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More than a dozen may be interested in running for Suffolk DA

Suffolk County acting Police Commissioner Timothy Sini is

Suffolk County acting Police Commissioner Timothy Sini is shown during an interview with Newsday at police headquarters in Yaphank on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

For the first time in 16 years, the election for Suffolk County district attorney won’t involve Thomas Spota — and in his absence, more than a dozen potential candidates are jockeying for prized major and minor party endorsements.

Spota, first elected as a Democrat in 2001, received the backing of Democrats, Republicans, Conservatives and the Independence Party in all three of his re-elections, ensuring that his name was always the only one on the November ballot.

That political dominance made challenges rare. Attorney Ray Perini was one of the few to try, losing a 2013 GOP primary bid by a wide margin, after Spota had won a lawsuit to exempt the district attorney’s office from Suffolk’s 12-year term-limit law.

But this year, as it became less likely that Spota would seek a fifth four-year term, potential candidates from various corners of the law enforcement community began testing the political waters with increased frequency.

Most prominent among them is Suffolk Police Commissioner Timothy Sini, a former federal prosecutor and ally of County Executive Steve Bellone who initially told county lawmakers he wouldn’t run.

Other potential Democratic candidates include David Calone, a venture capitalist who also worked as a federal prosecutor; William Wexler, a defense attorney and former county prosecutor who shares offices with Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer; Tad Scharfenberg, a defense attorney and former county prosecutor who ran for district attorney in 1997; James Chalifoux, deputy bureau chief of the district attorney’s major crimes bureau; Maureen McCormick, a top Nassau prosecutor who lives in Huntington; and Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan’s Law, an advocacy group for victims of sexual assault.

Among Republicans and Conservatives, Perini, a former district attorney’s narcotics bureau chief, has announced his intention to run. Other potential Republican or Conservative candidates are William Ferris, a Navy veteran and former prosecutor; Robert Biancavilla, top homicide prosecutor in Spota’s office; John Halverson, a private practice attorney and former county prosecutor; Edward Friedland, district executive of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan; Andrew Crecca, a state Supreme Court justice and former county legislator; and Patrick O’Connell, a former prosecutor who is in private law practice with Suffolk County Conservative chairman Frank Tinari.

The county’s party chairmen have yet to announce their favored candidates.

Michael Dawidziak, a Bohemia political consultant who works largely with Republicans, said: “It becomes a democracy in November. Now it’s in the parties’ purview.”

With Suffolk’s history of cross-endorsements, he added that voters shouldn’t assume that it will be an open field.

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