart, not his mind, and letting Harvey try for the shutout. If it had worked out that night, who knows what would have happened next?

That both men were still wearing Mets uniforms in November was also remarkable. In June, rumors in the clubhouse had Collins about to be let go because the team sucked so—he hadn’t had a winning season in four years—and his fifth one looked like it was on track to be just as bad. But last Wednesday, Collins signed a two-year contract extension, making him the oldest manager still on duty in an MLB dugout, come next spring.

Harvey, or really his agent Scott Boras, had created a stir in September by saying that the ace client should save his golden arm for next year and adhere to a strict innings limit, playoffs or not. All we can say now is that we’re glad Harvey didn’t listen to Boras then, but we sure wish he’d let Collins keep him out of just one more inning—his last.

How glorious it was that David Wright was still playing in November, considering how much pain he’d undergone with his spinal stenosis and other physical issues that had sidelined him for months. But there he was in Game 3, hitting a key home run in the World Series—the first of his career—and helping the Mets beat the Royals to prevent a sweep.

Everybody has their favorite moments of the Series, of the season. The best of times, and the worst. Daniel Murphy embodied both—his playoff home-run record and his egregious errors. I always enjoyed watching him discuss pitch location with the umps. I’m also grateful that center-fielder Yoenis Cespedes became such a catalyst when the team looked lost before the last-minute trade that brought him here, and I’m very happy that Michael Conforto left the Double-A Mets in Binghamton to join the Major League Mets in Queens. And who will ever forget Wilmer Flores and the tears he shed to stay?

Let all those memories and more fill the wintry months to come before pitchers and catchers report to spring training. Because now we Mets fans can say, “Wait ‘til next year!” without fear or loathing. In fact, we can shout it out loud, “Bring it on!”

Nassau District Attorney Race: Kate Murray Versus Madeline Singas

The hottest—and potentially the closest—race in Nassau County pits Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray, a Republican who’s run the town for 12 years, against acting Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas, a Democrat, who took command in January.

A poll released a month before the Nov. 3 election showed Murray holding a six-point lead over Singas, with a margin of error of 4.9 points, plus or minus, so it could be a lot narrower than that. Conducted by Siena Research Institute for News12/Newsday, the survey tellingly had Murray below the 50 percent approval mark—the political equivalent of the Mendoza line that measures mediocrity in baseball—with 48 percent to Singas’ 42 percent, and 10 percent undecided.

The two women’s campaign could also be the county’s costliest contest this year. According to the most recent filings, Murray has collected almost $1.4 million, while Singas has raised nearly $1.6 million.

In terms of endorsements there’s no contest, depending on who’s counting. Murray, who’s been part of the Hempstead Republican machine for years, has racked up the support of 28 police unions in Nassau, Suffolk, and even New York City. She’s never been a prosecutor, whereas Singas has served that role for 24 years, starting in the Queens District Attorney’s office before being asked in 2006 by then-Nassau DA Kathleen Rice to head a newly created Special Victims Bureau. Four years ago, Rice promoted Singas to chief assistant. Her campaign countered Murray’s police union backing with 64 former prosecutors endorsing the acting DA.

Murray’s lack of prosecutorial experience didn’t deter Rudy Giuliani, the former Republican mayor of New York City and ex-US Attorney for the Southern District, from proudly appearing with her in a new political ad. Looking into the camera, he says, “It takes a commitment to law and order to be a good district attorney. That’s Kate Murray.”

Jay Jacobs, Nassau Democratic chairman, acknowledged that Murray “calls herself the ‘law and order candidate.’ That’s because all of her experience comes from watching Law and Order on television.”

The county leader also took issue with Murray’s ubiquitous lawn signs in Nassau that refer to her as “tax cutter” and “crime fighter.”

“It’s a blatant lie,” he told the Press. According to town records, the total town tax levy is reportedly 40 percent higher now than it was in 2003 when she was appointed town supervisor.

“She has raised taxes virtually every other year in the Town of Hempstead,” Jacobs said. “She is not a tax cutter, and she is certainly not going to be a crime fighter. She has never cracked open the criminal code, the penal code, of New York State.”

That view was echoed by a recent New York Daily News endorsement of Singas, which slammed Murray as “wholly unqualified” after she spoke with the Daily News Editorial Board: “Whether the issue was bail, grand jury immunity, prosecution of drunken drivers or investigation of police shootings of unarmed civilians, Murray was clueless about the law.”

Nassau PBA President Jim Carver, a prominent Murray supporter, took issue with that conclusion. “She’s not clueless about the law. That’s their opinion.” Nor was he concerned that Murray had no prosecutorial experience. “The DA never prosecutes a case, anyway. The DA’s office is about vision and how you manage your people.”

“I think there’s some truth to that,” said Richard Klein, the distinguished professor of criminal law at Long Island-based Touro Law Center. “Someone who’s a very good administrator can transfer those skills to running a sanitation department or running a DA’s office. I think it’s certainly helpful if someone understands how a DA’s office operates. We have to remember that the DA doesn’t really go into court. It’s very, very rare when the DA actually makes a court appearance. But how much of a learning curve do you want?”

Interestingly, electing a district attorney with prosecutorial experience is also the key issue in the hotly contested Staten Island race, but there the politics are reversed. Giuliani has weighed into both but taken contradictory positions.

The Staten Island campaign involves Michael E. McMahon, a prominent local Democrat whom Giuliani painted “as a legal lightweight” when he spoke on behalf of the Republican challenger, Joan Illuzzi. Until she resigned this spring to run for DA, she served as senior trial counsel for Manhattan DA Robert M. Morgenthau, a Democrat, who praised her legal expertise and ethics, telling The New York Times that Illizzi is “going to want to see justice is done in every case.” Her campaign brands Illuzzi as “a prosecutor, not a politician.” McMahon, who served one term in Congress, slams her for spending her career in Manhattan.

No one can make that claim stick against Murray, who grew up in Levittown, or Singas, daughter of Greek immigrants who founded the Singas Family Pizza chain in Queens.

But where they stand in Nassau is another issue.

“There’s a real question about Kate Murray’s ability to address, to respond and seek the input of a community that is basically the fodder for the criminal justice system,” said Frederick Brewington, a noted civil rights attorney in Hempstead.

“The black and brown communities of Nassau County are the ones that are the great majority of the population in our jail. Our young people are being made part of the criminal justice system that because of the hue of their skin is unforgiving. They will bear marks well into their adult livelihoods that will prevent them from having jobs, but if they happen to be white, they might be forgiven.”

Brewington, who’s handled cases involving police brutality against civilians, was questioned whether Murray’s many endorsements by the police unions might compromise her ability to prosecute impartially, should she be elected Nassau district attorney.

“There is a necessary working relationship between the district attorney’s office and the police department, but that necessary relationship requires separate bedrooms,” Brewington told the Press. “And in this situation it appears as though what candidate Murray has decided to do is break down the wall that requires the DA to be an independent source for justice. Remember, the district attorney is the lead law enforcement officer for the county, not the commissioner, not the county executive. Her independence is necessary to ensure that citizens’ rights are protected and respected in addition to enforcing the law. She’s a constitutional officer that has very important responsibilities. By showing that she is basically depending on the police to be her voice in this campaign, she has abdicated that independence.”

