There will be a crowded field of people seeking the Republican nomination for town supervisor, as town assessor Mason Haas and Councilman James Wooten are screening this week to take incumbent Supervisor Sean Walter’s job.
Mr. Walter is also still seeking his job.
The Riverhead Republican Committee will be screening candidates for town offices at the Hyatt hotel on East Main Street Wednesday night in advance of this fall’s town elections, said Republican chairman John Galla.
Mr. Galla said Calverton resident and frequent office-seeker Greg Fischer asked to screen as well, though Mr. Fischer on Monday said in a press release he wasn’t sure whether he wanted a supervisor or Town Council seat.
Mr. Wooten had screened for supervisor two years ago before instead agreeing to seek re-election to his council seat. He said in March that he would again screen for supervisor this year.
Mr. Haas has been a town assessor since 2008 and has a background in real estate title research. He’s also a member of the Jamesport Fire Department and a former Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps chief.
He’s been active in leading the fight against the county’s placement of trailers for homeless sex offenders on the East End.
Both Mr. Haas and Mr. Wooten said they agree with Mr. Walter on many of the issues he is working on, but believe the ways he goes about things needs work.
“At times, I think a different approach might be necessary,” Mr. Haas said. “I’ve told Sean, I like what he’s doing, but I would approach it differently so that there’s not all this fighting.”
Mr. Wooten’s comments were similar.
“It’s not that Sean and I are that different when it comes to the goals we set for the town, but I think it comes down to management style and approachability,” Mr. Wooten said.
Mr. Wooten blames much of the Town Board’s divisiveness on Mr. Walter.
In seeking office, Mr. Fischer said in the release he “is pushing for issues such as having elected LIPA trustees, and for the creation of a Suffolk County inspector general,” among other things.
Mr. Walter does not see the competition from within his own party as a good thing.
“It’s unfortunate,” Mr. Walter said, “because I feel like the Republican Committee hung a ‘help wanted’ sign on the door to the supervisor’s office, and they don’t usually do that when the incumbent is from their own party.”
He said he plans to run on his record and he run a primary if he doesn’t get the party’s nomination.
Ms. Haas said he will not run a primary and Mr. Wooten said he has not made that decision yet.
“I don’t think anyone can really say that the town is not better off now than it was four years ago,” Mr. Walter said, pointing to “a downtown that’s thriving,” the privatization of the town animal shelter, the opening of the Suffolk Theater and the fact that the EPCAL subdivision is nearing completion.
“On all fronts, the town is better off now than it was four years ago.” he said. “All of this is about personalities. But I defy anyone to find an effective leader that pleases 100 percent of the people 100 percent of the time. It can’t happen or else you’re not an effective leader.
“Judge me on how effective I’ve been as a leader.”
Mr. Walter said the only ones who benefit from the Republican infighting are the Democrats.
“It should never have gotten to this stage,” he said.
Mr. Galla said all potential candidates for town office deserve credit.
“I salute anybody who puts their name forward,” Mr. Galla said. “I still think elected office is a high calling and I salute the people that have stepped forward. It’s not an east thing to do, to have your whole life scrutinized.”
In addition to the supervisor’s seat, there will be a challenge to the Town Council incumbents as well, Mr. Galla said.
Incumbents Jodi Giglio and John Dunleavy are each seeking re-election, and downtown resident Anthony Coates also had made no secret of his plans to run for a council seat on the Republican line. Mr. Coates, who has been a political adviser to Mr. Walter, changed his registration from Democrat to Republican last year in anticipation of running for council as a Republican this year.
Mr. Galla said that this year, the Republicans will have candidates screen before the entire committee, whereas in past years, the committee appointed a screening committee with about 10 people who screened the candidates and then made a recommendation to the full committee.
The committee will likely announce its candidates sometime next month, but that date hasn’t been set yet, Mr. Galla said.
There was one other candidate who expressed interest in seeking a Town Board seat, according to Mr. Galla, who said he was unable to reach that person to see if he or she was still interested in screening or if they wanted it made public that they were screening.