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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

For political parties in Nassau and Suffolk, it's appoint now, elect later

Nassau County Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs in Glen

Nassau County Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs in Glen Cove, as seen on Jan. 14. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Republicans do it.

Democrats do it.

And, last month, in the Town of Hempstead — where such doings have been executed expertly, and with regularity, for decades — Republicans did it once more by appointing Thomas Muscarella to fill a council seat through the rest of the year.

With that, Muscarella — brother of both Joseph, an Oyster Bay Town council member, and Vincent, a Nassau County lawmaker — gains an advantage: He gets to run for a full term in November, all the while occupying the seat for which he is running.

The alternative, as always, would be special elections to fill such vacancies.

But that hardly ever happens.

In Nassau, Republicans have been making such appointments for years, under a system dubbed "the chairs."

Here's how it works:

An elected official steps down before his or her term ends, and that position is filled — via appointment — with the party's choice.

In this instance, however, Muscarella is an exception to the way such appointments usually are made. That's because he's filling a seat occupied by former council member Edward Ambrosino, who, under state law, was forced to vacate the seat once he pleaded guilty to federal tax evasion charges.

Republicans aren't the only ones with appointment fever.

In Democrat-controlled North Hempstead recently, Veronica Lurvey was appointed to fill a spot vacated by Anna Kaplan, who became a state senator. Lurvey — like Muscarella — also is running for a full term, while occupying the seat she wants voters to select her for.

In Huntington, Democrats appointed Joan Cergol to the town board during its last meeting of the year in 2017. That was just before Republicans, in January 2018, assumed control of the town for the first time in decades.

Cergol ran in 2018 and — as oft happens with appointees of either party — won.

In a February Spin Cycle blog item in Newsday, Jay Jacobs, who chairs both New York State's and Nassau County's Democratic parties, tried to sell the notion that Democrats appointing elected officials rather than slating special elections is different from Republicans appointing elected officials rather than slating special elections.

Republicans, natch, disagree. 

But enough already.

It's your turn.

Who was appointed first, elected later?

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