“If a prosecutor is dependent and beholden upon the police for getting elected, it’s just like any other part of our political system,” explained Touro’s Professor Klein. “An elected official pays back those who helped their campaign, through financial contributions or here, perhaps, even more meaningfully, by endorsements.”

Klein raised another, equally troubling concern that he had.

“What does the DA do if the DA has a case and it seems like the cop has lied?” the professor asked. “If I’m the DA, and I reach a conclusion that the police are fabricating a case, is the fact that the police have endorsed me as a candidate going to come into the picture? Or am I going to independently say, ‘I don’t believe this police officer, and therefore the case has to be dismissed.’”

Murray’s campaign spokesman, Bill Corbett Jr., insisted that she’d be an independent district attorney.

“Kate Murray will aggressively investigate all allegations regardless of the subject’s political party, uniform or any other factors other than the facts of the case,” he said. “It speaks volumes when the men and women of law enforcement who know and have worked with the acting district attorney for almost a decade line up with one voice to endorse Kate Murray.”

Another issue between the women is how they’d respond to the rising use of heroin in Nassau.

At the beginning of September, Murray held a press conference with Carver, the Nassau PBA president, Nassau County Police Department Detectives Association President Glenn Ciccone and Warren Zysman, CEO of Addiction Care Interventions, to call “for the formation of a Nassau County Task Force to combat the rising epidemic of heroin throughout our region,” which her campaign said in a press release, had increased “over 100 percent in fatal heroin overdoses (YTD) in 2015 versus last year.” According to the campaign, “the officials will seek a greater presence of both police officers and detectives on the streets to track down dealers, interrupt the home delivery of drugs and provide educational resources to young people.”

How that initiative would differ from the Nassau County Heroin Task Force, a bipartisan effort formed in the summer of 2009 by the county executive, the district attorney and the police commissioner as well as community activists, local leaders and public health advocates, is a matter of interpretation. This ongoing task force has been meeting on the last Friday of the month since its inception, and as far as the Press can determine Murray has never attended. Her campaign spokesman, Bill Corbett Jr., said Murray’s proposed task force would be created “within the police department.”

The Singas campaign says that Murray is only a recent convert to the cause, whereas the acting DA has been prosecuting drug-related crimes for almost two decades. To prove their point, they released a video of the candidates’ debate sponsored by the Garden City Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 30, which quotes Murray saying that “I have been talking about this heroin epidemic, this heroin scourge, since I was nominated to run for District Attorney.”

Murray’s supporters counter that Singas hasn’t done enough to curb the “heroin epidemic.”

“Madeline is a little bit in denial,” claims the PBA’s Carver. “She’s addressing it, but if she’s addressing it, how come heroin deaths have doubled in the last year?”

Another contentious issue aims at the heart of Hempstead itself, the most powerful bastion of Republican power in the Empire State. In its editorial endorsement of Singas, the Daily News wrote: “Like Murray, former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is a product of the Hempstead GOP. In May, federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint that depicted Skelos and his son as participating in a wide-ranging extortion scheme. A district attorney’s duties include cracking down on corruption.”

In Singas’ new cable TV ad, the Hempstead supervisor is shown at a ribbon cutting ceremony wielding scissors with state Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) holding the blue ribbon and smiling. To the Daily News editorial board, Murray conceded that she hadn’t read the federal indictment of Skelos and his son, charged by Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, a position once held by Giuliani. Snarkily, the editorial concluded that “she’s perfect for the machine.”

Murray’s town spokesman, Mike Deery, insists that the supervisor has scrupulously followed all the proper contracting procedures. Her campaign carped that Singas is just raising this issue for political purposes right before the election and it otherwise would have no merit.

One thing’s for sure, the voters will have a clear choice because these two candidates for district attorney have taken very different paths to be on this ballot.

Singas, who lives in Manhasset, went to Barnard College, majoring in political science, and got her law degree from Fordham University in 1991, when she entered the Queens District Attorney’s office. She became Nassau DA Kathleen Rice’s top deputy in 2011, and acting DA when Rice was elected to Congress to replace former Rep. Carolyn McCarthy.

“For me, the message is that who the district attorney is matters,” Singas told the Press. “Experience matters. Qualification matters. And to do this job, even though it’s an elected job, is completely apolitical. It requires someone with a very specific skill set. It requires someone who speaks to criminal justice issues, knows criminal law, and that’s very stark in my race. My opponent has none of that. She is a political animal who came up through the political machine, so the choice for voters is very clear. You could either have a prosecutor who is going to be the DA or you can have a politician.”

Murray got a Bachelor’s degree in English literature from Boston College in 1984 and her law degree from the Boston-based Suffolk University Law School in 1988. Murray worked as a junior lawyer in two firms and as an assistant in the state attorney general’s office before getting elected to the Assembly in 1998 and Hempstead Town clerk in 2001.

“My father got involved in local politics and I did too,” Murray told the Press. “I loved it from a very early age… Actually, the three offices that I’ve held–I was the first woman in each of those. So I like to think three fewer glass ceilings to shatter.” She said she was glad when she got the chance to run Hempstead Town. “I think there’s a serious role to be played as a government servant–that’s what I prefer to call myself. I always cringe when I hear [the word] ‘politician.’”

With Jaime Franchi

Watching the Mets Lose Two in Kansas City Is Hard to Take

The way I see it, the Mets owe us big time for spending so many hours watching them lose two games in a row in Kansas City to a superior team. How they repay us is obvious. They have to host a victory parade down Broadway in Manhattan, and make sure we all have the day off so we can sleep in late.

The opener on Tuesday was grueling enough—the longest World Series game in history measured by innings. By the time the final out was recorded in the 14th, five hours and nine minutes after it started, I was numb, both spiritually and physically. My eyes could barely see. My mind was shot.

As they taught us by their debacle the following night, the first matchup was one the Mets had to win. All that effort gone to waste. I mean, on our part, as demoralized fans too masochistic to turn the damn thing off until some distant voice of reason, probably female, penetrated our consciousness with these words: “Go to bed!”

After all, hadn’t we done our time already this season? Didn’t we stick with the Metropolitans back in July, when the needs of our families and our communities—hell, our republic, for that matter—went begging for 18 innings? It was July 19th, and the Mets only took a 1-0 lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the top of the 13th inning, only to blow it in the bottom of the same inning when Jeurys Familia gave up a leadoff homer. No, I don’t want to remember it well—they did go on to prevail 3-1—but it came back to haunt me when Game 1 entered the midnight hour after he’d blown it in the ninth inning. I turned to my viewing companion, my son who had to get up even earlier the next morning than I so he could catch a train to the city, and asked him rhetorically, “How much longer should we watch this?”

Well, the answer was obvious. To the bitter end. After all, past was prologue. We both stuck with the team in July, when the World Series seemed like a pipe dream, why would we be sensible now? Back then, Ruben Tejada—bless his soul, and curse Chase Utley’s—hit a sacrifice fly that allowed Wilmer Flores to score the go-ahead run. We got an insurance run on a squeeze bunt by Eric Campbell. Ah, those were the days, weren’t they? And let us recall that it was a day game, too.

