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DA Thomas Spota's bid challenged under term limit law

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, outside

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, outside the Suffolk County Legislature Building in Hauppauge. Credit: James Carbone

Republican primary contender Raymond Perini on Monday challenged Democratic District Attorney Thomas Spota's eligibility to seek re-election in light of an ongoing legal battle over the county's 12-year term limit law.

Perini, who is running against Spota for the Republican nomination, filed one challenge at the Suffolk Board of Elections and has gotten a show-cause order signed by State Supreme Justice Emily Pines in an effort to block Spota, who is cross-endorsed by four parties, from appearing on any ballot line.

Perini said that as a candidate he has standing to bring challenges to raise the issue as an elections case -- which qualifies it for expedited treatment in the courts. He added he hoped it could bring a speedier final ruling -- by late August in advance of the Sept. 10 primary.

"How can you have a candidate endorsed by all four parties and not know if he is qualified to run and then deliberately adjourn or keep putting a ruling it off?" Perini asked. "It's not fair to the voters."

Richard Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman, lashed out at Perini's latest maneuver. "It's shocking how little he understands of the appeals process," Schaffer said. "It's absolutely baseless and a waste of the court's time."

Spota last fall won a ruling from State Supreme Court Justice Ralph Gazzillo that found the term limit law unconstitutional for the district attorney, sheriff and county clerk because their jobs are part of the state constitution. The Democratic-controlled county legislature and County Executive Steve Bellone did not pursue an appeal.

Since then, Huntington civic activist Peter Nichols, who was blocked from intervening in the case by Gazzillo, has filed an appeal with the appellate division. Spota's attorney, Kevin Snover, filed papers in that matter Monday.

"An appellate review should not be thwarted by politicians," Perini said. "Is Tom Spota term-limited as voters wanted? Using the election law, we will have a higher-court ruling before Primary Day and I'm confident the will of the voters will be upheld."

But Schaffer said Perini's challenges make no sense because Gazzillo's ruling is in effect. "He knows full well the board of elections is not going to ignore a court order, and the court has now said that Tom Spota can run," Schaffer said.

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