Republican Tara Scully is looking to run a Democratic primary Sept. 13 for the politically potent post of Suffolk Surrogate judge against Conservative District Court Judge Marian Rose Tinari.
Scully, 41, a former president of the Suffolk Women’s Bar Association and the daughter of a top aide to County Executive Steve Bellone, has had volunteer and paid workers out since July 2, seeking to collect the minimum 2,000 signatures needed to qualify her for the Democratic ballot.
“Voters deserve the right to choose the judges who serve in their courtroom,” Scully said in a letter to Newsday dated Tuesday. “I respectfully submit my name for consideration.”
The surrogate’ post, controlled by Republicans for a century, is politically powerful because the court dispenses significant patronage in making appointments for guardianships and other legal work connected to wills, estates and adoptions.
Bellone, a Democrat who has long been at odds with Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer, declined to comment about whether he supports Scully or is playing a role in her candidacy. Scully’s father, Peter Scully, a Republican, is a deputy county executive.
“I’m not going to comment on rumors. Let’s see what comes out,” said Bellone. Peter Scully also said he had nothing to do with his daughter’s decision, while the candidate said her father advised her not to run.
Schaffer is supporting Tinari, the wife of Suffolk Conservative leader Frank Tinari, as part of a cross-endorsement agreement with the Conservative and Independence parties.
Schaffer said Bellone was involved directly in Scully’s candidacy. He cited a posting on the Facebook page, “Long Island Activists,” offering $15 an hour for “Dems, WFP [Working Family Party] and Indy [Independence Party] to come out and petition for some candidates that Bellone has endorsed.”
Schaffer noted that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is facing a statewide primary against actress and education activist Cynthia Nixon that the party needs to win. “By running the daughter of one of his ... [deputy county executives] he [Bellone] has created a major distraction for the party in the entire county,” Schaffer said.
Michael Dawidziak, Tinari’s campaign consultant, said Scully’s candidacy may be aimed at locking up the GOP and Democratic lines for Republicans. “If that happens, it eliminates giving people a choice and raises voter cynicism,” Dawidziak said.
Republicans have nominated Damon Hagan, a deputy Southold Town attorney and former Southampton GOP chairman, as their candidate for Surrogate judge. John Jay LaValle, Suffolk GOP chairman, said Hagan remains the party’s candidate and that his nominating petitions will be filed Thursday. Hagan has an appointment to screen with the Suffolk County Bar Association next week. The major parties have agreed not to run judicial candidates unless the bar finds them “qualified.”
Once petitions are filed, Hagan has three days to decline the nomination. After the primary, Hagan still could be moved off the surrogate ballot if the GOP nominates him for a state Supreme Court judgeship.
LaValle said he has played no role in Scully’s candidacy and has had no discussions with Bellone or Scully. “I guess Schaffer has problems in his own house. It has nothing to do with us,” said LaValle.
Scully, of Setauket, who ran unsuccessfully for District Court in 2015, has not been screened by the bar association, but said she intends to seek an appointment.
A single mother of an 11-year-old son, Scully said she does primarily estate work and touts her “independence and integrity.”