02/17/14 10:00am
02/17/2014 10:00 AM
State Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), shown here, will challenge incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) in 2014. (Courtesy file photo)

State Senator Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), pictured above, will challenge incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) in November. (Courtesy file photo)

Some familiar faces will be looking for the Republican nod for Congress this fall, with the winner getting a shot at longtime incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop.

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09/18/13 7:50am
09/18/2013 7:50 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO  |  Mason Haas in his office in Town Hall.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Mason Haas in his office in Town Hall.

Mason Haas was elected chairman of the Riverhead Republican Committee Tuesday night at Polish Hall, succeeding John Galla, who has held the post since March 2011 and did not seek re-election.

Mr. Haas is an elected town assessor and a member of the Jamesport Fire Department. He is also a former chief of the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

He defeated former GOP chairman Martin Keller by a slightly more than 2-to-1 margin in terms of gubernatorial votes. In this type of election, each committee member’s vote represents the specific number of the registered Republican voters from each election district who participated in the last gubernatorial election. The final tally Tuesday night was 2,255 to 1,119.

“I’m very pleased and honored that they gave me the opportunity to serve as leader,” Mr. Haas said. “We have a totally new executive committee and we’re going in a new direction.”

Mr. Haas chose former town councilman Vic Prusinowski as committee vice chair, Tammy Robinkoff as treasurer and Tracy Stark-James as secretary. Ms. Stark-James is the executive director of the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency and also serves as president of the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce.

“I believe the committee has lacked structure, and that’s what I plan on putting in place,” Mr. Haas continued. “We have a lot of very dedicated committee members and we have some divisiveness. I plan on reaching out and bringing them together.”

Mr. Keller, who was a Riverhead Republican Committee chairman for about two years before stepping down in 2009 following the death of his son, said the main reason he sought to run for chairman this year was his belief that an elected official should not serve as chairman of a political committee — or be on party’s executive committee at all.

“I really strongly believe that elected officials do not belong on the executive board,” Mr. Keller said in an interview. “To me, that’s a conflict of interest and even though the town ethics board doesn’t prevent it, it should. Conflicts of interest can definitely arise, so why put ourselves in that position?”

Mr. Haas heard similar criticism during the recent Republican primary campaign from Anthony Coates, who ran a primary challenge for council and lost to party designees Jodi Giglio and John Dunleavy, but said he doesn’t think there is any conflict of interest between his elected position and his position with the committee.

He said the argument that an assessor can alter someone’s taxes if they don’t back him or his candidates is not true.

“It’s illegal, I would go to jail and I would be brought up on charges by the state,” Mr. Haas said. “The taxpayers can rest assured, from my history with the town and my community service, that I’ve always acted in the best interests of the town and will continue to do so.”

Mr. Haas was also active in the fight to rid the downtown Riverhead area of the county’s homeless sex offender trailer that had been parked at the county jail.

tgannon@timesreview.com

06/18/13 6:06pm
06/18/2013 6:06 PM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Riverhead Republican nominees, from left,

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Republican nominees, from left, Mike Panchak, Laverne Tennenberg, John Dunleavy, Sean Walter, Anthony Palumbo and Jodi Giglio.

Anthony Coates, who’s running a primary for a Riverhead council seat, is accusing town Republican committee leadership of threatening members who carry nominating petitions for him.

Candidates in Riverhead Town need signatures from 380 registered Republicans in order to get on the primary ballot.

A letter from recently appointed Riverhead Republican vice chairman Mason Haas, which was sent to committee members and forwarded to the media by Mr. Coates, reads as follows:

“As per the Chairperson, all committee members are reminded that they are only to carry the petitions of those nominated by the committee. Anyone doing otherwise would face disciplinary actions by the county committee. Along with possible dismissal as a committee person.”

Ms. Haas confirmed he sent the letter, and said his comments reflect a policy of the county Republican committee.

But Suffolk County Republican chairman John Jay LaValle said in an interview Tuesday that this isn’t exactly the case.

