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Singas beats Scotto in Democratic primary for Nassau DA

Acting Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas, right, beat

Acting Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas, right, beat former prosecutor Michael Scotto, left, by a wide margin in the Democratic primary for district attorney, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy / Danielle Finkelstein

Acting Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas easily defeated former Manhattan prosecutor Michael Scotto Thursday night in the Democratic primary for district attorney -- Nassau's only countywide race.

Singas, the party-backed candidate, beat Scotto, an underdog who had fought off an attempt to kick him off the ballot, by a nearly 3-1 margin.

Turnout, held down by rain and the unusual Thursday primary date, was just 3 percent of Nassau's 363,000 registered Democrats, results from the county elections board show.

Singas, who stood in front of dozens of supporters at Louie's Oyster Bar in Port Washington, relished the large victory. "We took a step toward ending public corruption, fighting the scourge of heroin and cracking down on the violent criminals who threaten our communities," she said in a speech just before 11 p.m.

In a telephone interview, Scotto said he was "disappointed" by the results, saying "it's hard to be out there talking to people and getting positive feedback and not seeing those results."

Scotto didn't immediately endorse Singas in the general election, saying, "I do believe the district attorney's office is dysfunctional and in need of reform.

Singas had a sizable advantage over Scotto in campaign fundraising and had more than $800,000 in cash on hand compared with about $13,000 for Scotto, as of the most recent state Board of Elections filings.

The Nov. 3 general election will pit Singas against Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, the Republican nominee for district attorney. Murray also has the Conservative and Independence party lines, while Singas has the backing of the Working Families Party.

In the lead-up to the primary, Singas, 49, of Manhasset, largely had tried to ignore Scotto and focused on Murray. In her speech, she repeated a frequent campaign line that the district attorney should be "a prosecutor, not a politician."

Singas campaigned on fighting public corruption, touting recent probes of the county contract system and state lawmakers' travel. She also proposed state legislation to prosecute heroin dealers with homicide in fatal overdoses.

A former Queens prosecutor, Singas was brought to Nassau in 2006 by former District Attorney Kathleen Rice to lead a new special victims bureau. She had served as Rice's chief deputy since 2011, and became acting district attorney in January, when Rice, a Democrat, left to take a seat in Congress.

Until last month, Scotto had devoted a significant portion of campaign resources to fighting an effort by Democratic leaders to disqualify him from the ballot.

Since securing a spot on the ballot, Scotto, 50, of Port Washington, had campaigned aggressively against Singas, arguing that she launched her public corruption probes only after reports in the media. Scotto also wanted the district attorney's office to more aggressively fight heroin through the use of more undercover informants and wiretaps.

Scotto spent 22 years with the Manhattan district attorney's office. He worked as a trial prosecutor and later as chief of the labor racketeering unit and the rackets bureau, where he handled organized crime cases.

As results came in Thursday night, Scotto lamented that there had been no debate: "I think the voters needed to know more about the race and the stakes."

With Laura Figueroa

and Robert Brodsky

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