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GOP agrees to back Democrat for judge next year

The judicial cross-endorsement deal reached this week between Republicans and Democrats from Nassau and Suffolk turns out to be a two-year pact that includes a GOP commitment to back Democratic Appellate Judge Sandra Sgroi for re-election to State Supreme Court next year.

Officials in both parties confirmed that Sgroi, 60, of Smithtown, will get GOP backing next year because Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer agreed to give his party's line for Supreme Court this year to Republican Nassau County Court Judge John Galasso and Huntington GOP vice chairman David Reilly.

Beyond the GOP endorsement of Sgroi, Schaffer said he is "very open" to discussing a cross-endorsement next year of state chief administrative Judge A. Gail Prudenti, a Suffolk Republican, and Supreme Court Justice Thomas Whelan, an Independence Party member and ally of the minor party's chairman, Frank MacKay.

"I think this agreement will lead to further discussions to benefit the judiciary to retain good judges like Gail and Tom Whelan," Schaffer said Wednesday.

Nassau GOP chairman Joseph Mondello on Monday suspended his decades-old policy of not cross-endorsing Democratic judges after Suffolk Conservative chairman Edward Walsh, who controls 30 of his minor party's 46 judicial delegates, balked at backing Galasso.

Supreme Court candidates run in both Nassau and Suffolk. Nominations traditionally are parceled out to the county that has held the seats, and this marked the third year in a row that Walsh had sought to take Nassau judicial spots.

In making the agreement, Mondello said he "totally trusted" Schaffer and expressed the willingness to explore future cooperation.

Also Monday, Nassau and Suffolk Conservatives at their convention named a Supreme Court judicial slate of Suffolk party member Matthew Hughes, a law secretary to Conservative State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Pastoressa; Frank Tinari, Huntington Conservative chairman; Michael Gajdos, a party vice chairman from Ronkonkoma; and Dan Sullivan, an Islip Conservative executive committee member from Oakdale.

Hughes would have gotten the GOP ballot line, had talks between Walsh and the GOP not broken down. Walsh has not returned calls for comment.

The Independence Party also named their slate, which includes Democrat Arthur Pitts, Gajdos, Tinari and Hughes.

Daniel Donovan, Nassau Conservative chairman, said, "My concern is that there should be someone from Nassau County and I originally requested Jack Galasso. Ed Walsh said he would think about it, but didn't go for it." Donovan said he was pleased Galasso received a cross-endorsement.


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