Tuesday night seemed to last forever. My son said he had a dream (perhaps a nightmare) later that it ended at 5 a.m. Let the record show it was over way before then. Apparently, we were not alone. The game was the most-watched World Series opener since 15 million viewers tuned into the 2010 matchup.

This game, let’s face it, did have a little bit of everything. There was the first inside-the-park homer since the World Series of 1929 (and the anniversary of the Stock Market crash was this week, too, come to think of it)—and it came off the very first pitch that our Dark Knight, Matt Harvey, threw. That in itself is a rarity.

And, laughing at their expense because it is Fox after all, there was a “rare electronics failure” that blew the game off the air—and onto our radios—in the fourth inning. Just like that, we all had to hunt for our AM dials, but just before we could settle in, the network figured out how to stream the international feed for domestic consumption. I just felt sorry for the hapless chaps back in the studio who had to make small talk while the engineers figured out how to override the meltdown. We haven’t seen anything like this since the Oakland A’s-San Francisco Giants World Series—dubbed the Battle of the Bay—was disrupted by a severe earthquake that struck in 1989 just as Game 3 was getting underway and knocked ABC off the air. By the way, the Giants were down two games to none. The bad news is that the Athletics went on to sweep them four-zip.

Tuesday’s snafu also illustrates just how dependent America’s pastime has become on modern technology. The four-minute on-field delay was reportedly due to the replay capability being lost in both team’s clubhouses. We wouldn’t want to lose that, would we? Why, without replay capability, how could the game go on? Now, since it was Fox, nobody dared to blame the liberal media for screwing up, but the thought had to be in the noosphere. But they found the right switch and the game went on at Kauffman Stadium. For the record, the 2013 Super Bowl was delayed when the power went out in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. That’s a more old-fashioned problem, but it certainly couldn’t have helped the automaker’s brand since play stopped for 34 minutes.

Once Fox resumed its World Series coverage, it was amusing when Joe Buck—he of the five o’clock stubble—told the viewing audience that they had enough quarters to keep Game 1 on the air for the rest of the evening as he traded microphones with Matt Vasgersian and John Smoltz, who were handling the game for MLB International. Little did Buck know that the night was still young.

Going into Wednesday night’s game from the Mets’ point of view, they probably figured that all their East Coast fans could use some shut-eye but they took it one step further, and seemed to nod off at the plate, getting only two hits off the Royals’ mighty-dreadlocked righthander Johnny Cueto, who pitched the whole damn game, while our long-haired phenom Jacob DeGrom hardly struck anybody out and got rocked instead. Our reputed ace gave up four runs in the fifth inning, and then it was lights out for him. For good measure other Mets pitchers came in in relief and allowed three more before the game was mercifully over, 7-1 the final score.

Sleep, perchance to dream, never sounded so good Wednesday night. For the superstitious, the Mets lost by one run in the first game of the 1986 World Series and by six runs in the second game—and that was at Shea Stadium, where we teach future generations the Mets beat the Red Sox in Game 6, and, just as important, in Game 7.

Whether history can repeat itself this time against Kansas is a question that remains to be seen. Too many Mets fans woke up Thursday morning thinking the world had ended, let alone the Series. But let us remember they’ve only played each other twice, and they have at least two more games to go.

So, the message to us all: stay tuned. And hope the blessings flow.

Probes, Prosecutors & Party Politics: The Murky Battle For Hempstead Town Heats Up

Off To The Races: Democrat Rita Kestenbaum (L) is battling Republican Anthony Santino (R) for Hempstead Town Supervisor, while fellow Republican Nasrin Ahmad (far right) is facing off against against Democrat Dino Amoroso (below) for Town Clerk.

The Town of Hempstead takes center stage in this fall’s election on Nov. 3 as Nassau County’s oldest bastion of Republican Party power looks poised to replace its longtime supervisor, Kate Murray, with town board member Anthony Santino. It’s the county’s only township with a vacancy at the top because the incumbent is leaving the job she’s had for 12 years to run against acting Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas, a Democrat.

Murray, who’s never been a prosecutor, may have her hands full fending off a strong challenge from Singas, given her extensive prosecutorial background, but Santino has been on the town board for 22 years and his Democratic opponent, Rita Kestenbaum, served one term 15 years ago.

Despite Hempstead having almost 35,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans—214,131 to 179,394, according to the Nassau County Board of Elections’ most up-to-date information—the effort to wrest control of town hall has been likened to the Biblical battle of David vs. Goliath, since the Republicans have towered over Long Island’s most populous township for more than a century. Few impartial observers expect that office to change hands.

“Hempstead Town’s middle class families and seniors recognize good and responsive government that holds the line on taxes and provides outstanding municipal services and programs for pennies on the tax dollar,” says Matt Coleman, a Republican campaign spokesman for Santino. “We believe that they will return Team Santino to office again this November. He has experience that is unsurpassable by any candidate running for municipal office on Long Island.”

Nassau Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs didn’t see it that way.

“While we don’t have the resources that the Republicans do, I think the mood is shifting in Nassau County because of all the corruption, and people are sick and tired of it,” Jacobs said. “Rita has experience as a town-wide elected councilwoman … She’s a formidable individual in her own right.”

One of the first Democrats elected to the Hempstead Town Board since 1905, Kestenbaum started the Carol Kestenbaum Foundation in 2007 to help young women and men with programs on building self-esteem and suicide prevention. It’s named in honor of  her daughter, an education major who was murdered while a student at Arizona State University.

The Hempstead Town Clerk race pits incumbent Nasrin Ahmad, a Republican from Salisbury, against longtime Lynbrook resident, Dino Amoroso, the CEO and president of Nassau OTB when Democrat Tom Suozzi was Nassau County executive, who recently was a former chief deputy prosecutor for Brooklyn District Attorney Charles “Joe” Hynes, a Democrat.

Dino Amoroso Charles Hynes
Democratic Hempstead Town Clerk candidate Dino Amoroso (L) was deputy district attorney in disgraced former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles “Joe” Hynes’ office. Both were named in a 27-page New York City Department Of Investigation report into potential misconduct.

Complicating matters in that contest are accusations that Ahmad is a beneficiary of the Republican patronage machine and implications that Amoroso played a key role in an alleged corruption scandal that ultimately tarnished Hynes’ administration.

Born in Uganda, Ahmad came to the U.S. in 1984 and became a citizen in 1990. She started as a file clerk in Hempstead in 1998, and was appointed town clerk in September 2013. She replaced Hempstead Town Clerk Mark Bonilla, who resigned after being convicted of a misdemeanor for threatening a male employee with a job transfer if he reportedly didn’t get him compromising photos of a female employee who had accused Bonilla of sexual harassment. Bonilla had been clerk for a decade. He appealed the 2013 misconduct conviction but last month an appellate court upheld it.

Longtime Hempstead Democratic activist Bob Young criticized the town board for replacing Bonilla with Ahmad, “who represents a group of Republicans who pay to play,” so that she could be the incumbent before the 2013 election. For a month, the post had been held by the first deputy clerk, Phil Guarnieri, but he didn’t get the party’s nod for the full-time job. Young praised Bonilla for going out of his way to help him and his wife fix a problem with their passport that could have prevented them from going on a vacation they’d won. He didn’t think much of Ahmad’s tenure, and had tried hard to get her unseated in 2013 by supporting her Democratic challenger, Jasmine Garcia Vieux. Ahmad won a close race, 52 percent to 48 percent, with only a little more than 5,500 votes separating them on Election Day in 2013.

