Since Suffolk Police Commissioner Timothy Sini became the Democratic nominee for Suffolk district attorney three weeks ago, he has yet to speak out in public as a candidate for the county’s most powerful elected law enforcement post.
Until now, Sini has relied primarily on his campaign chairman David Kelley, former U.S. attorney for New York’s Southern District, to speak for him. Sini also sent out a one-page email to 5,000 people late last week to make his case on “Why I’m running.”
Sini declined initially to say when he will begin campaigning as he seeks the $194,000-a-year district attorney’s job. Later, he said he expected to hold town hall meetings starting this summer.
Sini, who also has the Conservative, Independence and Working Families Party ballot lines, acknowledges his only political appearances to date have been in private with officials of the four parties.
On Friday, Sini spoke to nearly 100 members of Long Island Metro Business Action at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel in Ronkonkoma. But he dealt only with his role as boss of the county’s 2,500-member police department, although handbills for the event did mention his district attorney candidacy.
After the event, Sini said he did not see the speech as political, but simply part of his “community outreach” as police commissioner, and the business group “respected that.”
County police spokesman Justin Meyers said that since Democrats nominated Sini on June 1, Sini has made nine nonpolitical community appearances — similar to the schedule he has kept since becoming commissioner 17 months ago. Right after his speech, Sini held a news conference in Lindenhurst on a traffic initiative.
Legis. Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), GOP caucus leader, criticized Sini for “using his position as police commissioner and its resources to run for district attorney.”
McCaffrey said he could not “recall another police commissioner going to a business group to discuss police strategy or holding a news conference with all kinds of cameras on pedestrian safety. The only thing missing were local officials who represent the area.”
Rich Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman, said Sini is only being careful to avoid becoming embroiled in politics.
“He believes the district attorney should be above politics, both in the office and also in the campaign,” Schaffer said. “People have responded to his work as police commissioner and they have a good sense of who he is and how he handles himself.”
But attorney Ray Perini, the Republican designee for district attorney, said Sini is trying to “raise his profile” while ducking questions about his credentials.
“At some point, he will have to explain why he’s qualified to be district attorney since he’s never stepped inside a state court,” said Perini, who has made 15 campaign appearances this month.
Bill Ferris, who plans to run against Perini in the GOP primary, said if Sini’s dual role as candidate and commissioner is proper, “Why is he afraid to campaign?”
Others question whether Sini’s strategy will work.
“There’s a reason they called it the ‘Rose Garden strategy,’ because everyone knows the incumbent president,” said Michael Dawidziak, a political consultant who works mainly for Republicans. “It doesn’t work for lower offices because people generally don’t know who you are.”