Suffolk Democrats have named Kimberly Jean-Pierre, director of Babylon Town's Wyandanch Community Resource Center, as their Assembly candidate to succeed 26-year Albany veteran Robert Sweeney.
Jean-Pierre, 30, of Wheatley Heights, is a first-time candidate for elected office but worked as an aide to Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) and Suffolk Legis. DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) before he became presiding officer.
Her late entry into the race came after Richard Schaffer, Babylon supervisor and Suffolk Democratic chairman, tried unsuccessfully to enlist Gregory and former County Executive Patrick Halpin and to persuade Sweeney to put off retirement.
He also screened four other contenders.Jean-Pierre could not be reached immediately for comment.
County Republicans have picked longtime Lindenhurst Village administrator Shawn Cullinane, 60, but he has not yet committed to the race. He said Tuesday, "I'm still personally interested in the race."
"We were waiting to hear who the Democratic candidate would be, and now that we know, there will be more discussion on that," Cullinane said. He said he is "more concerned about the issues affecting community and I will make my decision based on what's best for the community."
Cullinane's interest in the race comes after Lindenhurst Village Mayor Kevin McCaffrey won an upset last year for Suffolk County Legislature despite Schaffer's and County Executive Steve Bellone's campaign against him.
While McCaffrey benefitted from the GOP's 2,000-voter enrollment edge in the legislative district, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in the 11th Assembly District by 32,000 to 17,000.
GOP sources also say some party members may be concerned that Cullinane's competitive candidacy would force Democrats to make a major effort to turn out voters for Jean-Pierre in minority areas of the district.
That could indirectly help Democrat David Denenberg, a Nassau County legislator, and hurt freshman Nassau GOP lawmaker Michael Venditto as they campaign for a vacant State Senate seat that overlaps the Assembly district. Senate Republicans, with a group of maverick Democrats, have maintained control of the Senate, and Schaffer has said privately that he considers a GOP Senate majority as helpful to suburbs and Bellone.
Cullinane said he expects to decide whether to make the race before the end of June. But he could put off a decision until mid-July when nominating petitions must be filed.
The Wyandanch Community Resource Center focuses on preparedness, vocational training, mentoring, financial literacy and adult education.