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Suffolk County’s DA Elect Ray Tierney: Conservative Republican On the Ballot; Independent in Heart

Underdog Ray Tierney’s 57%- 42% victory on election day, November 2, 2021 in the race to unseat one-term incumbent Suffolk County DA Democrat Tim Sini was widely seen as a great triumph for the Republican and Conservative parties. Photo credit: Ray Tierney For District Attorney.

GREAT NECK, NY – Underdog Ray Tierney’s 57%- 42% victory on election day, November 2, 2021 in the race to unseat one-term incumbent Suffolk County DA Democrat Tim Sini was widely seen as a great triumph for the Republican and Conservative parties, whose tickets Tierney, 55, a lawyer with more than a combined 25 years of experience as a state and federal prosecutor, ran on.      

For the GOP in particular, which provided Tierney with 45% of his 57% of the total votes, with the other 12% coming from the growingly powerful Suffolk County Conservative Party, the DA elect’s landslide win also delivered a welcomed ripple effect, pulling enough votes to help the Republicans gain control by a margin of 11-7 in the 18-seat Suffolk County Legislature – the first time since 2006 that the party of Lincoln owned the majority in Suffolk County’s sole law- making body.   

However, before celebrating Tierney as Suffolk County’s new partisan star, the county’s Republicans must, it would seem, have to come to terms with one bothersome fact: their new hero has never been a member of the Republican (nor Conservative nor any other) Party – not before, not during and not even after his stunning victory.

When I interviewed Tierney in his central Suffolk County transition office last week, I first asked him why and then how this unusual political arrangement came about.


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As a career prosecutor,” Tierney explained, “I have always believed that I must maintain political independence, so I made a decision more than 25 years ago not to join any political party and rather, maintain a non-partisan status.”     

He then added that his long and widely respected career as a prosecutor – which in addition to his successful prosecution of foreign and domestic drug dealers, members of MS-13 and a long list of white-collar criminals, also included targeting corrupt Republican, Conservative and Democratic elected officials – has made him realize he had made the right decision.  

Referring to guilty verdicts he won of three former Long Island political powerhouses –  Suffolk County Conservative Leader Ed Walsh (2016), Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano (2018), and Suffolk County DA Tom Spota (2019) – Tierney postulated,

“Hypothetically had I been a registered Republican or Conservative, and also hypothetically had I attended political fundraisers together with those three, there well might have been a perception that my prosecution of them might have been compromised in some way. Thus, by maintaining political independence throughout my entire career, I have made it totally clear and beyond any question that when it comes to enforcing the law, I have no room for political considerations of any form.”                                                              

Tierney was no less forthcoming when answering the “how” part of my question. First noting that as a non-party affiliated career prosecutor he had never considered running for political office, Tierney stated,

“As someone who has always avoided any involvement in partisan politics, I was totally surprised when this past January Jesse Garcia [The Chairperson of the Suffolk County Republican Party] contacted me to ask if I would meet him at a local diner to discuss the possibility of my running on the Republican ticket for the office of District Attorney of Suffolk County.”                                 

Tierney recalled that while at first he was unsure whether or not to accept Garcia’s offer, that ambivalence soon changed when the two had their first meeting.

“I realized that we shared the same concerns about how Mr. Sini’s mismanagement of the DA’s office has endangered public safety throughout and even beyond the county,” he recalled. “One of the most egregious examples we discussed of Sini’s incompetence, which I later explored during the campaign, related to his unprofessionally conducted prosecution of several MS-13 members.”    

“Jesse and I,” Tierney elaborated, “discussed several indictments for gun possession and even murder [by MS-13 members] in which Sini inexcusably allowed the defendants to plead guilty to significantly lower charges, carrying no or very minimum jail time. These criminals, we also lamented, are now walking freely in our streets endangering the safety of us all.”

Referring to his own past success prosecuting members of MS- 13 that he discussed with Garcia, Tierney added,

As Jesse already knew, in contrast to Mr. Sini, I prosecuted 100’s of MS-13 lawbreakers, who are now serving long jail sentences.”

However, Tierney noted, even as he and Garcia found during their meeting that they shared a common view on how the DA’s office should be run, and even as Tierney himself later began to become amenable to the idea of running for DA on the Republican Party ticket, there remained one problem that had to be solved.

Tierney, the married father of four young adult children, recalled,

“After my long and very productive meeting with Chairperson Garcia and, just as importantly, after getting the enthusiastic approval from my family, I would have been ready and eager to start my campaign.”  

However, Tierney noted there remained one question that needed be answered before he could run for DA.

“I was very proud to run on the Republican line to oppose Mr. Sini,” he stated. “But because I have always believed that a prosecutor should not be a registered member of any political party, I told Jesse that I would not register as a Republican. So the question was, can a candidate run on the he ballot of a party of which he is not an official member?”

Thankfully for Tierney and the 154,627 Suffolk County citizens who wound up voting for him, the answer to that question was “yes.”                                                                                                                                                                                     

Tierney explained that there was a 1947 New York State law named the Wilson Pakula Act which contained a provision  permitting candidates to run for elected office on the ballot of a political party with which they are not officially registered.

“Because of that provision,” said Tierney, “I was able to run on the Republican Party ticket, even though I was not a registered member of the party. I then utilized the same law to run on the Conservative Party line.”                                                                                            

Still, soon after his campaign was launched this past spring, whether or not Tierney was a registered Republican (or   Conservative) became a distinction without a meaningful difference. Noting that the campaign platform he ran on  mirrored the pro-police, pro-public safety philosophy and policies commonly espoused by the GOP, Tierney stated,

“My public safety policies were totally consistent with those of the Republican Party. I campaigned on the promise”, he elaborated, that “ to combat the increasing wave of violent crime plaguing Suffolk County, I would re-establish the DA’s Gang Unit and Suffolk Gang Task Force; direct my ADA’s {Assistant District Attorneys} to fight against the granting of bail for violent criminals and parole violators; and for me personally,” he continued, “I promised that I would use the bully pulpit of the DA’s office to try to persuade  state lawmakers to repeal New York State’s criminal friendly so called bail reform laws.”

Come January 2, 2022 when he is sworn in as District Attorney of Suffolk County, Tierney will have the chance to make good on those campaign pledges, even as he officially remains a man without a political party.


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