Conservative attorney Patrick O’Connell, a law partner of the minor party’s Suffolk County chairman, Frank Tinari, has surfaced as the latest contender for Suffolk district attorney.
Tinari said he forwarded O’Connell’s name to John Jay LaValle, Suffolk Republican chairman, who set up interviews for potential DA candidates on Feb. 13. Tinari said his party will hold its own screenings for district attorney Feb. 26 at the Kings Park American Legion Hall.
Four-term Democratic District Attorney Thomas Spota has not said if he will run again.
O’Connell, of Patchogue, was an assistant Suffolk district attorney from 1981 to 1990, working in both in the rackets and district court bureau. O’Connell’s firm is in Central Islip, and he specializes in criminal and personal injury cases
Several high-level GOP and Conservative sources say state Supreme Court Justice Andrew Crecca also is weighing whether to appear at the Republican interviews for DA contenders.
The issue is sensitive because judges are barred from political activity and must step down from the $193,000-a-year job once they become a candidate. But officials say state advisory opinions permit judges to hold private exploratory discussions with party officials.
The disclosures comes on the eve of the first $150-a-head fundraiser for Ray Perini, the lone announced GOP DA candidate. Other potential GOP contenders include former Suffolk prosecutor William Ferris, Edward Friedland and Robert Biancavilla, a Suffolk homicide prosecutor.
“I know I’m going for an interview on Feb. 13,” said Perini, “I can’t say who else has been asked, but unlike last time around . . . I think all who are qualified should be screened, and let the best person be chosen.” Perini ran a losing GOP primary for district attorney four years ago when Democrat Spota had both major and minor party cross-endorsements.
O’Connell’s candidacy would complicate the November battle for the county’s most powerful law enforcement position.
Conservatives typically endorse Republicans, but their ties to Suffolk Republican Chairman John Jay LaValle are strained. If O’Connell ran just on the Conservative ballot line, it could aid Democrats by splitting the GOP vote.
Richard Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman, said he met with O’Connell six weeks ago. Asked if he could back the Conservative, Schaffer said, “I’m open to anything.”
Other potential Democratic contenders include David Calone, a former federal prosecutor; James Chalifoux, an assistant district attorney; Mark Lesko, former Brookhaven supervisor; William Wexler, Suffolk Industrial Development Agency counsel, Police Commissioner Timothy Sini; and Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan’s Law.