Amoroso originally started working for the Brooklyn DA in 1991 and returned to Hynes’ Kings County District Attorney’s office in June 2010. Hynes was the prosecutor who was praised for “tracking down the white mob that killed a black man one terrible night in Howard Beach, Queens,” as Michael Powell put it in The New York Times, in June 2014. That same week the city’s Department of Investigation had issued its 27-page report detailing Hynes’ alleged violations of the New York City charter and its conflict of interest provisions. Among the claims, Hynes allegedly paid Mortimer Matz, a press flack, more than $200,000 from forfeiture funds to advise him on his re-election campaign—a no-no.

New York City Department of Investigation Hynes Report

During an 18-month period preceding the November 2013 election, the DOI report says that the Brooklyn DA “extensively” used his official email “for purposes relating to his reelection campaign.” He sent emails to Barry Kamins, chief administrative judge for NYC’s criminal courts, as well as to Amoroso, his deputy district attorney.

As the DOI puts it, “several KCDA staff members engaged in political activity related to Hynes’ reelection campaign, using city resources on city time.” Amoroso was among them.

On a Thursday afternoon in July 2013, Hynes sent Amoroso an email telling him that “I want you to attend the strategy meeting” at the office of his campaign manager, Dennis Quirk.

Here’s another telling exchange as included in the DOI report. On Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at 10:15 a.m.: “Amoroso sends an e-mail with the subject line ‘Labor, County and GOTV’ to Hynes. Amoroso appears to respond to a message sent to him from Hynes, in which Hynes writes, in relevant part: ‘On Thursday I want you to do a lot of listening and offer advice only when you’re asked…Dennis respects your political acumen but I want him to begin to see the managerial, administrative and organizational skills you developed at OTB. If my long shot option is viable this will be particularly important. Joe.’

Amoroso’s message reads, “‘Understood, loud and clear.’”

In its conclusion, the DOI says its investigation has “substantiated…possible violations of Chapter 68 of the New York City Charter by Hynes and other senior members of his KCDA staff, including… Dino Amoroso.” It adds that its investigation also “describes possible criminal conduct with respect to the personal services Matz provided to Hynes, which appear to have been paid for, at least in part, from KCDA state forfeiture funds.” Half of the invoices Matz submitted were “directed to the attention of Dino Amoroso, who was at the relevant time the KCDA Deputy District Attorney.”

The DOI cited relevant sections from the City Charter and the Conflict of Interest Board. In one, it quoted that “no public servant shall engage in any business, transaction or private employment, or have any financial or other private interest, direct or indirect, which is in conflict with the proper discharge of his or her official duties.” In another example the DOI said that “it shall be a violation of City Charter…for any public servant to use city letterhead, personnel, equipment, resources, or supplies for any non-city purpose.” Regarding Hynes’ payments to Matz, the DOI concluded that they “may implicate the larceny provisions contained in Article 155 of the Penal Code.”

As of now, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District (Preet Bharara’s office) and New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have announced that they are investigating the matter, but no charges have been filed. In the meantime, city taxpayers have reportedly “shelled out nearly $25 million for wrongful convictions obtained and upheld under former district attorney Charles Hynes,” according to The Brooklyn Paper’s Noah Hurowitz.

As for Amoroso, neither he nor his former Kings County colleagues have been charged. In his only known previous brush with politically motivated entanglements, Amoroso was “cleared in tit-for-tat vote-fraud rap,” as the New York Post poetically put it in a 2005 headline, after he’d been accused of committing voter fraud by registering to vote in Queens at his parents’ house in Kew Gardens while living in Lynbook. The Queens DA found that Amoroso “may choose residence for purpose of voting with which he has legitimate, significant and continuing attachments.” The charge had come about because Hynes’ office had convicted a former political rival, John O’Hara, on similar charges and Mark Peters, then running against the Brooklyn DA, had gone after Amoroso for political payback.

In January 2006, Amoroso was appointed president and CEO of Nassau OTB by Nassau Democrats. He was replaced in 2010 by Joseph Cairo, a top operative in Nassau GOP chairman Joe Mondello’s Republican machine. Cairo had been disbarred in 1994 for diverting “at least $900,000” from his clients’ trust funds, according to Newsday. Cairo was readmitted to the bar in January 2007, and the tax liens were reportedly cleared up.

At the time of the switch, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano criticized Suozzi’s OTB administrator for running the operation “into the ground,” claiming that its profit to the country had declined from $16 million in 2003 to “an embarrassing $5.3 million” when Mangano ousted Amoroso. Handling the paperwork to get rid of him at the behest of the three new Republican OTB directors was Christopher Ostuni, Mondello’s son-in-law.

Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs disputed Mangano’s math, claiming that under Amoroso’s leadership, OTB “was making money when we turned it over. Then we began losing money.”

Jacobs said that “the reason we put Dino in is because he was a prosecutor. He cleaned that place up. Every year he ran it, he ran it with a substantial profit… He’s certainly demonstrated that he can run things and run them well.”

A source with long-term ties to Nassau OTB told the Press that Amoroso’s record there was not so stellar, nor was Cairo’s, for that matter. The source, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, expressed amazement that Amoroso’s tenure could be portrayed as positive on his resume.

For now, Amoroso has a private practice in Manhattan. His candidacy for Hempstead Town clerk has the firm backing of his Democratic Party leader, Jay Jacobs.

“I don’t believe in guilt by association,” Jacobs tells the Press. “Nothing was ever charged related to Dino. I think Joe Hynes has his problems. Dino worked there, that was his employer.”

Jacobs said he discussed the Hynes charges with Amoroso and said that the former deputy DA believes he stayed within the law.

“Whether he felt comfortable about it the whole time or not, that’s really not the issue,” said Jacobs. “I think that he would make an outstanding clerk, and I think he’s done formidable work as a public servant.”

Amoroso told the New York Post that the DOI report “found no wrongdoing” on his part.

In his campaign for town clerk, Amoroso is promising more transparency and increased efficiency—while never once mentioning his former employer at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office by name in his numerous campaign bios.

As for who should oversee Hempstead Town’s $436 million budget, the voters in Long Island’s most populous township will have to decide how best to get things done, considering the town’s cash reserves have deteriorated and its bond rating has been lowered dramatically by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, which revised the town’s outlook from “stable” to “negative.” Besides the supervisor vacancy, three council seats currently held by Republican incumbents are on the ballot this election. Of the six seats on the town board, only one is held by a Democrat, Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, and she’s not up for re-election.

Bellone Likely a Shoe-in, But Legislative Races Could Be Costly for Dems and GOP

Democratic Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, left, is running for re-election against Republican challenger James O'Connor, right.

A 33-point lead may not be insurmountable on a football field—unless it’s late in the fourth quarter—but it’s a very tough hurdle in a political campaign with time running out before the general election. It happens to be the gap in the Suffolk County executive race, according to a recent poll.

The candidate on top is the incumbent, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a Democrat, and the underdog is his little-known Republican challenger James O’Connor, a former North Hempstead Town board member who moved from Nassau to Suffolk about a decade ago.

