Former Suffolk prosecutor Ray Perini, pledging “to keep politics out of the DA’s office,” on Tuesday became the first Republican to officially enter what is expected to be a hotly contested race for Suffolk district attorney in November.
Perini, who waged a losing bid four years ago in a GOP primary, spent 16 years as a prosecutor in Brooklyn and Suffolk, where he led a newly created narcotics bureau. He is a partner in an Islandia criminal law firm.
In an email announcement, Perini said he would “take a tougher stance against gang violence and work together with our federal partners to take our streets back from the gangs.” He also said he would “not only vigorously prosecute narcotics traffickers, but also support diversion programs, including Suffolk County’s Veterans Court, for appropriate defendants.”
Perini in 2013 unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Democrat Thomas Spota, who also had major and minor party endorsements, in a GOP primary in which Spota got 56 percent of the vote.
Perini, 69, of Huntington, also filed a legal challenge against Spota for seeking a fourth term despite a 12-year county term limit law, and criticized him for accepting party cross-endorsements, arguing that they eliminate voter choice. New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, ruled that state law exempts a district attorney from the county term limit statute.
Perini said he has spoken to Suffolk GOP chairman John Jay LaValle and most town GOP leaders about this year’s race.
“I ran the primary to save term limits and do away with cross-endorsements,” Perini said. “And I’m very proud the Republican Party is no longer doing cross-endorsements at this level.”
Suffolk Democratic chairman Rich Schaffer attacked Perini, citing a 1989 State Investigation Commission report criticizing him for “being aware and engaging in illegal wiretaps” as a Suffolk prosecutor.
“SIC Chairman David Trager said Perini should have been fired,” Schaffer said. “I think voters will come to the same conclusion that he shouldn’t be hired.”
Perini said Trager’s probe was “flawed” because it relied on “testimony of two corrupt cops,” and that an earlier federal review found “no basis” for their claims.
Spota has not disclosed his election plans, but Schaffer said he expects to meet with him within two weeks.
Federal investigators are probing whether Spota and one of his chief assistants took part in the cover-up of the assault on a man who stole a duffel bag from former Suffolk Police Chief James Burke’s SUV, according to sources familiar with the investigation. Spota has not been charged with a crime and has said he has done nothing wrong.
Names mentioned as possible Democratic contenders for district attorney include David Calone, a former Suffolk County Planning Commission chairman; James Chalifoux, a deputy in the district attorney’s major case bureau; Suffolk police Commissioner Tim Sini; Mark Lesko, a former Brookhaven Town supervisor; and Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan’s Law.
LaValle, the Suffolk GOP chairman, said another former assistant district attorney, William Ferris, has expressed interest in the race, along with one or two other contenders whom he declined to identify.
“Ray is out raising money and he’s run once before,” LaValle said of Perini. “He’s certainly putting himself in a good position.” However, LaValle said it was too early for party leaders to commit to any candidate.