“It’s not necessarily true that if a committee member is supporting one Republican over another Republican that this would be an actionable situation,” Mr. LaValle said. “If a committee person was carrying the petitions of a Democrat, or member of some other party running against our party, that would clearly be actionable.”

“Actionable” could mean that person’s removal from the committee, he said, adding that while it would be “frowned upon” for a committee member to carry petitions against the committee’s candidates, it wouldn’t necessarily involve disciplinary procedures.

But Mr. Coates says this is the type of thing he’s running against.

“Did that really come from Republican headquarters? Or was it Berlin 1941?” Mr. Coates wrote in a letter to local media.

The Republicans nominated incumbents John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio for the council seats, and Mr. Coates, who changed his registration to Republican only last year, is running a primary for one of those seats.

Mr. Coates says he began collecting signatures on June 4, the first day petition forms were available from the Board of Elections, and now has more than 500 signatures.

The Republican committee leaders, on the other hand, were “a little late” in handing out their petitions due to “unforeseen circumstances” and didn’t start until this week, according to town GOP chairman John Galla.

He said they usually hand out the petitions at their annual golf tournament, but that was rained out. In addition, he said, the petitions they received from Suffolk County didn’t have the voter enrollment books attached.

Mr. Coates called the delay in gathering signatures for nominees “sheer laziness” on the part of Republican leadership.

“This is an example of the type of complacency and right of entitlement and taking the voters for granted that I’m running against,” he said. “I want to be represented in Town Hall by the person who does their homework first. This is a metaphor for how they will govern.”

Petition signatures are dated and, under Board of Elections rules, if someone signs Mr. Coates’ petition first and then signs the Republican committee’s petition, which includes the names of all candidates nominated for town office, then the signatures on the second petition could be challenged and possibly thrown out, as least for the council nominees. In effect, although nominees for other offices would be unaffected, neither of the Republican council nominees (Mr. Dunleavy and Ms. Giglio) would receive credit for that signature because it would be unclear which of them the signer intended to support.

The BOE says they would only review such discrepancies if someone raised a challenge.

Because of this, Mr. Coates said, both Mr. Dunleavy and Supervisor Sean Walter are carrying blank petitions with only their own names on them, so they won’t be thrown out if the signer also signed Mr. Coates’ petition.

Mr. Walter gave a different story. He said he is carrying the petitions of the Conservative party, which endorsed the entire Republican slate except Ms. Giglio.

In order to carry petitions, one must be a registered member of the party for whom they are collecting petitions, or a notary public. Mr. Walter, a registered Republican, said he is also a notary.

Mr. Dunleavy also denied carrying petitions with only his name on it, but said he considered carrying petitions for the entire Republican slate with Ms. Giglio’s name whited out, but decided not to when he learned that these petitions would be counted separately from those with the full committee slate.

Mr. Dunleavy said he is now carrying just the petitions of the full Republican slate.

“He just wants to stir the pot,” he said of Mr. Coates.

Mr. Dunleavy said Tuesday that he only began collecting petitions Monday, in his own neighborhood. He said he knocked on two doors and both people said they had already signed Mr. Coates’ petition.

He got into a lengthy discussion about a town issue with one of the residents, he said, and had to go to a town function after that, so he never got any further.

“It’s harder to collect petitions when you’re in office,” he said, because of the town issues that need attention.

tgannon@timesreview.com

05/23/13 9:29pm

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Riverhead Republican nominees, from left, Mike Panchak, Laverne Tennenberg, John Dunleavy, Sean Walter, Anthony Palumbo and Jodi Giglio.

It’s Sean Walter vs. Angela DeVito for Riverhead Town Supervisor.

The incumbent Republican Mr. Walter and the Democrat and former school board president Ms. Devito received the nominations of their respective parties Thursday night.

Despite having twice won elections for Town Supervisor, Mr. Walter wasn’t a guaranteed nominee. Assessor Mason Haas and Councilman Jim Wooten had both screened with party officials, but come Thursday both had backed off plans to oppose the sitting supervisor.