An Oct. 6 Siena College/Newsday/News 12 survey had Bellone enjoying a 61-28 percent advantage after 400 registered and likely voters weighed in. What’s also telling is that a majority told the same pollsters they thought that the county was on the right track.

Granted, the survey was conducted before Standard & Poor’s released its latest bond-rating that dropped Suffolk down another notch, from A+ to A, and also said the county’s long-term rating outlook was “negative.”

“This is a fiscal crisis beyond any that we’ve ever seen,” exclaimed Suffolk Republican Chairman John Jay LaValle, adding that “we have a county executive that can’t stop spending money.”

He noted that Bellone claims he hasn’t raised the general fund property tax increase for the fourth year in a row but won’t mention that police district taxes, which are slated to rise 3 percent in the county’s 2016 budget, have gone up in each of the last three years.

“He’s raising taxes and the bond rating’s diving,” LaValle told the Press. “We’re a mess and it’s getting worse.”

As for the prospects of O’Connor, LaValle’s pick to replace Bellone, the Republican chairman insisted that the “Sienna poll is flawed because it’s based on a balanced turnout [of voters on Election Day]…but Republicans vote in off-year elections and Democrats stay home.”

LaValle pointed out that the Sienna polls made the same mistake predicting that Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) would keep his Congressional seat instead of losing to state Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) last fall.

The Suffolk Republican party leader conceded that O’Connor “has a lot less money and got a later start” in the race than they would have liked “but the reality is that his message is strong and people are paying attention now.”

Getting enough Suffolk Democrats to re-elect Bellone as county executive race is definitely a worry for Suffolk Democratic Chairman Rich Schaffer, who’s also Babylon Town supervisor.

“I think Steve’s got a very good chance based on his record of accomplishment,” Schaffer told the Press, but “the one thing that concerns me is turnout, because this guy O’Connor has literally done nothing in this campaign.”

Schaffer said that usually in an off-year election like this one, about 23 percent to 27 percent of the registered voters come to the polls, and “that’s what we’ve focused our efforts on: educating the voters and putting a lot into our turnout operation.”

Regarding Suffolk’s declining bond rating, Schaffer said that under Bellone’s leadership the county has “made some great strides” in dealing with the structural imbalance in Suffolk’s fiscal condition, and Standard & Poor’s had taken that into consideration.

“It didn’t take one day to get into this situation,” Schaffer said, “and the financial rating agencies understand that it will take a lot of effort and time to get out of this situation.”

This year, despite having a Democratic incumbent as Suffolk County executive and a 10-to-6 majority of the Suffolk Legislature’s 18 seats (the Working Families Party and Independence Party also each have one), Schaffer’s party organization has had to overcome its own fiscal imbalance. In September Schaffer called a special meeting of the Democratic executive committee and reportedly got authorization to borrow up to $500,000. Schaffer, an attorney, had already given the party an $80,000 “no interest loan” to get through Election Day, he told the Press, explaining that they’d started door-to-door paid canvassing early this year and planned to launch TV ads in the next two weeks for a couple of legislative districts which he declined to name.

As for his own political forecast, Schaffer exclaimed, “I don’t think the town races are competitive as in years past.” Suffolk’s 10 townships are evenly split between the two parties, and that status quo will most likely remain unchanged after the Nov. 3 general election.

But Schaffer did predict that the race for the 14th Legislative District, currently held by Kevin J. McCaffrey, the legislature’s minority leader, “is going to be a very close race, and I think it could surprise the Republicans there.” The Democratic challenger is Tim Sini, Bellone’s deputy for public safety.

“We expect that we are going to have more Republican legislators after Election Day,” countered LaValle, the Suffolk GOP chairman. He put the number at “five, possibly six” seats.

No matter how he does the math, LaValle can’t count on the Republicans electing a candidate from the 9th Legislative District in Islip because they aren’t running one. But judging from the Islip Town Democratic Committee’s website, they aren’t running one, either. And that’s why the race for this seat is probably the bitterest political contest in Suffolk this fall because it’s split the local Democratic Party and could be a harbinger of a future upset to come.

It pits Legis. Monica Martinez, a Democrat now running on the Working Families Party and Independence Party lines, against Giovanni Mata, an Islip Democrat who won the primary because she dropped out of the race after her campaign was accused of filing fraudulent petitions to get her on the ballot. She declined to have her day in court, and Judge Joseph Santorelli directed the Suffolk Board of Elections not to put her name on the Democratic ballot in the September primary. Mata was the de facto winner.

Republican Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter, left, is running against Democratic challenger Tom Licari, right.
Republican Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter, left, is running against Democratic challenger Tom Licari, right.

At the head of Citizens United to Reform Islip, the Democratic slate of candidates that included Mata, was former Legis. Rick Montano, who was challenging the Islip Town Democratic Committee’s candidate Tom Licari for Islip supervisor in the primary. Licari wound up beating him by only 87 votes—1,000 to 913. Montano claims his campaign spent $13,000 compared to the $53,000 spent by the town committee with another $28,000 chipped in by Schaffer’s county committee. Schaffer did not dispute those figures but they may not include all the campaign expenditures depending on further review.

The turnout represented barely 2.9 percent of Islip’s 65,726 registered voters, and tellingly for the general election, Bellone had prominently supported Licari. Primaries rarely draw a high proportion of voters no matter who’s on the ballot in an off-year election, but the weather was also a factor in keeping people away from the polls since 2.3 inches of rain fell that day on Islip, more than 60 percent of the monthly average, according to the National Weather Service’s Upton facility.

Montano, who seemed surprisingly upbeat despite his defeat, said, “We did great, considering the forces against us.” His animosity toward his own party’s chairman is not a secret and the feeling is mutual.

Montano declined to endorse the triumphant Licari against the incumbent Republican Angie Carpenter, and Schaffer refused to back Mata in his legislative race. At the Sept. 24 meeting of the Suffolk County Democratic Executive Committee, held at the Melville Hilton, Schaffer not only urged members of his party to support Martinez for re-election, he went even further, infuriating Mata’s supporters who were there.

“I said he [Mata] should go look for support from his Republican friends that he has supported,” Schaffer told the Press. “I don’t think he has any intention of working with us.”

“Giovanni Mata is the designated candidate of the Democratic Party whether Schaffer likes it or not,” Montano said to the Press. “Once Giovanni gets elected, he’s a Democrat. He’s going to caucus [in the legislature] as a Democrat. If Schaffer tries to exclude him from the caucus, we will have the biggest fight, legally and otherwise, because that’s just not going to happen. Giovanni’s going to take his place as a Democratic legislator from this district.”

The 9th Suffolk County Legislative District, which includes Brentwood, Central Islip and North Bay Shore, predominantly represents African-American and Latino residents. As such, it’s also got a strong contingent of immigrants, particularly from El Salvador, which is still recovering from a bitter civil war. Mata, a native Salvadoran, moved to the U.S. when he was 13. Martinez emigrated from El Salvador when she was 3.

What happens in Islip this November may have a impact far beyond its borders. Compared to other Long Island towns, Islip’s political lineage is significant since it connects to the New York State Senate as well as Congress.

