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Judge rules ex-Suffolk lawmaker Kate Browning can't hold office again

Kate Browning poses for a portrait at the

Kate Browning poses for a portrait at the Democratic party's headquarters in Bohemia on April 15, 2021.  Credit: James Escher

A state Supreme Court justice on Monday declared Suffolk County Democratic legislative candidate Kate Browning ineligible for the 3rd District seat, ruling that the former legislator cannot hold that office again after hitting county term limits.

Acting Justice James Hudson ordered the county Board of Elections to knock Browning's name off the ballot in two upcoming races for the seat, a May 25 special election and a Nov. 2 general election.

Hudson's ruling would leave Republican candidate James Mazzarella unopposed in both races, Republican county Elections Commissioner Nick LaLota said.

Browning’s campaign manager, Keith Davies, said, "We are appealing this decision and are confident we will win at the appellate division."

"Kate's campaign of rooting out corruption will persist and Kate will win the Special Election on May 25th," Davies said in a statement.

Hudson had sided with county Republicans in their lawsuit filed against Browning and the Board of Elections earlier this month.

Republican district voters John Doyle of Shirley and Melissa Schlosberg of Center Moriches, with backing from the county GOP, alleged Browning was ineligible for the seat because she already held it for 12 years, the limit under a 1993 county term limit law.

Democratic officials had argued that Browning, who left office in 2017, could run again after a break in service because the county law only bars legislators from serving more than 12 "consecutive" years. But Hudson rejected that position, saying the law "is silent on that subject."

Suffolk Republican County Chairman Jesse Garcia called the decision "a win for all 1.5 million residents of Suffolk County, regardless of political affiliation or philosophy, and a defeat to career politicians who look for loopholes instead of doing service to the people."

Browning, 61, of Shirley, is Babylon Town’s code enforcement director.

The Republican candidate, Mazzarella, 55, of Moriches, also has the Conservative Party line. Mazzarella is secretary-treasurer of Long Island Public Service Employees union Local 342. He also sits on the Brookhaven Town Board of Zoning Appeals.

They were expected to face off in two races this year: In a May 25 special election to hold the seat for the remainder of 2021, and in November's general election for a two-year term.

The special election will fill the seat left vacant by former GOP Legis. Rudy Sunderman's resignation on March 21.

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 he resigned his legislative seat to take a job this month with the Suffolk County Fire Academy.

Davies said the judge didn’t consider a 1993 legal memo done for a prior version of the bill from the legislature’s then-counsel, Paul Sabatino. He said under that version a legislator could serve 12 consecutive years, take a year or more off and be reelected and serve for another 12 consecutive years.

Hudson said in his ruling he decided not to consider that memo because Sabatino, now in private practice, filed an affidavit in April for Republicans saying the intent of the law was a lifetime ban from the legislature after 12 consecutive years.

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