Police Commissioner Timothy Sini, the Democrat, holds a 14 point lead over attorney Ray Perini, the Republican, in the race for Suffolk County district attorney, according to a Newsday/Siena College poll.
Sini leads Perini 46 percent to 32 percent, while Libertarian Christopher Garvey has 4 percent, the poll found. Eighteen percent of voters said they hadn’t decided or had no opinion.
The poll of 504 Suffolk County likely voters has a margin of error of 4.4 percent. It was conducted Oct. 17-24.
“Sini has a commanding lead. However, that said, there’s a path for Perini. If he can get Republicans to simply pull the ‘R’ lever, then he has a chance to close the gap,” said Donald P. Levy, director of the Siena College Research Institute.
The poll found that Perini was getting support from 53 percent of Republicans, compared to Sini, who’s getting 79 percent from Democrats, in the race to replace District Attorney Thomas Spota, who announced earlier this year that he would not seek a fifth term.
Sini, 37, of Babylon Village, was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District for four and a half years and took the helm of the Suffolk County Police Department in early 2016 after serving as an aide to County Executive Steve Bellone.
Perini, 70, of Huntington, points to his experience as a Suffolk County prosecutor for 14 years, experience as a defense attorney and his challenge four years ago to Spota in a Republican primary. Spota, a Democrat, had been cross-endorsed by all major and minor parties for his last three elections.
Both candidates remain largely unknown. According to the poll, 54 percent of voters didn’t know or had no opinion of Sini, while 76 percent of voters didn’t know or had no opinion of Perini.
“It’s an election that certainly at this point hasn’t captivated the attention of Suffolk County voters,” Levy said.
The poll was made up of 40 percent Republicans, 29 percent Democrats and 25 percent independent or members of minor parties. The turnout model was based on the 2013 election, Levy said.
The last day the poll was conducted was the day Spota and one of his chief aides, Christopher McPartland, were indicted on federal charges accusing them of taking part in a cover-up of former Suffolk Police Chief James Burke’s assault of Christopher Loeb in 2012. Both have pleaded not guilty. Spota has said he will resign before his term ends.
Levy said the indictment could focus voters’ attention on the race.
Sini called it a “significant lead, but it’s not time for folks to be complacent. It’s important that we continue persuading individuals to vote for this team. It’s very important we restore integrity to the DA’s office,” he said. He said he’d work to get the remaining 18 percent of undecided voters with his message to take politics out of the district attorney’s office.
Perini pointed to polls that wrongly predicted the 2016 presidential election.
“If the last election showed us one thing, polls can be wrong. Suffolk voters are smarter than the politicians, they are sick of cross-endorsements that gave us Spota under indictment, politics in law enforcement, Bellone’s hand-picked Chief Burke in federal prison, and now they want to buy the DA’s race,” Perini said. “Voters will drain the swamp.”
Registered Republican Herbert Mones, 66 of Stony Brook, said he’s “90 percent leaning toward Sini.” Sini as police commissioner reached out to the Three Village Civic Association, where Mones is active.
“I’ve never seen someone come to our working meetings to get a read of what our concerns are,” said the retired teacher and educational consultant.
Walter Bruner, 67, a Deer Park Republican, said he’s voting for Perini, mainly because Sini was appointed police commissioner by Bellone, whose financial management of the county Bruner doesn’t like. “I’m not a big Steve Bellone fan. I don’t like him, I don’t like his policies. And Ray Perini is more like an outsider,” he said.
Also in the poll, Suffolk voters overwhelmingly opposed holding a state constitutional convention, 64 percent to 23 percent, with 13 percent answering that they were undecided or had no opinion.