With Montano out of the race and plotting his next move, the competition for Islip Town supervisor features two candidates from Fire Island: Carpenter has a place in Ocean Beach and Licari has a home in Kismet. Licari’s campaign manager, Matt Tighe, explained that “his family has lived there for over 80 years,” but insisted that Licari has “strong roots all over town.” Carpenter ran her first race for county legislature in 1992 from West Islip and served in the legislature until 2005 when she was elected Suffolk County treasurer.

Earlier this year, Carpenter was appointed Islip supervisor by Islip Republican leaders to replace Tom Croci, who’d left town hall to run for the state senate. He defeated Adrienne Esposito, the executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. Esposito, a Democrat, had begun her campaign thinking she was going to oppose Islip Town board member Anthony Senft, who was implicated, fairly or not, by the dumping scandal involving tons of toxic waste found at Roberto Clemente Park and other sites. Since Senft, a Conservative, was the town board’s liaison to the parks department, the issue was too hot for him to handle. He withdrew from the race, and Croci entered it.

The state Senate seat was vacant because Sen. Lee Zeldin, the Republican then representing Shirley, had beaten his long-time Democratic rival, Rep. Tim Bishop, who’d creamed him the first time they faced each other. Nationally, Democrats were counting on Bishop to keep the House Republicans from gaining strength in Washington, D.C. In New York, Democrats were hoping to replace Zeldin and weaken the Republicans’ hold in Albany. It would have been like winning the trifecta since the Democrats already have the Assembly through gerrymandering and the governorship thanks to Andrew Cuomo.

But as the countdown to Nov. 3 gets closer, the state Senate remains in Republican hands, even though by party regulation it’s a tie, with 31 Republicans and 31 Democrats, and one seat vacant. In practice, the GOP wields control because five members of the Independent Democratic Caucus and a conservative Democrat from Brooklyn, Simcha Felder, conference with them, thereby making Sen. John Flanagan (R-Smithtown) the  majority leader. Flanagan took over the top post last year after Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) had to step down because he was indicted on federal corruption charges. Skelos, who pleaded not guilty, is still serving in the senate from his Nassau district pending the outcome of the case. Tellingly, Skelos’s indictment reportedly came about by a federal investigation into former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), who remains in office but yielded his powerful position to Assemb. Carl Hastie (D-Bronx), who graduated from Stony Brook University.

And for now, those powerful connections are about as good as it gets for Suffolk County. Until next year’s presidential election, when all bets are off and it’s a brand new game.

The Mets Go to the World Series: ‘Let the Blessings Flow!’



Last night the joy in Metsville reached euphoric dimensions as the improbable became the unbelievable: The Mets had swept the Cubs in four straight games, winning the National League pennant. Now they’ll play either the Kansas City Royals or the Toronto Blue Jays in the World Series starting Tuesday.

This amazing outcome for a team that unarguably sucked this summer had even seasoned observers saying crazy things as they tried to wrap their heads around it.

In the post-game analysis on SNY, Mets former manager Bobby Valentine, whose grin is broader than the one permanently plastered on Mr. Met, said he was so happy that he felt like ripping his clothes off, which provoked such laughter off camera that the studio started to sound like a sports bar in Queens. Remembering how he once showed up in the Mets dugout wearing a fake mustache after he’d been ejected for arguing with an umpire, you wouldn’t put it past him.

But you couldn’t blame him. Valentine was the skipper the last time the Mets reached this far when the Mets played the Yankees in the 2000 Subway Series—and the Yanks predictably triumphed.

In another studio Keith Hernandez, the great Mets first baseman with the dapper mustache, could barely contain himself as he tried to control his emotions, keep his suit buttoned, and describe what he said was an historic night for the franchise—and he’d been part of the 1986 World Series, the last time the Mets won it.

And that victory was never assured since Boston had taken an early 2-0 lead in the series before New York battled back. The Sox were about to clinch Game Six at Shea Stadium before the hometown crowd. The Mets were behind by a run in the bottom of the 10th inning with two outs and two strikes on Mets outfielder Mookie Wilson when his legendary squibbbler up the first base line slipped under the glove of Boston’s Bill Buckner. Following the advice of the immortal Mets sports radio announcer Howie Rose, we “put it in the books.”

Granted, over the years, Mets fans have been through a lot themselves, which makes the victory all that sweeter. We never take anything for granted. The darkness is always lurking off the foul lines.

Even last night, no lead was enough, especially when the Cubs had men on base. That’s the difference in confidence between Mets supporters and other fans.

In the back of our minds we remember 2004, when the Yankees had a 3-0 lead over the Red Sox for the American League pennant. Back then Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry admitted that he’d be hard-pressed to choose between the Red Sox’s finally winning the World Series in what seemed like a gazillion years or his beating the worst president since World War II, George W. Bush.

This time around we knew that baseball whiz Theo Epstein had left Boston to oversee the Chicago Cubs, bringing along Sox slugger Manny Ramirez to give hitting tips. How many times in the last few days have Boston fans evoked 2004, saying they’d like to watch a closer series? Are they kidding me? Let them root for the Blue Jays! We wanted it to end right there and then. But first we had no choice but to hang onto every pitch.

In the fourth inning, the Cubs had the bases loaded with no outs, for crying out loud, and they were only down by four runs. We’d seen what they’d done to the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates. They had slammed them to the ground. Then Cubs’ Starlin Castro drilled a shot toward left field. In a nanosecond our captain, David Wright, leaped high in the air like the great ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov and snagged it in his glove.

It may have been the defensive play of the game, and it was done by a guy with spinal stenosis, a debilitating, painful condition that had sidelined him for months this season, even casting doubt on whether his career as a Met was over. Now, he’s going to the World Series to represent a team he’s played for since he first came to the Majors.

And what about the guy who cried this season when he thought he’d been traded? Wilmer Flores heard the news from social media as he took his position at short stop, fighting back the tears, as fans at Citi Field applauded him for his service. His unabashed loyalty to a team he’d been associated with since he was 17 years old was cathartic. At the time, the idea that a player actually cared about being a Met when the team was barely above .500 seemed inconceivable. After all, this was a team that had been no-hit by a no-name pitcher from the San Francisco Giants when there were more SF fans than Mets fans in the stands.

Last night in Chicago Flores caught a foul amid the bull-pen crowd gathered near the third-base stands, making a play reminiscent of Yanks’ Derek Jeter. It was a huge out. The metaphorical clouds of doom and gloom that had been gathering suddenly parted, at least temporarily. Soon, the team’s transformation from mediocre to superior was complete with an 8-3 win.

Following his unparalleled Mets pitching peers—Noah “Thor” Syndegaard, Matt “The Dark Knight” Harvey, and the lanky, long-haired Jacob DeGrom—Long Island native Steve Matz pitched a great game. The 24-year-old rookie lefthander who starred at Ward-Melville High School almost got a hit down the right-field line himself. In his Major League debut back in June, he’d hit a two-run double, and went 3-for 3. When he was 11, Matz had reportedly first come to the attention of professional baseball when he was spotted by a scout at Baseball Heaven in Yaphank, which many frustrated parents of Long Island Little Leaguers probably know as Baseball Purgatory. Now he’s living the dream, pitching his favorite team from childhood into the World Series.

There are many things to savor from last night’s game, which condemned the Cubs to their 107th consecutive season without a championship. To them, we say, wait ‘til next year.

