Conservative District Court Judge Marian Tinari, facing an unexpected foe in a Democratic primary, dropped out of the race for the politically potent post of Suffolk Surrogate Judge late Monday. Democrats are expected to choose from five judges in their own party to replace her.
Richard Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman, said Tinari’s withdrawal was sent by mail to the Suffolk Board of Elections late Monday. Tinari, wife of Suffolk Conservative chairman Frank Tinari, came to her decision after Republican Tara Scully, former president of the Suffolk Women’s Bar Association, filed 6,000 signatures on petitions last week to run in Sept. 13 Democratic and GOP primaries for surrogate.
“It was her decision. She wasn’t forced out,” said Michael Dawidziak, Tinari’s campaign consultant. ”When she realized the race was going to focus on politics and [ballot] lines and not the surrogate court, it was not a race she was interested in running.”
Schaffer made the disclosure after Republicans’ original candidate, Damon Hagan, also declined nomination. A short time later, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said he was “proud” to endorse Scully, the daughter of his deputy county executive.
Bellone said Scully had the “courage to step forward and challenge the status quo” and give voters a choice. He added that Scully, 41, “has made a commitment to reform and implement best practices in the Surrogates court . . . [and] made clear that she will never allow this court to be used as a patronage mill by any political party.”
Schaffer said: “Marion Tinari was interested in talking about her 10 years as law clerk in the surrogates court, not a battle between Rich Schaffer and Steve Bellone. After consultation, it was decided that the best course of action would be to have a Democrat fight a Republican who is trying to foreclose competition by running on two major party lines.”
However, Schaffer said, “It’ll be interesting to see a Democratic county executive supporting a Republican in a Democratic primary.”
Jason Elan, Bellone’s spokesman, responded, “It’s getting hard to keep up with all of the Chairman’s deals. The silver lining here is that Tara Scully decided to run and has the integrity and independence to serve on the bench.”
The battle erupted after Schaffer made an agreement in May for Democrats, Conservatives and the Independence Party to cross-endorse nine candidates for surrogate, a post Republicans have controlled for the past century. He said he expects Conservatives to name Conservative Family Court Judge Deborah Poulos as their surrogate candidate.
Schaffer said other cross-endorsed contenders already nominated will remain intact, but there will be “open discussions” about the four State Supreme Court nominations to be made in September. He added that Tinari’s name may be considered.
More immediately, parties have until Friday replace their surrogate candidates. Schaffer said he is speaking to five incumbent Democratic judges about running for the surrogate spot. John Jay Lavalle, Suffolk GOP chairman, Scully and her campaign spokesman, did not return calls for comment.
In another county-wide race, Babylon’s Democratic town clerk, Gerry Compitello declined her party’s nomination for county clerk against Republican incumbent Judith Pascale. Party sources say the legislature’s presiding officer, DuWayne Gregory, is expected to be named as her replacement so that he can vacate the Working Families Party line in the Second Congressional District race in favor of Liuba Grechen Shirley, who defeated him in a Democratic primary last month.
Independence Party candidate for comptroller Teresa Bogart of Copiague also declined her nomination and State and Suffolk independence Party chairman Frank MacKay said the party will endorse incumbent GOP comptroller John M. Kennedy, rather than Democratic challenger Jay Schneiderman, Southampton supervisor, even though he is a former Independence Party member
Two other Democratic candidates also declined their nominations: Arthur J. Tillman of Mattituck in the Second Assemby District and Deborah Slinkosky of Holbrook in the Fifth Assembly District.