Monday Briefing: Brookhaven election could change local landscape

08/20/2012 8:00 AM |

JOHN GRIFFIN FILE PHOTO | Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko delivers his State of the Town address in 2010. Mr. Lesko’s resignation in Brookhaven could spell change locally.

Whenever an elected town official resigns mid-term it has the potential to drastically shake up the political landscape in that town. It’s rare, however, that such a resignation can impact several towns.

That’s certainly the case though with last week’s announcement that Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko is stepping down next month.

What will make the resulting special election even more interesting is that it comes in a non-local year, giving every elected official in Brookhaven Town outside of Ken LaValle, Dan Losquadro and Dean Murray the opportunity to pursue the seat with no risk of losing their current post. [Both Mr. Losquadro and Mr. Murray might seek the seat anyway.]

Considering that Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine of Center Moriches is already the reported GOP favorite, according to Newsday, the election could have an impact on residents of Riverhead and Southold towns.

The North Fork Legislator seems a logical choice for Republicans. He’s a savvy pol with old-school charm and he’s been incredibly popular in recent elections for County Legislature. He’s also served countywide as a County Clerk.

The position might also interest Mr. Romaine as he nears the county term limit, and has spent each of his terms in the political minority on the Legislature.

Hurting Mr. Romaine’s chances might be the losses he suffered in the two largest elections of his political career, a bid for County Executive and Congress. A good portion of his voting base is outside of Brookhaven, too.

The GOP has a fairly deep pool of candidates to choose from with two Republican State Assemblyman living in Brookhaven, Dan Losquadro of Shoreham and Dean Murray of Patchogue; the leading contender off the Brookhaven Town Board, Councilman Dan Panico of Shirley; and another County Legislator in Thomas Muratore of Ronkonkoma.

That’s a decent pool of proven candidates in a year where the Suffolk GOP is already excited about its chances to grab a seat in the House of Representatives with St. James businessman Randy Altschuler back on the ballot after being narrowly defeated in 2010.

In fact, Mr. Lesko’s timing couldn’t have been worse for Suffolk Democrats, who were already looking to spend big to keep Congressman Tim Bishop in office.

Now they’ll have to raise even more money to keep control of the largest town in the county, where Mr. Lesko’s seat currently gives them a one-vote majority.

Newsday reports that Former Assemblyman Marc Alessi of Shoreham and Mr. Lesko’s top aide, Brian Beedenbender, are among the leading contenders for the Democratic nomination. Considering Mr. Alessi and Mr. Beedenbender lost their most recent elections — to Mr. Losquadro and Mr. Muratore, respectively — that’s not a great sign for the Democrats. Patchogue Village Mayor Paul Pontieri is also in the mix, but he comes with his own set of political baggage.

On the flip side, the other two townwide elected leaders in Brookhaven, John Rouse and Patricia Eddington, have both won on the Democratic line. But would they really want to move away from those two cozy posts?

Perhaps the Democrats’ best opportunity comes with having President Barrack Obama and Congressman Tim Bishop on the ballot, enabling their candidate to receive trickle-down votes from incumbents at the top of the ticket.

The fact that this special election comes in a presidential year, where voters are twice as likely to visit the polls, makes just about anything possible.

And should it be Mr. Romaine who earns the GOP nomination and ultimately the supervisorship, that could mean more than just a change in our local leadership on the County Legislature if local officials pursue his seat.

Just think about all the posts that could change hands at the town level if, say, one of the North Fork town supervisors pursued Mr. Romaine’s seat.

No matter how things shake out, the situation in Brookhaven is certainly worth keeping an eye on from out here.

Grant Parpan is the executive editor for Times/Review Newsgroup. He covered Brookhaven Town politics from 2006 to 2011 as a reporter and editor of the former North Shore Sun newspaper.