In the hardest-fought judicial race on Long Island — the contest for Suffolk County surrogate judge — Democrat Theresa Whelan appeared to have ended nearly a century of Republican control of the post by defeating Tara Scully, according to unofficial results Tuesday night.
“I am very happy that the voters of Suffolk County chose proven judicial leadership,” Whelan said. “I worked hard for the past three months getting my message out and I’m happy that the voters were able to hear the message.”
Scully said Tuesday she decided to run after Newsday reported on a nine-judge cross-endorsement pact reached by the Democrats and the Conservative and Independence parties.
"Newsday sought a candidate with a 'back bone' and the 'courage' to step forward to provide voters a choice, rather than being forced to only vote for a candidate selected by way of the back room deal making of party bosses," she said.
"Although I did not win the Surrogate's Court judgeship I gave the over 200,000 Suffolk residents who voted for me the opportunity to support a candidate that sought an independent judiciary that would represent the interests of Suffolk families over the politically connected," she added. "I look forward to my opponent embracing the same."
Scully, 41, an attorney from Setauket, had said she has worked for more than a decade as an elder law and trust and estates lawyer and has “a detailed knowledge of the workings of the Surrogate’s Court that my opponent simply does not.”
Whelan, 56, of Wading River, has been the Family Court supervising judge and a judge since 2008. She has said, “The surrogate judgeship is not an entry-level position. It’s a top-level judgeship that should be filled with someone whose experience is known.”
The Suffolk surrogate post is politically important. It deals with wills and estates, as well as adoption and care of those who are incapacitated, and carries the power to assign lucrative guardianships and other legal work.
Republicans had held the post for nearly a century and, since the 1960s, usually with the backing of the Conservative Party.
The contest was among dozens of judicial races Tuesday in Nassau and Suffolk counties for State Supreme Court, County Court, Family Court and District Court. There were also races for Shelter Island Town justice and Glen Cove and Long Beach City judge.
In one of the key races, 17 candidates ran for seven positions as justices on the State Supreme Court. As of press time, among those leading were Ruth Balkin (D,R); Norman St. George (D,R); Helen Voutsinas (R,C); George Nolan (D,C,I); Deborah Poulos (C,D,I); Marian Tinari (C,D,I) and Michael A Gajdos Jr (C,D,I).
In the Suffolk Family Court race, Democrat Karen Kerr was leading Republican Richard Hoffmann as of press time.
In the Nassau Family Court race, Robin Kent, running on both the Democratic and Republican lines, was leading Conservative Madeline Petrara-Perrin.
In the Nassau County Court race, Catherine Rizzo, running on both the Democratic and Republican lines, was leading Conservative Shaun K. Hogan.
In the Suffolk County Court race, four candidates were competing for three positions: Joseph Farneti (C; D; R; Working Families; I); Paul Hensley (C; D; WF; I); James F. Quinn (C; R; D; WF; I) and Steven Pilewski (R; Green; Women’s Equality; Reform).
Quinn, Farneti and Hensley were leading as of press time.
For full election results, visit www.newsday.com/results