Frank Tinari, Suffolk County Conservative chairman, says he is entering the fray to become state Conservative chief after longtime party patriarch Michael Long announced plans to retire last week.
Tinari, an attorney, heads the largest Conservative organization in the state with 20,835 registered voters. He says he has more elected Conservative officials, particularly judges, than any other Conservative chief in the state.
But Tinari has been involved in court battles with the dissident wing of the county party led by Ken Auerbach. Tinari also has made cross-endorsement agreements with Democrats, which may not sit well with some factions in the minor party.
The state Conservatives' 55-member executive committee will meet Feb. 23 to elect a new leader. Long said he would play no role in picking his successor.
“I’m an underdog, but I’m in it,” said Tinari, who last September won his second term as Suffolk chairman. Tinari said he has been reaching out to other party leaders, and seeking proxies for those who may not show up for the leadership vote.
Two other contenders for the state post are Ralph Lorigo, chairman of the Erie County Conservatives, who have 13,198 registered voters, and Gerard Kassar, chairman of the Kings County party, which has 4,723 voters and is Long’s home county.