Mr. Haas even went so far as to nominate Mr. Walter, who promised to “be a better supervisor.” When asked if he was surprised by the support shown to him Thursday, Mr. Walter admitted he hasn’t always been a friend to everyone in the party.

“I think it’s very easy to lose sight of the people that got you elected and by reconnecting with the committee and finding out what their needs and concerns are to get renominated brings you back to your roots,” Mr. Walter said.

“In my zeal to get things done I ran over a lot of people,” he added.

Mr Wooten said that’s just how things are.

“There are no friends in politics,” he said. “We can’t afford to look back. We have to look forward.”

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Riverhead Town Democratic nominees, from left, Icilio ‘Bill’ Bianchi, Millie Thomas, Angela DeVito and Greg Fischer.

Ms. DeVito was nominated with the unanimous support of the Democratic screening committee, though current Riverhead school board president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Greg Fischer of Calverton received support from the floor. Ms. DeVito easily won the nomination, though.

She said recent votes give her hope she can win the election.

“This is the year,” she said. “The thing I learned in the Obama campaign and the Krupski campaign is that we Democrats can win. I got three calls for Sean Walter this year. He is scared. He is worried about the Democratic slate … we are going to bring the people together.”

Ms. DeVito, 64, is a member and former president of the Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association and is retired from her position as director of workforce development with the Long Island Building Trades Council.

Icilio “Bill” Bianchi and Millie Thomas received the Democratic nominations for Town Council. George “Gio” Woodson received the nomination for re-election as Highway Superintendent. Mr. Fischer later received the Democratic nomination for Assessor.

Mr. Bianchi, 82, is a former New York State Assemblyman who used to live in Bellport and now lives in Riverhead and owns a greenhouse on Doctors Path, where he grows orchids.

Ms. Thomas, 62,  is a real estate broker and owner of Landmark Realty in Wading River.

As expected, incumbent Republican council members Jodi Giglio and Jon Dunleavy were nominated for re-election. No other designations were made. Afterward Anthony Coates, who had screened with GOP officials, said he’s going to move forward with a primary campaign.

“I am running for the town board to propose new policy,” he said. “I am running to offer fresh ideas and to be a new voice.”

Laverne Tennenberg received the GOP nomination for re-election as assessor, while Mike Panchak was nominated to oppose incumbent Democrat George “Gio” Woodson for Highway Superintendent.

Riverhead Democrats voted to support John McManmon of Jamesport for the vacant state Assembly seat, though the move was met with controversy. While he’s registered to vote at his parents’ address in Jamesport, some Democrats, led by Greg Fischer of Calverton said he lives in New York City.

Mr. McManmon, an attorney in Manhattan, told the News-Review he does live in Brooklyn during the week for work purposes but has always voted here.

Brookhaven and Southold Democrats still have to choose a nominee for Assembly at their town conventions next week.

Republicans announced earlier Thursday that they will support New Suffolk attorney Anthony Palumbo for Assembly.

ORIGINAL STORY

Rootin’ for Wooten for Supervisor? Have a hankering for some Haas?

Sorry, this doesn’t appear to be your year after all.

GOP sources said Thursday that Riverhead Town Councilman Jim Wooten and Assessor Mason Haas have both backed down from their intent to run for Town Supervisor. Instead, sources have confirmed, incumbent Supervisor Sean Walter, 46, is expected to get the support of the Republican Committee at tonight’s nominating convention at Polish Hall.

The same sources said Thursday that incumbent council members Jodi Giglio and John Dunleavy will also get nominations for re-election, as has been expected.

Mr. Wooten, 53, stopped short of saying he’s no longer interested in running for supervisor, but he did say he’s in favor of party unity.

“The convention is tonight, and you never know what will happen,” Mr. Wooten said. “But I think the Republican Party is poised to stand together and unify their choices, and as far as my pulling out, I’m going to do what’s best for the party.” He declined to say if that meant he would not challenge Mr. Walter in a primary.

