Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy on Thursday stunned political onlookers by announcing that he would not run for a third term this November.
Levy had been under scrutiny for his campaign fundraising methods, though he remained the favorite to win another term and had a warchest of about $4 million at his arsenal for a re-election campaign.
In a letter to the public, Levy said he had wavered over running for another term as county executive after losing his New York gubernatorial bid in 2010.
But Levy also said questions over fundraising also weighed on his decision to step aside at the end of his term. Levy added that he was turning over his campaign funds to District Attorney Tom Spota.
In a separate statement, Spota said there is no proof the county executive profited from his fundraising activities. However, Spota said "serious issues" were discovered by his office. Spota added that those who donated to Levy's campaign can request their money back, otherwise it will be donated to charity.
"To avoid political gain by another person or political party I have determined that no distribution will be made until after the November 2011 election," Spota said in a statement.
Levy spokesman Mark Smith would not comment.
Here is Levy's full letter to the public:
I have been blessed by having had the privilege of being a public servant for twenty-five of my fifty-one years. Fifteen years as a County Legislator, three years as a state assemblyman and the last seven years as Suffolk County’s Executive.
During the time, there were both great challenges and a large number of successes. But twenty-five years is a long time to do anything. Last year when I said I’d have to think long and hard if I’d seek a third term as County Executive, many folks thought I was posturing. But, my indecision was indeed genuine.
Long hours, tough decisions, grueling debates, family sacrifices and a feeling that after a while you’ve accomplished what you set out to do on one level and look to new challenges.
That’s why last year I put at risk an otherwise safe re-election for County Executive in 2011 for a chance to run for Governor. I yearned for the chance to change the state for the better as I believe I did in the county. I said to friends that if I didn’t run I would regret it for the rest of my life. It would be my swan song. I knew if I wasn’t successful that I might not seek a third term as County Executive. While I didn’t move on to a higher office it’s time to decide whether I’ll seek a third term as County Executive. After much discussion with my family and due to my desire to tackle other challenges I am announcing that I will not be seeking another term.
My decision was not made lightly. There were concerns about staff I’d leave behind and the impact the decision would have on the Republican Party that so warmly welcomed me last year.
There is a reason I didn’t announce a campaign manager or do a poll; I was truly undecided, but now the time has come to make this important decision.
Questions have been raised concerning fundraising through my political campaign. Since this occurred under my watch I accept responsibility.
In order to resolve these questions I will be turning over my campaign funds to the Suffolk County District Attorney.
I thank the people of Suffolk County for the opportunity to have served them these many years.