State Senator Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) is planning on leaving the Senate if he gets elected Suffolk County Sheriff. Now, on its own, that’s not so weird–two other Senators are resigning or running for other offices and several Assemblymembers are trying to get elected to other jobs. The Sheriff also earns $193,123 a year, far more than the legislature’s $79,500 salary. But the circumstances around the race are suspicious, to say the least.
Will Boyle win?
In the Republican primary, Boyle will have to beat Larry Zacarese, a former New York City police sergeant and assistant chief of the Stony Brook University police. Then, he’d have to beat the Democratic candidate, retired NYPD officer Dan Caroleo. Incumbent sheriff, Vincent DeMarco, a Conservative Party member, is not running for re-election. He helped convict ex-Suffolk Conservative Party chair Edward Walsh on corruption charges and the Conservative Party endorsed Boyle to replace him.
However, some believe the fix is in. According to the theory, the Democratic candidate for District Attorney, Tim Sini, will get elected along with the Republican Boyle for Sheriff. Sini got the Conservative and Working Families Parties’ endorsements and, though there is a Republican candidate for the position, some think he’s a sacrificial lamb.
So what then?
As part of the deal (though denied by all parties), State Senator Phil Boyle will resign after winning the primary so that there is a special election in November for his seat. Democrats won’t run a serious candidate for the Senate seat so that Republican county legislator Tom Cilmi can fill the seat. Then Islip Republican Trish Bergin, a town board member and former TV reporter, will get elected to Cilmi’s county legislative seat.
This is a seat Democrats could win. Democrat Christine Pellegrino won an Assembly special election earlier this year in the area and Suffolk Democratic Leader Richard Schaffer mentioned several other strong potential candidates to the Daily News: Assemblyman Phil Ramos, Suffolk County legislator Louis D’Amaro, Off Track Betting Corp. President Philip Nolan, and former Suffolk County Executive Patrick Halpin. But if, as believed, Schaffer plans to hand over the seat, he may discourage them from running.
So to recap:
- Democrats will get the District Attorney (and presumably, other patronage jobs).
- In exchange, they won’t seriously compete with the Republicans for Sheriff, State Senate, or the other seats Republicans currently hold.
Why does it matter if the deal is true? Two big reasons:
- Corruption. Suffolk County has been embroiled in an ongoing investigation into Police Department corruption. Numerous police officers have gone to jail, including former Suffolk County Chief James Burke. County Executive Steve Bellone called on the incumbent District Attorney, Tom Spota, to resign (he’s not running for re-election), calling the DA’s office a “criminal organization.”A new Sheriff and District Attorney could clean up the criminal justice system. However, if they are anointed by the political establishment, they are unlikely to make major reforms that could upset their benefactors.
- The State Senate. If Phil Boyle’s successor is guaranteed to be a Republican, that’ll be a major relief for Republican Senate Leader John Flanagan. Flanagan, who is from Smithtown in Suffolk County, is struggling to hang onto control of the Senate, even though a majority of Senators are registered Democrats. If he were to lose Phil Boyle’s seat to a Democrat, that would increase Flanagan’s reliance on Sen. Jeff Klein and the Independent Democratic Conference. Flanagan would almost certainly be forced to allow more progressive legislation to pass.