Former Riverhead supervisor Phil Cardinale said this week that he will screen for the Democratic nomination for his old job. But whether he runs or not will depend on the strength of the candidates running with him — and the strength of the backing the party can provide for him.
“While they’re screening me, I will be, in essence, screening them,” Mr. Cardinale said in an interview.
The Democrats held some candidate screenings Monday night but Marge Acevedo, chair of the party’s screening committee, refused to disclose who was screened or even how many people were screening for each position.
Mr. Cardinale, who submitted his résumé but has yet to be screened, served three terms as supervisor, from 2004 to 2009, before losing to incumbent Republican Sean Walter in December 2009, an election in which Republicans claimed all five Town Board seats.
The Republicans, meanwhile, have an internal battle this year, as Councilman Jim Wooten has screened for the party’s nomination for supervisor against Mr. Walter, while three other candidates have screened for his council seat.
Mr. Cardinale said he disagrees with his party’s policy of not publicly disclosing who is screening for council seats because that information will help him make his decision.
“It’s a screening, and part of the screening is for them to find out what I think is important about the present administration’s weaknesses. And part of it is for me to make certain that, if I am selected to run, that I’m comfortable that we have good candidates, we have a united party and we’re ready to put in a good organizational effort,” Mr. Cardinale said.
He said if the party has good candidates and a strong organization, he’d be happy to accept the nomination.
“Right now, we have a Town Board with five members of a single party, so in order to make a difference, it’s important we have three real alternatives,” Mr. Cardinale said.
Democratic chairman Vinny Villella said he also doesn’t know who the Democrats’ screening committee is screening, and that’s the way he wants it.
“I don’t want it to seem like the committee is being forced to pick someone by the leadership,” he said. The five-member screening committee will make recommendations to the full committee, which will make the formal nominations.
Mr. Villella said Mr. Cardinale’s nomination for supervisor is not a sure thing, if he wants it, as had been reported elsewhere.
“He’s no shoo-in,” Mr. Villella said. “He has to go through the process just like anyone else.”
Ms. Acevedo said there are other prospective candidates still to be screened.
“There’s so many rumors out there, I’d rather not comment until the process is completed, and I’m a strong advocate of the process,” she said.
Ms. Acevedo explained the reason for the committee’s evasiveness.
She said the committee doesn’t want people who screen and aren’t selected to get “hurt,” and also that some people may screen and then change their minds about running.
The Republicans held this year’s screenings in front of their entire committee, rather than just a screening committee, and made public the names of those who screened.
“But their entire slate is elected,” Ms. Acevedo said, although there are some uncertainties with Mr. Wooten now running for supervisor.
She said the Democrats’ screening committee only makes recommendations and the full party committee votes on the nominations. She said someone from the full committee can still nominate someone who has not been recommended by the screening committee.
Mr. Cardinale said he would prefer to have the screening done before the full committee.
The Democrats have yet to schedule their nominating convention. The Republican convention is scheduled for May 11.