Mr. Haas, 55, could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday. Riverhead GOP chairman John Galla declined comment.

Town Board hopeful Anthony Coates, 52, appears poised to wage a primary battle in the likely event he fails to earn a nomination over Ms. Giglio, 44, and Mr. Dunleavy, 72.

“It’s a decision I will make in the aftermath of the convention, but I am strongly leaning in that direction,” he said.

The GOP convention at Polish Hall is scheduled for 7 p.m., the same time Democrats will gather at the nearby VFW Hall.

The Riverhead Democratic screening committee is recommending Angela DeVito for Supervisor, and Icilio “Bill” Bianchi and Millie Thomas for council, according to Democratic chair Marge Acevedo. The screening process took more than 35 hours, and they screened four people for supervisor and seven for council, she said.

The screening committee recommendations don’t always get the support of the full committee, as was the case two years ago.

Ms. DeVito, 64, is a former Riverhead Board of Education president, a member and former president of the Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association and is retired from her position as director of workforce development with the Long Island Building Trades Council.

Mr. Bianchi, 82, is a former New York State Assemblyman who used to live in Bellport and now lives in Riverhead and owns a greenhouse on Doctors Path, where he grows orchids.

Ms. Thomas, 62,  is a real estate broker and owner of Landmark Realty in Wading River.

tgannon@timesreview.com

05/23/13 9:28pm

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Town Board members (from left) Jim Wooten, John Dunleavy, Supervisor Sean Walter, Jodi Giglio and George Gabrielsen.

Riverhead Town Republicans and Democrats both hosted their nominating conventions in Polish Thursday night. Read a recap of our live reports below:

05/11/13 2:00pm
05/11/2013 2:00 PM
NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Town Board members (from left) Jim Wooten, John Dunleavy, Supervisor Sean Walter, Jodi Giglio and George Gabrielsen.

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Town Board members (from left) Jim Wooten, John Dunleavy, Supervisor Sean Walter, Jodi Giglio and George Gabrielsen.

Riverhead Town’s Democrats and Republicans will host their candidate nominating conventions at the same time in Polish Town later this month.

The Republican convention will be held at 7 p.m. May 23 in Polish Hall on Marcy Avenue, according to committee chairman John Galla. The Democrats will be at the VFW hall on Parkway Street, where it intersects with Hamilton Avenue, according to Democratic chair Marge Acevedo.

“It’s like the Yankees and Mets having home games on the same night,” Mr. Galla said.

The Repubicans hold all five Town Board seats but those incumbents are being challenged from within. Councilman James Wooten and town assessor Mason Haas are both challenging incumbent Sean Walter for the supervisor nomination, and incumbent council members John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio are being challenged by Anthony Coates, who has been an advisor to Mr. Walter. Mr. Coates has publicly supported Mr. Dunleavy, while criticizing Ms. Giglio.

The Democrats, meanwhile, have not released the names of any of the people they’ve screened, although some names have leaked out. In the supervisor race, Ann Cotten-Degrasse, the current president of the Riverhead Board of Education and a retired teacher and union president, has confirmed that she has screened for the position. Former Riverhead school board president Angela DeVito has already set up a campaign committee for her supervisor run.

In other town races, incumbent Democratic Highway Superintendent George “Gio” Woodson is up for reelection this fall, and the Republicans have screened Mike Panchak, who owns an asphalt company. He and Mr. Woodson are members of the Riverhead Fire Department.

The only other town seat up for reelection is the assessor seat currently held by Republican Laverne Tennenberg.

tgannon@timesreview.com

04/16/13 6:00am
04/16/2013 6:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Town assessor Mason Haas at his desk in 2012.

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.

JAMES WOOTEN

JAMES WOOTEN

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.

GREG FISCHER

GREG FISCHER

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.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Supervisor Sean Walter at his 'State of the Town' address last week in Calverton.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter at his ‘State of the Town’ address last week in Calverton.

