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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Suffolk judicial cross-endorsements deprive voters of choice

Follow closely, if you dare.

Frank Tantone, head of the Suffolk Republican party, is a candidate for family court judge.

Oh, who are we kidding? Tantone’s got the spot — no matter how Suffolk votes, come November — because the county’s four major and minor political parties are endorsing him.

And his is not the only candidacy already locked in.

With the deal, according to a story by Newsday’s Rick Brand, Conservative Anthony Senft is getting a promotion as well.

To county court judge.

After spending just one year on the bench, as a district court judge.

Consider that, should fate one day pull you into a courtroom.

Cross-endorsements, of judges or any other candidates, rob voters of choice.

And while the move is not illegal, it most certainly is undemocratic: A gaggle of party leaders substituting their judgments — pun intended — for those of voters hardly engenders a spontaneous chorus of “She’s A Grand Old Flag.”

This four-way deal guarantees that Tantone and Senft — along with Democrat Martha Luft of Riverhead and Independence Party member Cathy Bergmann of Speonk — are shoo-ins for judicial seats.

And it doesn’t stop there.

In a separate pact, Suffolk’s Conservative party will endorse all GOP candidates for State Senate and Assembly — dropping a threat party chairman Frank Tinari made earlier to withhold the party’s imprimateur unless John Jay LaValle was removed as GOP party leader.

In Suffolk — and in Nassau, for that matter — cross-endorsements matter because an increasingly larger number of Long Island voters are turning away from the Republican and Democratic parties to minor parties.

It’s fatigue from the way things work.

Which makes the way things — like cross-endorsements — keep working all the more frustrating.

Because aside from virtually guaranteeing election, the practice isolates candidates from having to answer questions about their qualifications, or relevant queries about their past.

Take Tantone and Senft, for example.

Last fall, Tantone was supposed to be a candidate for state Supreme Court justice. But ultimately he deferred, deciding that it was better to stay where he was rather than risk losing after then-Conservative chairman Edward Walsh decided to cross-endorse Democrats rather than Republicans.

Senft, back then, was all set to run for the State Senate. But he too decided to step back after months of blistering publicity over the dumping of contaminated debris at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood.

Senft — then an Islip town board member who never was personally implicated in the scandal — had been the board’s parks liaison.

But both are gamboling towards easy street now, courtesy of party leaders.

Justice is supposed to be blind.

But, when it comes to cross-endorsements, Suffolk’s voters need not be.

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