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Family Court Judge Theresa Whelan beats Tara Scully in Democratic primary

Whelan, 56, of Wading River, is the supervising judge of the Suffolk County Family Court and former head of the Suffolk County Women's Bar Association.

Suffolk Family Court Judge Theresa Whelan, seen here

Suffolk Family Court Judge Theresa Whelan, seen here on May 22, 2017 won the Democratic primary for Suffolk Surrogate on Thursday. Photo Credit: James Escher

Democratic Family Court Judge Theresa Whelan won Thursday over Republican attorney Tara Scully in the Democratic primary for Surrogate Judge, setting up an intense general election rematch for the patronage-rich judicial seat.

Whelan, leading 65 percent to 35 percent with 98 percent of precincts reporting, thanked Democratic Chairman Rich Schaffer “for having confidence in me and my credentials.” She added: “I’m looking forward to presenting my credentials to the voters in November.”

A Scully campaign spokesman said she will have broad support in the general election.

“Today, nearly 18,000 Democrats who voted to make Tara the candidate of their party sent a clear message to the party bosses that they are fed up with cross-endorsement deals,” spokesman James Walsh said in a statement.

In the general election campaign, Whelan also has the Independence Line. Scully has the Republican, Green and Reform Party lines. Conservative Deborah Poulos has the Conservative line, though she could be replaced when party delegates meet in late September to pick Supreme Court nominees.

Democratic Chairman Rich Schaffer had poured in $150,000 to back Whelan, an unprecedented figure for a Suffolk judicial race, he said.

Whelan, 56, of Wading River, is the supervising judge of the Suffolk County Family Court and former head of the Suffolk County Women’s Bar Association.

Scully, 41, of Setauket, has a Port Jefferson practice in elder law, trusts, estates and guardianships, is also a former chair of the Suffolk County Women’s Bar Association.

Scully had entered the race on the last day eligible, with the backing of Schaffer foe Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone. It was a move that upended a cross-endorsement deal negotiated by Schaffer with the Conservative and Independent parties.

Under that plan, Schaffer had given the Democratic line to District Court Judge Marian Tinari, a Conservative married to Conservative Chairman Frank Tinari. In exchange, he said Democrats would get the minor parties’ support for four state Supreme Court justices.

But when Scully entered the race, Tinari pulled out rather than face a difficult Democratic primary and was replaced with Whelan. Bellone later became neutral in the primary, his aides said.

Schaffer called this a “proxy battle” between himself and Bellone.

“The Democratic voters spoke loud and clear,” Schaffer said. “They want him to stick to governing, and leave the party politics to the political leaders.”

Bellone spokesman Jason Elan declined to immediately respond to Schaffer’s comment, but pointed to a statement. “With Democratic turnout at historic levels, our attention now turns to electing a Democratic State Senate this November,” Bellone said in a statement.

Whelan touted her experience as a judge for 10 years and the fact she is a Democrat.

Scully campaigned for changing how the state’s judicial selection process and attacked party leaders for cross-endorsement deals between major and minor parties.

The Surrogate Court handles wills and estates and the Surrogate assigns lucrative legal work involving guardianships and other matters.

Results of other judicial races were not final.

In the Family Court Judge Women’s Equality primary, Karen Kerr had 14 votes to Richard Hoffmann's 3.

In Smithtown, for the Independence Line for District Court Judge, William G. Holst had 77 votes, Gary L. Rosenthal had 68, Paul E. Hennings had 59 and Richard T. Dunne had 56.

In the Nassau County District Court Judge, 2nd District — Green Party primary, Valerie J. Alexander had 36 votes, Andrew M. Engel had 34, Andrea C. Phoenix had 30, Charles J. Casolaro had 28, Michael W. Alpert had 25, and Eric Zeni had 23.

In the Nassau County District Court Judge, 4th District — Green Party primary, Colin F. O’Donnell had 34 votes, Joanne Curran Perrucci had 20, Douglas J. Lerose had 13 and Dana L. Grossblatt had 12.

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