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.

tgannon@timesreview.com

01/30/13 10:32pm
01/30/2013 10:32 PM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | About 50 people attended a community forum on the county’s homeless sex offender trailers in Riverside and Westhampton Wednesday night at the county center, where speakers criticized the county for not removing the trailers after seven years.

Suffolk County’s new plan for dealing with sex offenders will be presented to the county Legislature’s public safety committee at 9:30 a.m. Thursday and it could be approved as early as next week, according to South Fork Legislator Jay Schneiderman.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone directed the county police department to develop “a comprehensive approach to better protect our communities from sex offenders” on Jan. 2, after failing to meet his own goal of eliminating the two homeless sex offender trailers in Westhampton and Riverside by the end of 2012.

Those trailers continue to draw concern from East End residents and officials, who say the county’s entire homeless sex offender population is being dumped on one town.

That was evident at a community forum hosted by Mr. Schneiderman (I-Montauk) at the county center Thursday night, where about 50 people gathered and vented their frustration at the county’s failure to remove the two trailers after seven years.

Mr. Schneiderman said he had spoken to Mr. Bellone the day before the meeting and had gotten some snippets of the new sex offender plan, which will be presented at Thursday’s committee meeting by Suffolk Police Chief James Burke and Laura Ahearn, Executive Director of Parents for Megan’s Law.

Mr. Schneiderman said he had hoped the new plan would have been ready before Wednesday’s forum, but it wasn’t. Mr. Bellone was not present, sending a member of his staff instead.

“The county executive said this new proposal would have the most intense monitoring of sex offenders anywhere in the country,” Mr. Schneiderman said. Mr. Bellone had originally planned to enact a plan the county legislature created in 2011, calling for the creation of six mini-shelters throughout the county, to replace the two trailers on the East End, which house about 40 homeless sex offenders, most of whom are not from the East End, Mr. Schneiderman said.

But Mr. Bellone felt it would take time to build these mini-shelters and each one would be met with intense opposition from neighbors, Mr. Schneiderman said.

So instead, he asked the police department to come up with a new plan that addresses not only the 40 or so homeless sex offenders but also the approximately 1,000 sex offenders who aren’t homeless in Suffolk County.

Mr. Schneiderman said the new plan could be voted on by the full Legislature Tuesday.

“The county executive said that if it doesn’t pass, he is willing to do the mini-shelters, but it is going to take time to build them,” he said.

Bill O’Leary, a forensic psychologist who worked with sex offenders and other criminals in conjunction with the police, said at Wednesday’s meeting that the average cost of putting a homeless sex offender in one of the trailers is $3,000 per person per month, whereas the average cost to house an ordinary homeless person is $309 per person per month.

“This is because of all the residency restrictions [placed on sex offenders],” he said. Living in the trailer hinders attempts to reduce recidivism in the sex offenders, he said.

“The better I do my job, the better chance someone won’t get hurt later,” Mr. O’Leary said. “I fought against the trailers because it compromises my ability to do my job. Instead of being able to get what they’re supposed to get from treatment, most of the ones sent back to jail are from the trailers, and are homeless. They are not getting anything from therapy, because they are worried about where they are going to sleep that night or where they are going to get food.”

Amy Davidson, who lives in downtown Riverhead, said she has two kids and worries about the proximity of the trailer at the jail parking lot to downtown Riverhead.

“I would like my kids to be able to ride their bikes to Ralph’s Italian Ices and know they are safe,” she said.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said it will be difficult to get the 18-member county Legislature to give up the trailers, because only two of the 18 represent the East End.

“The Town of Riverhead did a $104,000 budget transfer to increase patrols on Main Street,” Mr. Walter said. “Main Street is by far the heaviest patrolled area in the town, and that is in no small part because of this sex offender trailer.”

Mason Haas of Jamesport said the county is paying about $1.4 million a year to house the sex offenders in the trailers.

“This program is not working,” he said. “It needs to be fixed.”

tgannon@timesreview.com