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Suffolk Democrats' plan for special election chosen

Suffolk lawmakers have advanced a Democratic plan for a January special election to replace former Legis. Edward Romaine, rejecting the Republican alternative to put off the contest for more than a month.

After a partisan debate, the county legislature's Ways and Means Committee Wednesday approved a bill by Deputy Presiding Officer Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon) to set the special election for Jan. 15. A bill by Minority Leader John Kennedy (R-Nesconset) to set the date as Feb. 19 -- potentially allowing it to be combined with Brookhaven's special highway superintendent election -- failed.

But Kennedy said he'll seek the 10 lawmaker signatures needed to bring his bill to the full legislature on Tuesday, though for now the full, 18-member body is set to consider only the Democrats' January proposal.

Romaine, a Republican, became Brookhaven Town supervisor on Monday. His 1st Legislative District seat covers Riverhead, Southold, Shelter Island and some of Brookhaven.

Democrats seek to replace Romaine with Southold town board member Al Krupski; Republicans back Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter.

"Let's have the election to get a new legislator as a soon as possible," said Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue).

Democrats argued that North Fork residents shouldn't wait an extended period of time for representation. But Republicans say the difference in special election dates saves money, and only causes the new legislator to miss one additional meeting.

The GOP said that if Brookhaven amends its law, as expected, allowing its special election to be held within 60 days of a departure, it can be combined with the county election on Feb. 19. Kennedy said that would save $100,000.

But Democrats said their cost estimates show that combining the special election with the town race saves only $25,500.

Tempers flared when Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook) questioned Kennedy's sincerity in citing cost savings as his motive, because Kennedy is a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the county over the sale of the John J. Foley nursing home. "I know it's a different issue, but let's be consistent," Lindsay said.

Kennedy said he "highly objected" to the comparison, adding that if Democrats didn't care about costing taxpayers more money, "they should just say so."

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