After months of political whispering, it’s now official.
Conservative Huntington District Court Judge Marian Rose Tinari, wife of the Suffolk Conservative chairman Frank Tinari, filed papers Monday with the county’s administrative judge indicating she is interested in seeking the position of Surrogate’s Judge in November.
The disclosure is likely to make Tinari, 54, a judge since 2015, the center of cross-endorsement talks between Suffolk Conservatives, Republicans and Democrats over as many as 16 local judgeships. The talks also are likely to cover the elected offices of Suffolk comptroller and county clerk, now held by Republican John M. Kennedy Jr. and Judith Pascale.
From 2002-2009, Tinari was principal law clerk to Surrogate’s Judge John Czygier, who after 16 years in the post is reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70. Tinari later served also counsel and spokeswoman for Suffolk Administration Judge C. Randall Hinrichs, before becoming a judge herself.
The Surrogate’s post, held by the GOP in Suffolk for at least a century, is highly influential politically because the court doles out patronage as it authorizes guardianships, conservatorships and other work overseeing wills, estates and adoptions.
“She’s definitely one of the leading contenders,” Richard Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman, said of Tinari. “I worked with her many times when she was in the Surrogate’s court; she knows that court backward and forward.”
John Jay LaValle, Suffolk GOP chairman, said he’s “heard nothing but good things” about Tinari, saying “we would give her very serious consideration.”
Were Tinari to be nominated and win, she would become the first Conservative Surrogate’s judge in Suffolk history and only the second woman to hold the post.
A. Gail Prudenti, the state’s former chief administrative judge and now dean of Hofstra Law School, was the first female Surrogate. Prudenti served for six years beginning in 1995.
Mary Porter, clerk to Administrative Judge C. Randall Hinrichs, said Tinari in her papers expressed interest only in the Surrogate’s job.
Sara Jane LaCova, executive director of the Suffolk County Bar Association, said Tinari has not yet made an appointment to be screened by the bar association. Both major parties have agreed to nominate only candidates the bar association finds qualified.
Two Republican state Supreme Court Justices, Paul Baisley Jr., 63, and David Reilly, 56, also have expressed interest in the Surrogate’s race.
Schaffer said several Democratic judges whom he declined to identify have informally expressed interest in the Surrogate’s contest.
Tinari was first appointed to District Court by Democratic Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in March, 2015, and confirmed by the Democratic county legislature. She was elected to the post later that year with the backing of major and minor parties.
Tinari’s move comes as dissident Conservatives led by Kenneth Auerbach continue to challenge the legitimacy of her husband’s election as county party chairman in 2016. The case is before Westchester state Supreme Court Justice Charles D. Wood.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated A. Gail Prudenti’s current position. She is dean of Hofstra Law School.