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Thomas Spota survives primary contest for Suffolk DA

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota is shown

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota is shown in his Hauppauge office. (Sept. 3, 2013) Credit: Newsday/ John Paraskevas

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota survived his first contested election in more than a decade Tuesday night, defeating a former colleague, defense attorney Raymond Perini, in an unusual Republican primary.

Spota, 71, of Mount Sinai, bested Perini, 66, of Huntington, by roughly 56-44.

"I'm not talking to Newsday," said Spota, a Democrat who was first elected in 2001. He said the newspaper on Sunday wrote what he called an incorrect story on a 1989 State Investigation Commission report. "And they knew it."

Said Perini, "We ran a textbook campaign. Our message was solid. We'll be back another day."

Spota's primary victory ensures his re-election in November, as he now has the Republican, Democratic, Independence and Conservative ballot lines.

The primary campaign materialized after Spota successfully challenged Suffolk's 12-year term limits law as it pertains to positions, such as his, created by the state constitution.

Instead of leaving office come December, Spota again sought re-election and received the Republican cross-endorsement, just as he had in 2005 and 2009.

Perini, a Republican, sued to knock Spota off the ballot, saying his opponent's re-election bid disregarded the will of voters, who overwhelmingly approved a county term limits referendum in 1993.

When Perini's court challenge failed, he ramped up his bid for the GOP ballot line. The former Suffolk district attorney's narcotics chief was making his first run for public office, centering his campaign on giving voters "a choice."

Spota is a former major-crimes prosecutor who also was a lawyer in private practice for about 19 years. He touts his record as district attorney since 2002, prosecuting corrupt public officials and targeting DWI and prescription drug crimes.

In the other countywide primary, Sheriff Vincent DeMarco, a Conservative endorsed by the GOP, defeated Republican Samuel Barreto Jr., a Suffolk police department canine officer.

DeMarco -- who was first elected in 2005 -- will now have all of the major party lines in November.

"It was a big win for us," said DeMarco, 45, of Cold Spring Harbor. The margin of victory "shows people realize we're doing our job, protecting tax dollars and keeping them safe."

Barreto, 47, of Bohemia, made his bid about giving primary voters a chance to vote for a Republican.

With David M. Schwartz, Rick Brand and Mitchell Freedman

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