Suffolk Conservatives, Democrats and the Independence Party will back District Court Judge Marian Rose Tinari, wife of Suffolk Conservative chairman Frank Tinari, for the patronage-rich post of surrogate judge in a cross-endorsement agreement that will involve nine judges.
The agreement gives Judge Tinari, 64, a significant edge to win the powerful judgeship that has remained in GOP hands for the last century. It also builds on an alliance that led last year to the election of Democrats Tim Sini as Suffolk district attorney and Errol Toulon Jr. as Suffol sheriff, the first African American to win any countywide elected position.
The surrogate position is potent because that court doles out significant patronage in making appointments for guardianships, conservatorships and other legal work connected to overseeing wills, estates and adoptions.
In addition to surrogate, the Democratic and Independence Parties will cross-endorse two other Conservatives, County Court Judge Joseph Farneti for a third term and former 12-year District Court Judge Paul Hensley, now a court attorney-referee. Hensley lost re-election three years ago.
The agreement also calls for Democrats and Conservatives to back Independence Party County Court Judge James Quinn for re-election for a second term.
Democrats, meanwhile, will get the minor parties’ backing for Karen Kerr, supervising judge of the District Court to run for Family Court, a spot now held by Democrat Barbara Kahn, who is reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70. For Kerr’s District Court seat, the minor parties will back Democrat Eric Sach, who works part time in town Traffic Court.
Because of his wife’s involvement, Frank Tinari referred all questions about the judicial pact to John E. Flynn, Suffolk Conservative executive vice chairman and Islip town leader. Flynn cited Marian Rose Tinari’s seven years as top aide to retiring Surrogate Judge John Czygier and her work as counsel for Suffolk Administrative Judge C. Randall Hinrichs before she became a judge herself in 2015.
“After consultation with attorneys in our party and other leaders, we determined, based on her experience in Surrogate Court, Marian Tinari is by far the most qualified candidate.” As for other selections including Democrats, he added “We chose what we felt were the most qualified candidates for every position.”
John Jay LaValle, Suffolk GOP chairman who had also been trying to work out a deal with Conservatives, did not return calls for comment.
Although nominations are not formally made until September, Conservative and Independence Party officials are also expected to back Democrats for three State Supreme Court judgeships with Democratic incumbents Arthur Pitts and Peter Mayer retiring and Robert Quinlan reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.
Richard Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman, declined to identify the party’s candidates for those positions. “I already have 96 names, and we as Democrats will have to make three people happy and 93 others upset,” he said. Schaffer added there will be further talks on a fourth Supreme Court judgeship, once it’s formally determined whether it will go to Suffolk. Frank Tinari would say only that there are ongoing discussions on Supreme Court nominations.
However, party sources say Democrats being considered include George Nolan, Suffolk legislative counsel, Maureen Liccione, Supreme Court law clerk, James Chalifoux, a deputy Suffolk district attorney bureau chief, County Court Judge Stephen Braslow, District Court Judge Derrick Robinson and Christophe Modelewski, Huntington Zoning Board chairman.
Schaffer also discounted a 2012 reprimand of Hensley by the state Commission of Judicial Conduct for attending several illegal poker games. including one the police raided. Republicans refused to endorse him for re-election in 2014, and Hensley lost, even though he was cross-endorsed by Democrats. Schaffer said Hensley, who had 12 years experience on the bench and still works for the court system, was “a very able judge who works very hard.”
Despite their judicial agreement with Democrats, Conservatives say they will also back two other countywide Republican incumbents—County Clerk Judith Pascale and Comptroller John M. Kennedy Jr., as well as all Republican candidates for state Assembly and Senate.
While Kennedy four years ago won in a race without Conservative backing, the minor party did not endorse anyone, which experts say ended up helping Kennedy. Said Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, who announced his candidacy to run against Kennedy last week and screened with Conservative last week, “I’m disappointed . . . I thought I have a reasonable chance since I’m an ardent fiscal conservative.” However, he added, “I believe the race is still winnable.”