The Suffolk County GOP filed court papers to uphold the county's term limit law on Friday, April 2, claiming Democratic candidate for Suffolk County Legislative 3rd District vacated seat Kate Browning cannot serve another term.
“Where else in America do the people of a county pass a referendum on term limits and politicians ignore them? Suffolk County!” said Suffolk County Republican Party chairman Jesse Garcia, regarding the upcoming May 25 special election. “We welcome competition. We welcome giving voters a choice, but will not sit by silently as Kate Browning seeks to break the law and thwart the will of the people. Her candidacy is illegal and an affront to the 1.5 million people of Suffolk County who owe her nothing.”
In 1993, the Suffolk County Legislature passed a term limit law that was put before the voters and passed on the ballot in November, limiting legislators to 12 years. The law reads: “No person shall serve as a county legislator for more than 12 consecutive years.”
Former Suffolk Legis. Kate Browning was term-limited in 2017 after 12 years in office. However, she has previously told this publication that it was possible to interpret the county term limit law as permitting a lawmaker to come back after sitting out for two years. She went on to run in a Democratic primary to challenge Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin in 2018. She is currently the director of code enforcement for the Town of Babylon.
“Legis. Kate Browning spent 12 years on the Suffolk County Legislature. Like others who term-limited out, she said goodbye and acknowledged it was her last and final term because of the term limit law,” argued Garcia. “Now, in the advent of an opening for the 3rd Legislative District, Kate Browning has decided to hell with the law. To hell with the people’s votes and to hell with the referendum.”
He also claims that no other legislator that has term-limited out has ever tried to defy the law. However, according to Suffolk County Legislature presiding officer Rob Calarco, though no one has served more than 12 non-consecutive years, former Legis. Ed Romaine served a total of 11 years non-consecutive. Also, the current Islip Town supervisor served the legislature for a total of just under 13 years from 1993 to 2005, as did David Bishop during the same years.
“But the law is pretty clear in my opinion; if you look at the resolution it consistently refers to ‘consecutive years,’ as well as the referendum,” Calarco said. “It doesn’t speak to somebody serving six years and coming back to do 10 more, or someone serving 12 years and coming back three years later, which is clearly not consecutive anymore.”
Brookhaven Town also recently passed a term limit in 2018 to extend town officials' time in office to 12 years. The proposition also specifically states: “[Town officials] may serve up to three four-year terms regardless of whether said terms are served consecutively or nonconsecutively.”
“This election should be decided by the voters. The Republicans have launched this politically motivated attack to distract from their record of corruption and know they can’t beat Kate Browning at the ballot box,” said Keith Davies, spokesman for Suffolk County Democratic Committee.
Republican candidate for the seat, James Mazzarella, said his full attention is focused on the issues and challenges facing the middle-class families and business of the district; however, he said, “I have always been a staunch supporter of term limits and will continue to fight hard for the issues that matter most to our community.”
Earlier this year, Suffolk County Legis. Rudy Sunderman (R-Mastic-Shirley) announced that he would be stepping down as of March 21 to pursue a career in the fire/EMS field as the Suffolk County Fire Academy director.
Sunderman’s resignation was officially approved by the Suffolk County Legislature effective March 21. Pursuant to law, the vacancy must be filled by a special election to be held within 90 days, scheduled for May 25.
According to the Suffolk County Board of Elections, details of the location for the vote have not yet been finalized. However, those wishing to request an absentee ballot can do so online at: Absenteeballot.elections.ny.gov.