Christine Pellegrino, who in 2017 won a major upset for state Assembly but lost that seat in November, has begun work in a $45,994-a-year job at the Suffolk County Board of Elections.
Pellegrino, 49, a West Islip Democrat, started Monday as an assistant elections clerk at the board’s Yaphank headquarters. A reading teacher in the Baldwin public schools for 25 years, she gave up her leave of absence when she decided to run for re-election last year. She lost to Republican Michael LiPetri, 28, an attorney from South Farmingdale.
Pellegrino first attracted attention with her surprise 58-to-42 percent victory in a May 2017 special election in the Ninth Assembly District. She beat Conservative Tom Gargiulo, who also had Republican support. She won though the GOP had a 12,000 voter edge in the district.
It was the first local election to display a backlash to President Donald Trump, who won the district in 2016 with nearly 60 percent of the vote.
Pellegrino won the special election with the help of $200,000 in independent spending by New York United Teachers, while Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone contributed $4,400. But in the general election last year, Democrats, the teachers union and the Working Families Party spent most of their resources to take control of the state Senate.
Pellegrino, who has gone through a recent divorce, also faced political campaign attacks over state and federal tax liens and a foreclosure order on her $893,000 house, but she said those issues are still in dispute and largely the liability of her ex-husband.
While Richard Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman, came under attack for sitting out the 2017 special election, it was the party leader who recommended Pellegrino for the elections post. “She’s a terrific hire,” he said. “She not only knows the election law, but has supported all the initiatives advanced by the governor to make voting easier and more accessible.”
Schaffer said he first spoke to Pellegrino on election night, offering his assistance. “I know she’s also exploring other options, but for now it’s great to have her on board,” he said.
Said Pellegrino, “I’m happy to make sure that everyone has the right to vote and to be part of the team at the board of elections as I look forward to the next step.”