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Mazzarella declares victory over Browning in special election for Suffolk Legislature

Republican James Mazzarella and Democrat Kate Browning faced

Republican James Mazzarella and Democrat Kate Browning faced off on Tuesday, May 25, 2021 in a special election in the Suffolk County Legislature's Third District. Credit: Suffolk County Republican Party/James Escher

Republican union official James Mazzarella declared victory Tuesday night in a special election for Suffolk County’s 3rd Legislative District after taking 60% of the vote in a contest against Democratic former legislator Kate Browning.

Mazzarella had 3,207 votes to Browning’s 2,106 on Election Night, with all districts reported, according to the Board of Elections.

Mazzarella, 55, of Moriches, and Browning, 61, of Shirley, vied to represent the district in south-central Brookhaven Town until the end of the year. The seat has been vacant since former Legis. Rudy Sunderman (R-Shirley) resigned in March.

"The overwhelming results of tonight's election are an affirmation that a positive campaign about issues and people resonates with voters," Mazzarella said in a statement. "I am appreciative of the trust voters have placed in me. I look forward to serving all of the people of the district."

Browning’s campaign conceded in the race while noting the candidates will face off again in November for a two-year term.

"We're proud of Kate and the positive campaign she ran on her proven record of getting things done for our community and being tough on corruption, regardless of party," campaign manager Keith Davies said. "While the results weren't what we hoped for, Kate's committed to fighting for the district and winning in November."

Mazzarella, who also had the Conservative Party ballot line, is secretary-treasurer of Long Island Public Service Employees union Local 342.

Browning, code enforcement director for Babylon Town, had represented the 3rd District until 2017, when she reached the county term limit of 12 consecutive years in office.

Republican district voters sued to get Browning off the ballot earlier this year, saying she could not run because she already had reached term limits under county law.

A lower court agreed on April 26 and ordered her name off the ballot. But an appellate court panel reversed that decision on May 5, ruling that the county law does not impose a lifetime term limit.

About 10% of the district's 51,689 registered voters turned out to cast their ballots on Election Day or in nine days of early voting, according to the Board of Elections.

Suffolk Republican chairman Jesse Garcia called Mazzarella's lead "insurmountable," even with the 1,270 absentee ballots that the elections board has received as of Tuesday and had yet to count.

Elections officials said they won't start tabulating absentee ballots until June 2. The board has received 755 absentees from registered Democrats; 390 were from Republicans and 125 from voters in other parties. Another 999 absentees are outstanding.

Mazzarella is expected to be sworn in to the Suffolk County Legislature soon after the elections board certifies the vote.

Mazzarella's projected win would put the legislature back to the party split -- 10 Democrats, seven Republicans and one Conservative -- it had before Sunderman, a Republican, stepped down on March 21 to become deputy director of the Suffolk County Fire Academy.

Sunderman, 51, of Mastic, pleaded guilty on March 19 to misdemeanor filing of a false financial disclosure form with the county ethics board about his job with the Centereach Fire District, prosecutors said. Sunderman said his resignation was not related to his criminal case.

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