Suffolk voters sidelined in 3 key races

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota. (Jan. 29, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota. (Jan. 29, 2013) Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

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Joye Brown Newsday columnist Joye Brown

Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006. She joined the newspaper in 1983 and has ...

Choice is good.

In Nassau County, the number of potential Democratic candidates for county executive tripled last week.

Former County Executive Thomas Suozzi? North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman? Roslyn school board member Adam Haber? Which of the Democrats will face incumbent Republican Edward Mangano? So far, nobody's bowing out -- a glorious tangle of a mess that early on is drawing voters' attention to the race.

Compare that with what happened in Suffolk last week, when major political party leaders reduced county races for district attorney, sheriff and treasurer to a festival of yawns.

Rather than running their own candidate, Suffolk Republican leaders said they would endorse incumbent District Attorney Thomas Spota, a Democrat, for a second time, along with Republican Treasurer Angie Carpenter and conservative Sheriff Vincent DeMarco.

Earlier, Democrats indicated they would cross-endorse Republican Carpenter, while conservative leaders are slated to meet soon to cross endorse Spota and Carpenter, too.

The moves will free all three to run unopposed.

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At least Carpenter, who ran unsuccessfully against County Executive Steve Bellone in 2011, has been on a campaign trail recently.

But Spota has had no major party opposition since he first won office in 2001. He was cross-endorsed for re-election in 2005 and again in 2009 and now will be cross-endorsed in 2013 to seek another four-year term.

The party leaders' decisions came after Spota, DeMarco and Republican county clerk Judith Pascale won a court decision throwing out part of Suffolk's term-limit law.

The law bars county elected officials from serving more than 12 years in office, but a state judge ruled that county lawmakers had no authority to impose limits on offices created in the state constitution.

Spota has yet to formally announce his intention to seek a fourth term. But if he does -- as is likely -- he will not have to do much campaigning. Nor will DeMarco or Carpenter.

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That is not good.

Surely there were issues with the district attorney's office, the sheriff and maybe even the treasurer that could benefit from a good airing.

Instead, Suffolk voters will go to the polls and likely be left to look down at ballots with one name for sheriff, one for district attorney and one for treasurer.

Cross-endorsements are not new. On Long Island, political leaders for years have agreed on cross-endorsements for some judicial candidates. That may not matter to most voters, however, because -- let's be honest -- few take the time to research judicial candidates.

But the district attorney's office is a key county post, with duties that include prosecution of high-profile felony and political corruption cases. And given the controversy over whether the sheriffs or county police would patrol some portions of the Long Island Expressway and Sunrise Highway -- the police won out in a recent agreement with Bellone -- it might have been interesting to hear some debate on the matter.

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But that's not going to happen. While Nassau's going through the messy and beautifully democratic process of making political sausage, three positions in Suffolk already have been smoked, bubble-wrapped and stored out of voters' reach.

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