First, hats off to Terry Collins, the oldest manager in baseball, at 66, who pointed out that he clinched the pennant on what would’ve been his parents’ 73rd wedding anniversary. He’d played for a decade in the minors, and became a manager in 1981, even getting fired along the way.

As Collins told reporters in Chicago after the game, he got a note from his mom when he was 12 years old so he could skip school and watch the 1960 World Series between the Pirates and the Yankees. “Then I’m sitting there tonight (thinking), ‘Holy crap, now you’re in it, after all these years!’”

Collins made a lot of great moves over the season to keep the team competitive. To the consternation of fans, he stuck with the slumping first baseman Lucas Duda in the playoffs—he’d been 3-for-24—and last night Collins was rewarded big time. Duda hit a three-run blast off Cubs’ Jason Hammel, who’d had him buried in a 3-2 hole. Up next was catcher Travis D’Arnoud, who also homered. The team had a four-run lead and the first inning wasn’t even over. But I don’t know any long-time Mets fans who dared to relax. It was too early for that.

Weird things also happened last night in Chicago. When D’Arnoud was behind the plate, the Cubs Tommy LaStella fouled a ball off his face mask that plunked the Cubs Miguel Montero’s batting helmet as he stood on deck. Cubs veteran catcher David Ross blanked out that our pitcher, Steven Matz, only had two strikes when he ran off the field thinking his team was out of the inning. Maybe Ross forgot he was in the National League.

And poor, pitiful, portly Kyle Schwarber, a former catcher whom the Cubs stuck in left field. He landed flat on his belly more than once, his white uniform stained green with Wrigley Field grass, his miscues helping the Mets pile on their lead.

This team may have never trailed in the playoffs but that was the farthest thought from my mind when Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets phenomenal center-fielder with the thick bushy eyebrows, was spotted in the dugout, wearing a pennant championship T-shirt as well as his protective goggles for post-game champagne spraying. Cespedes hadn’t been seen since he’d left the game in the second inning with a sore shoulder. Good god, the game wasn’t over yet! Talk about a jinx, about hubris, about tempting fate! Put a duffel bag over that guy and hustle him back inside the locker room!

But there were his teammates leaning over the railing, smiling, laughing, waiting to mob the mound. Bartolo Colon, our 42-year-old veteran pitcher, looked like a bemused Buddha as he contemplated his first trip to the Fall Classic. He’d come on to relieve Matz in the fifth-inning after three Mets players had let a shallow two-out pop-out drop amid them. Colon pitched perfectly, keeping the Cubs at bay.

And then, when we thought there was nothing left for him to prove, Daniel Murphy hit a two-run homer in the top of the eighth-inning. It was Murphy’s sixth consecutive home run in the playoffs, not only a franchise record, but one for the history books! His achievement earned him the MVP trophy for the National League championship series. Afterwards, the Mets right-fielder Curtis Granderson told reporters that “I can tell my kids I played with Babe Ruth!” Some of us would nominate Granderson as the Mets MVP for the inspiring role he’d played all season long in keeping the team in the hunt for October.

Asked for an explanation about his amazing home-run streak, Murphy said, “I can’t explain. Just ride it…” As he put it to another reporter, “Let the blessings flow!”

Who thought he’d stay this hot? Nobody I know. After all, during the regular season, he only hit 14 home runs, his career high, and here he was aiming for the record books. When he came to bat in the eighth inning, who expected him to “go yard”? The Mets had six runs, the Cubs only one. But then lightning struck again—and Murphy hit a two-run homer beyond the ivy-covered walls of Wrigley Field. You just can’t make this up. No Hollywood producer would buy this script.

But here they are, four games away from a ticker-tape parade down Broadway. Who would have believed it?

Mets Channel Spirit Of ’86 In Amazin’ Victory Over Dodgers

New York Mets
The amazin' New York Mets encapsulated the Spirit Of '86 in their stunning victory over the Dodgers on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015. (Photo: New York Mets Facebook)

Let’s call it the Spirit of ’86. The Mets pulled off an amazing 3-to-2 victory against one of the most talented pitchers in the Major Leagues, Dodgers’ ace Zack Greinke, when everything was on the line in Game 5 of the National League division series.

It was one for the ages, certainly propelling Daniel Murphy, the quirky second baseman, into the Mets pantheon with the great outfielder Mookie Wilson.

As generations of New Yorkers know well, in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, Mookie Wilson hit a dribbler up the first-base line that improbably found its way between the legs of the Red Sox veteran Bill Buckner and allowed the winning run to cross the plate in the bottom of the 10th inning. His single illustrated once again that in America’s pastime it’s the small things that can have the most impact.

That lesson was repeated Thursday night. In the post-game brouhaha in the Mets locker room, with champagne spraying and players yelling, an obviously inebriated pitcher Jon Niese barged into a television interview with Murphy to proclaim that Murphy “is the hottest man in baseball!”

Yes, he’d won the game with a home run off the Dodgers ace, and gone 3-for-4 with two RBIs. But more tellingly, he’d tied the game when the Mets’ best pitcher, the lanky long-haired Jacob DeGrom, was struggling just to keep the Metropolitans one run behind in the perils of Chavez Ravine, where so many outsiders’ dreams of victory have gone to die.

But not this week in LA. The pivotal play wasn’t Murph’s blast to the stands—that came later, thank the gods—but his lackadaisical jog between first and second base that turned into a mad dash for third when the Dodgers had fallen asleep at the wheel. They’d just formed their exaggerated defensive shift to put more players on the right side of the field to thwart Mets’ slumping first baseman Lucas Duda, who almost always hits that way—when he hits, that is.

This time, instead of striking out and looking clueless, Duda eked out a walk, but more tellingly, he lingered a moment to chat with the home-plate umpire before sauntering to first. It was just enough of a distraction, intentional or not, so the Dodgers didn’t pay attention to Murphy until it was too late. He’d noticed that no Dodger was covering third, just our third-base coach Tim Teufel, a key player on the ’86 Mets, who happened to be idly kicking the bag with his toe. In a New York minute, Murph joined him there and subsequently scored on a sacrifice fly from catcher Travis d’Arnoud.

As WOR710’s sports announcer Josh Lewin enthused, it was a monumental “Murphilicious” night for our second baseman, who spent 15 days on the DL back in June, another reason for the team’s horrible July when all hope seemed lost.

It’s too soon to say that manager Terry Collins will join the ’86 manager Davy Johnson in Mets mythology but he’s headed in the right direction. Sandy Koufax, the Hall-of-Fame Dodger pitcher (and New Yorker) reportedly complimented Collins to a couple of sports reporters before Game 2, telling them, “Is he the manager of the year? I don’t know. I’m not voting. But I think so.”

In Game 5, Collins made all the right moves, including one he didn’t make. Four times he said he’d come close to removing DeGrom from the game, and he had our rookie starter Noah “Thor” Syndergaard warming up in the bullpen as a reliever. Usually, when the manager comes out of the dugout to visit the pitcher on the mound, he’s sending him to the showers. But not this time.

Collins renewed DeGrom’s confidence, and our pitcher induced a key double-play to end the sixth inning when the Dodgers posed yet another serious threat.

Many in Mets nation may have let out howls of protest and dismay—a not unheard of response when watching the team from Queens—when Collins had the mighty Thor start throwing his hammers and fireballs in the seventh. But the savvy 66-year-old manager proved them wrong, once again.

