Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney.

Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Daily Point

DA politics

The political cans and cannots of New York district attorneys were back in the news this summer, after Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin was attacked and no bail was sought for the attacker in Monroe County, whose DA had been a Zeldin campaign co-chair.

Controversy ensued, and Monroe DA Sandra Doorley said she would recuse herself from the case, clarifying that she had not been involved with the campaign for some time.

That hubbub provided context for the surprising listing of another New York DA, Suffolk’s Ray Tierney, as a “guest speaker” in an invitation for a political fundraiser.

The invitation to the fundraiser for Nick LaLota.

The invitation to the fundraiser for Nick LaLota.

The Wednesday evening event in Huntington is in support of Nick LaLota, the GOP’s chosen candidate in CD1.

Tierney told The Point that while he plans to attend the event, he is not speaking: “I can't speak, so I'm not going to."

He noted that he was invited by friends of his who, like he and LaLota, are alumni of St. Anthony’s High School. Both event hosts are affiliated with the school.

“This was just an opportunity to visit with some of the people who I went to high school with and who support me as well,” Tierney said.

Multiple bodies provide nonbinding ethics guidelines for prosecutors, and complaints about DA ethics can be brought to a state appellate division grievance committee. A 2022 ethics handbook from the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York says that prosecutors “generally may not speak at political functions.”

A 1986 advisory opinion from the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Professional Ethics warns against speaking but goes further, suggesting that the decision of whether to attend political and social functions of a political party “should be made on the basis of all the circumstances and in the light of the basic concern for the public perception.”

Tierney said that there’s always a “tension between being accessible but then being in your ivory tower."

He said he has been very accessible: “I go everywhere.”

While he says he does not speak at political fundraisers, he has gone to some GOP or Conservative Party ones. Asked if he had done the same for the other side, he said he had gone to community events sponsored by Democrats. In a follow-up call, he added that he had attended a political event that he believed was a fundraiser, for Suffolk Sheriff Errol Toulon, who won reelection on both the Democratic and Conservative lines last year.

Suffolk Democratic leader and Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer, who had been complimentary of Tierney, his party’s opponent, even before the 2021 election, confirmed that Tierney has attended events in Babylon.

“It is so refreshing to have a DA who is nonpartisan, takes his responsibility to be fair and impartial seriously, and doesn't use his office to carry out any political hit jobs,” Schaffer said.

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

Zeldin and the art of Deal

There’s a funny, if superficial, symmetry to the Republican campaigns of Dr. Mehmet Oz for a Pennsylvania Senate seat and Rep. Lee Zeldin for New York governor.

Both remain loyal to Donald Trump, despite the controversies and legal troubles dogging the one-term GOP president, who lost both their states in 2020.

Also, both candidates are mentioned these days in the same breath as New Jersey, which at this latitude sits right between the states in which they’re competing.

For Oz, the Jersey connection involves the allegation from his foes that he never really moved from the Garden State, where he has a condo, to the Keystone State.

For Zeldin, who’s indisputably from Shirley, it’s something shorter-term.

On Sept. 4, Trump is headlining a top-dollar fundraiser for Zeldin in the well-to-do enclave of Deal, New Jersey, a beachfront borough with a population of 528. It is hosted by the family of the late Stanley Chera, a personal friend of Trump from the real estate business, who died of COVID-19 in March 2020.

Chera, who was also a prominent figure in the Sephardic Jewish community, belonged to a circle of real estate players that included Trump and Charles Kushner, father of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Even less-Trumpy New York Republicans privately told The Point that the fundraiser makes logistical sense for Zeldin.

Much as it may prove an electoral minus that his record in office is so firmly tied to the former president — he voted against certifying President Joe Biden’s wins in Pennsylvania and Arizona — Zeldin has no reason to avoid getting money out of it. He’s way behind incumbency-advantaged Gov. Kathy Hochul on fundraising.

Out-of-state fundraisers are no rarity for big statewide campaigns. (Trump in 2019 ditched New York as his home for Florida.)

Whether Trump chooses at the fundraiser to vocally endorse Zeldin, or predictably trash the Democrats, or do both, may make no practical difference. It might have mattered during the June 28 Republican primary, but the 45th president didn’t endorse. Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s son Andrew was then in the scrum, but won only 23% of the party vote against Zeldin’s 44% in a four-way race.

Barring surprises, Trump’s name in the news may already be having whatever impact it’s going to have on the state campaign — for better or worse.

— Dan Janison @Danjanison

Pencil Point

That was easy

Credit: Politicalcartoons.com/Dave Granlund, Canada

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/nationalcartoons

Final Point

Kopel’s last Challenge(r)

Howard Kopel's 392-horsepower 2021 Dodge Challenger.

Howard Kopel's 392-horsepower 2021 Dodge Challenger. Credit: Howard Kopel

For the 12 years he’s served on the Nassau County Legislature, and for decades before that as a businessman and active resident of his Lawrence and synagogue communities, Republican Howard Kopel has been known as a quiet and unassuming man. That’s not to undersell him: Allies and opponents alike agree Kopel is knowledgeable, thoughtful, creative when it comes to financial matters, and unfailingly easy to work with.

If constituents and colleagues had to guess what he drives, images of Toyota Camrys and Honda Accords might spring to mind, or maybe a Prius or a Cadillac if a bit more panache were presumed.

The father of four and grandfather of 13 just doesn’t come off aggressive.

But Kopel actually drives a high-performance sports car, a 2021 Dodge Challenger, powered by a 392-horsepower Hemi V-8 engine, that is royalty among American muscle cars.

He didn’t opt for the V6 because “buying a Challenger with a V6 is like taking a shower in a raincoat,” he told The Point.

It’s his third Challenger. It’s also almost certainly his last, because Dodge just announced that as part of its eventual conversion to manufacturing only all-electric vehicles, the 2023 Chargers and Challengers will be the final ones produced.

“I’ve always loved cars,” said Kopel. “I actually had Mustangs before the Challengers, but they were smaller and the seats were less comfortable.”

And Kopel’s red Challenger isn’t the only powerful piece of machinery in the driveway. His wife of nearly 50 years, Esther, drives a Chrysler 300 that also has plenty under the hood, and in fact is made with most of the same engine options as the Charger and Challenger. It’s also set to be discontinued.

So will Kopel go with an all-electric performance vehicle next?

“There is some charging anxiety still with them, I think, but it’s early days,” Kopel said. “I’m not sure they’re ready for prime time.”

“I may finally be ready for a grown-up car next,” joked Kopel, who is 71. “Or I may just keep this one until my kids demand the keys.”

— Lane Filler @lanefiller