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Help wanted ad answered
Two weeks ago, Newsday’s editorial board posted a want ad atop an editorial, seeking candidates for judge of Suffolk County Surrogate’s Court who would stand up to pressure from political bosses.
Well, we received an application.
It came in the form of a letter to the editor from Port Jefferson attorney Tara Scully, whose resume could include this entry:
Victimized once already by the backroom deals that have rigged races for judgeships in Suffolk for years.
More on that later.
Scully, a registered Republican and the daughter of Suffolk Deputy County Executive Peter Scully, told The Point she is collecting petitions to run in both the GOP and Democratic primaries for surrogate this fall. The 2,000 petitions required for each line must be submitted by Thursday, and Scully says she’s on track to meet the deadline.
That would launch a wrecking ball at the plans of Democratic Party county leader Rich Schaffer, who once again has put together a cross-endorsement deal that serves party leaders but not voters.
This year’s agreement involves nine judgeships. The flagship deal is for surrogate judge, a patronage-rich position that assigns lucrative legal work, like the processing of wills and guardianships. Bosses expect those assignments to go to party stalwarts. For more than 100 years, Republicans have held the position.
Schaffer agreed to give his party’s line to Marian Rose Tinari, a District Court judge who is running on the Conservative Party line and, perhaps more important, is married to the minor party’s chairman, Frank Tinari.
The editorial board’s criticism of the charade of parties to the right and left of the GOP allying in this and two other judgeships hit home with Scully, a former president of the Suffolk County Women’s Bar Association whose practice dealing primarily with trusts, estates and elder law has given her experience with Surrogate’s Court.
“When the possibility of entering the race for Surrogate’s Court Judge arose,” she wrote in her letter to the editor, “it became apparent that it offered not only an opportunity to make a difference but provided an even greater opportunity to effectuate change in the political climate in Suffolk County.”
In 2015, Scully lost a Brookhaven District Court judgeship race to two candidates with cross-endorsements: Conservative James Flanagan, the front-runner who also was backed by the GOP, and Stephen Ukeiley, a Democrat who picked up Conservative backing and beat Scully by 173 votes out of 87,010 cast.
If Scully’s petitions withstand inevitable challenges, her presence on primary ballots would ensure voters have choices. Isn’t that what elections are about?
Michael Dobie and Rita Ciolli
Flanagan’s RSVP to Cuomo’s invite
The pinball game that is New York politics lit up anew on Wednesday with State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan telling The Point that he would consider calling his conference back for a special session by September, including to consider abortion legislation.
“I am not averse to coming back,” Flanagan told us. “But first there has to be a legitimate agreement with the governor and the speaker on all outstanding issues,” he said.
Flanagan said that included local bills, speed cameras, teacher evaluations and lifting the cap on the number of charter schools downstate, and abortion.
Flanagan said he wanted Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to have a “legitimate conversation” about state laws on abortion, which the majority leader said already protect most women seeking to end pregnancies. Flanagan also said the Reproductive Health Act that Cuomo supports goes way beyond the protections in Roe v. Wade, and there would be little support for it in the GOP. However, if there were new legislation, he would take it to his conference. “Given the magnitude and seriousness of this issue, we would need to have detailed discussions in our conference on the specific language,” he said.
While there always was a possibility legislators would return to Albany to address some local measures that didn’t get passed in the Big Ugly’s last days in June, the emergence of a U.S. Supreme Court vacancy and the chance that Roe v. Wade could be overturned changed the calculation. In recent days, Cuomo has attacked State Senate Republicans for not passing a bill that would expand abortion rights in New York, and he demanded that lawmakers return to Albany.
While Speaker Carl Heastie was steadfast that there was no need for the Assembly to return, on Tuesday he said the Reproductive Health Act needed to pass. And some senators started to agitate for a special session.
Earlier Wednesday, Sen. Martin Golden of Brooklyn became the first Republican to publicly demand that his conference return to renew New York City’s ability to operate speed cameras in school zones. Golden is under heavy pressure in his district because the current speed-camera authorization expires on July 25.
And Long Island freshman Sen. Elaine Phillips, who supports abortion rights and faces a strong challenge in her Nassau district from North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Anna Kaplan, suddenly on Tuesday signed on as a co-sponsor of the speed-camera legislation. Was she sending up a flare that she wants to return to Albany to vote on a new abortion bill to mute the issue for the November election?
A tale of two primary wins
The Reform Party had no candidates in the June congressional primaries in NYC, but it wasted about $1 million in taxpayer funds (according to the Daily News) to let voters write in random candidates in two districts where incumbent Democrats had no primaries.
That useless exercise resulted in new Democratic star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez winning a second primary, according to the results certified this week. Ocasio-Cortez, who took down 14th District Rep. Joe Crowley in the neighboring Bronx-Queens district, also won enough write-in votes to score the Reform Party nod in the neighboring 15th congressional district. That seat is held by reliable leftist and Bronx stalwart Rep. Jose Serrano, a Democrat.
Ocasio-Cortez has said she will remain the nominee for the original seat, which means the Reform Party will have the option of naming a replacement in the 15th. But who were the voters who were so moved to write in hers or other names in a useless endeavor? There were 70 ballots cast for the Reform Party across the 15th district. Reform Party rules allow both party enrollees and voters not affiliated with another party (registered as a “blank”) to vote in their primaries. State records from April show that there are 37 active voters enrolled in the Reform Party in the district, so even if every single one voted, that means that at least some of the district’s 46,081 unaffiliated voters decided to vote Reform, too.
Were they confused? Had they just gotten Ocasio-Cortez fever, wanted to vote for her, and this was their only shot? Did they hope to get her on a different ballot line than in the 14th District to give her another shot at the House?
Regardless, Ocasio-Cortez ended up taking down another New York power broker on primary day. Her 10 Reform Party write-ins (counting misspellings) in this south-central Bronx district dwarfed the lone vote cast for Long Island Rep. Peter King.