Syndergaard did something that had eluded DeGrom all night: He struck out LA’s Justin Turner, the mangy red-head who’s been batting above .500 in the series—an amazing stat, and frustrating, too, since he never got the chance to prove his prowess when he was in a Mets uniform because he was a backup infielder playing behind our captain David Wright and Daniel Murphy.

Yet another Collins’ decision may have caused Mets fans huge amounts of agita when he brought in our super-talented closer, Jeurys Familia, in the eighth inning. That meant our formidable closer would have to get six outs, not three, before they could “put it in the books,” as the great announcer Howie Rose says after every Mets victory.

The doubters could also be forgiven their misgivings in the ninth inning when it looked like the Dodgers would come back on a deep fly off the bat of pinch-hitter Chase Utley on a 1-2 pitch. Fortunately, he’d gotten under it and the ball was caught.

As Mets fans will never forget, Utley’s illegal slide into second base in Game 2 broke the leg of our short stop, Ruben Tejada. Subsequently, the Dodger infielder was suspended but he was able to play in Game 5 because his appeal won’t be heard until Monday. Now he’ll have plenty of time to spend at the hearing because his team won’t be facing the Chicago Cubs in the pennant race that begins this weekend.

The cosmos has spoken. Ruben Tejada is avenged and the Mets advance.

In Chicago, people say that the Cubs have the best chance in years to finally lift the Curse of the Billy Goat, which has bedeviled the club since 1945.

Whether the Mets’ luck will hold up against them is anybody’s guess. But then who would have thought that Mookie Wilson’s squibbler up the first base line—that looked like a sure out when the ball left his bat—would have helped the Mets go on to win the 1986 World Series?

You never know, but you always gotta believe.

Ruben’s Revenge! Mets Chase Utley, Dodgers in 13-Run Rout to Keep Despair at Bay

New York Mets Getty Images
New York Mets Getty Images


I think it’s safe to say we can now stop worrying about whether the Mets would win Game 3 of their National League Division Series against the Dodgers, or more specifically, against Chase Utley. He was enough of a thorn in the Mets’ side when he played second base for the Phillies before his sinister slide took out our spirited shortstop Ruben Tejada Saturday night in LA.

At first glimpse, it looked to me like Tejada had kneed Utley in the head since his helmet flew off as they collided, and I assumed he’d be on the receiving end of a concussion. But the damage was much worse for our side. Tejada had broken his right leg, the out at second was overruled, the run counted, and the Dodgers were suddenly on the rebound as our player was carted off the field and headed for the DL.

Now in the twilight of his career, the 36-year-old Utley has always played the game hard. As a second baseman he’s been on the receiving end of more than a few take-out slides himself. When he’s been in the batter’s box, he’s been plunked so many times he’s earned a hit-by-pitch ranking in the record books—right up there with Alex Rodriguez, who’s also “taken one for the team” many times in his Yankee Pinstripes.

Like our version of the Roman Games, Mets fans wanted blood. Had I been at Citi Field Monday night, I’m sure I would have loudly joined in the Greek chorus chanting “We Want Utley!” until my throat hurt. I’m glad Joe Torre, acting as the Majors’ chief baseball officer, suspended him for two games because he went into the slide rather late.

Through the players union, he’s appealing his suspension, and the process could drag on for a while. So be it. Just having Utley around was enough to motivate the hometown crowd. But would it be enough to focus the Mets? By the second inning, doubts were on the upswing in New York as Los Angeles had a 3-0 lead.

Before the game, the Mets manager Terry Collins, an infuriating master of understatement to those passionate fans who liken him to “an empty bag of balls” or “a hood ornament,” had assessed the situation this way: “Broke my shortstop’s leg. That’s all I know.”

The Mets players were seething, hungering for revenge—as were legions of fans. Collins reportedly discouraged our Game 3 starter, the Dark Knight himself, Matt Harvey, from seeking retaliation because Collins knew that Harvey would have been ejected immediately—and our bullpen is shaky enough in long relief—except for that amazing 42-year-old Bartolo Colon, who can shake it and not break it—and he has a whole lot to shake when he mounts that mound.

What was the matter with the Dark Knight? We wanted revenge! Harvey gave up four consecutive singles. Had Collins been a downer?

Not to worry! Of course, being a true Mets fan means never not worrying. The team did roar back, thanks to Dodgers starter Brett Anderson, one of the weak links in their strong rotation. In the bottom of the second inning, our hyper right-fielder, Curtis Granderson blasted a three-run double that just missed being a home run. Before we could exhale, our team had not only tied the game, they’d taken the lead.


What hit was sweeter in Game 3? Some may claim that Yoenis Cespedes’s three-run homer to the upper deck—431 feet from home plate—took the cake. I loved that, too, but I think Travis d’Arnoud’s two-run shot was the icing. Until then, he’d been in a bad playoff slump, 0-for-7. We need his bat to come alive and it finally did. Somebody always seems to step up on this 2015 team—when they’re hot, that is. One day it’s David Wright—and to me, his two-run single, which turned out to be the game winner, in Game 1 was just such a tribute to his inspiring work ethic, his constant pain, and his valor. Another time up comes Daniel Murphy or Lucas Duda to make a difference. You never know.

The Mets scored 13 runs in all—a franchise playoff record. But no lead is ever enough for the Mets, as far as I’m concerned.

After Harvey put the Mets in a three-run hole, he told Collins it’d go no deeper. He had a tough game but he proved his worth. Harvey had thrown 97 pitches through five innings, nearing his do-no-harm limit. With typical flourish, Colon came in and struck out the side. The next inning Colon gave up a run, so Collins had our great rookie phenom Michael Conforto pinch-hit for him, and he came through with a deep sacrifice fly.

Could we begin to relax? Are you kidding me? We’re coasting into the ninth inning, 13-to-4, and the next thing we knew a forgettable pitcher named Erik Goeddel—and the sooner the Mets forget him the better—had given up a three-run homer and a single. That comfy cushion the Mets had built up didn’t feel so comfortable.

Certainly some fans had departed the stands or switched off the game because they actually had to show up for work Tuesday morning, and they are blameless, but those who could afford to stick it out knew the truth: It ain’t over til it’s over, as the great philosopher of baseball, Yogi Berra, used to say. Just beyond the base paths lies the abyss.

Here we were, Game 3, a must-win for the Mets given all that had transpired in Game 2. There were no outs. The Dodgers were threatening. The skies were darkening. So when Collins motioned to the bullpen and brought out our closer, Jeurys Familia, to finish what Harvey had started, it all made perfect sense. Of course, it wasn’t a save situation—the Mets had a six-run lead. But give Collins credit. He has embraced the Mets’ existential condition. Watching the lead shrink by another run or two (or three, god help us!) would have let all the good feeling of revenge and triumph slip away. Who let the dogs out? Defeat, which had seemed so improbable, suddenly seemed plausible. Just like that, it began to feel like the worst day in July when the Mets couldn’t do anything right—and our captain, David Wright, was nowhere in sight. Oh, let us rejoice that the mighty Familia was on our mound Monday night. With his command, the inning was soon mercifully behind us and victory was ours.

So now we can start worrying about Game 4.