10/28/11 11:00am
10/28/2011 11:00 AM

Riverhead Town Supervisor candidates Greg Fischer, Phil Cardinale and Sean Walter.

Sean Walter (R)

A Wading River resident, former deputy town attorney and former town Conservative Party chairman, he seeks his second two-year supervisor term.

Occupation: Attorney

His pitch: Mr. Walter boasts that in a down economy, there are signs of progress on “what matters most” to Riverhead residents: downtown, EPCAL, town finances and preserving our way of life, though not necessarily in that order. On downtown, he points to new building projects and new stores and restaurants on Main Street. He says the town is “charting a new course” on EPCAL in partnering with state agencies and getting a comprehensive environmental land use study done that will allow the town to “finally” market the land and sell it to private developers. He also points to partnerships between the town and county to purchase open space and farmland, including the North Fork Preserve. He often says his way is working, while former supervisor Phil Cardinale, his opponent, had already tried “his way” but downtown languished and no land was sold at EPCAL.

Stinging soundbite:  “The only ribbon Phil has ever cut was on a Christmas present.”

If elected: He will work to get state legislation in place to allow for 75-day approvals on projects proposed for the Enterprise Park at Calverton.

Phil Cardinale (D)

A former town councilman and three-term Riverhead supervisor from Jamesport was defeated by Mr. Walter in the 2009 election. Also previously served as a Suffolk County assistant district attorney.

Occupation: Attorney

His pitch: Mr. Cardinale often notes that while he was supervisor, Riverhead received two credit score upgrades. He says his work on real estate contracts is why today the town is sitting on a healthy surplus. He’s running for his old job because he’s watched “a lot of what I did undone, a lot of what I’ve cared most about, torn apart” since leaving office. He says his government was always honest and open, and that he didn’t work a second job, as his opponent does. He also criticizes the sitting supervisor for “crying poverty and saying the sky was falling” after taking office in January 2010, at which time auditors later said the town had a $15 million surplus. Mr. Cardinale also says every current building project downtown had started or was in the works while he was still in office.

Stinging soundbite: “If [Sean Walter] gets to those remaining doors [to knock on], he’ll actually lose votes.”

If elected: He will hire “a trained city manager or town manager” while reducing the supervisor’s support staff by one employee.

Greg Fischer (Riverhead First)

A Calverton resident who has run for other offices, though unsuccessfully, he is known for filing a lawsuit that got then-Democratic state Senate nominee Regina Calcaterra removed from the 2010 ballot over residency issues.

Occupation: Self-employed, business consulting

His pitch: Mr. Fischer ran unsuccessfully against Mr. Cardinale in a Democratic primary in September, though he is challenging those election results in court. Says his opponents “blame each other’s performances, but don’t fix the underlying problems.” The top of his Riverhead First party platform includes a plan to create a municipal power authority in Riverhead, which he says would “slash electric rates for all residents” — something his opponents have scoffed at. He also wants to create a “vacancy tax” on commercial real estate to help condemn buildings. He says he once ran a “whistle-blowing newspaper” and plans to publish once again in 2012. Active in politics for years, he created the Riverhead First party after acquiring the required signatures and getting Board of Elections approval.

Stinging soundbite: “An LED light at the Suffolk Theatre makes for a pretty photo op, but it’s not a resurgence.”

If elected: “We will have waves and waves of open government.”

COMPILED BY MICHAEL WHITE

08/31/11 5:49am
08/31/2011 5:49 AM

Former supervisor Phil Cardinale, the town Democratic Committee’s choice to run again for supervisor this fall, says he will not debate his primary challenger, Greg Fischer.

Mr. Fischer said he has scheduled a debate for 7 p.m. on Sept. 8 at Polish Hall in Riverhead and has notified Mr. Cardinale and the Democrats’ town council seat choices, Matt Van Glad and Marlando Williams, along with town Democratic chairman Vinny Villella, and received no response from any of them.

Mr. Fischer said Ruth Pollack, who is running a primary for town council as his running mate, also will participate.

“We’re going to have it, with or without them,” Mr. Fischer said. “If they don’t show up, we will debate an empty chair.”

He said he already rescheduled the debate from an earlier date because he received no responses.

The Democratic primary is Tuesday, Sept. 13.

“Fischer has distorted the truth and the facts so badly and so often in the past that I don’t want to give him a further audience to do so,” Mr. Cardinale said in an interview Monday.

He was referring in part to a press release Mr. Fischer issued Aug. 1, which accused Mr. Cardinale of having “aided and abetted a child abduction” in 2007.

The incident involved a case in which Mr. Fischer, who has had custody issues with the mother of two of his children, reported them missing to Riverhead Town Police when their mother took them to Wyoming. He said Mr. Cardinale and Police Chief David Hegermiller failed to report the children missing.

Chief Hegermiller has said the children couldn’t be reported missing because Mr. Fischer knew where they were, and that the case is a child custody issue, not a case of missing children.

Mr. Cardinale said he was cordial with Mr. Fischer at the time and vice versa, and that Mr. Fischer made no complaint to him at the time.

The press release Mr. Fischer issued indicated it came from a Florida group called Voice for the Children, and listed Marianne Malky of that group as a contact person. Ms. Malky later told the News-Review that Voice for the Children had nothing to do with that release and didn’t issue it.

Mr. Cardinale said the press release was another example of Mr. Fischer misrepresenting facts.

He also pointed out that Mr. Fischer is facing charges of second-degree obstruction of governmental administration, a misdemeanor, and failure to obey a police officer in First District Court, and could conceivably be sentenced to one year in jail and be unable to serve his first year if elected supervisor.

Mr. Fischer said he expects those charges, which relate to the child custody issue, to be dismissed.

Mr. Van Glad said he had received an email from Mr. Fischer about the event, but said he wasn’t about to attend a debate hosted by one of the candidates.
“I’m more than happy to talk in an open forum that may be sponsored by an impartial civic group, or something like that,” Mr. Van Glad said.

The Democrats also have accused Mr. Fischer of petition fraud, as his nominating petition includes signatures from the Rev. Charles Coverdale and his wife, Shirley, who say they did not sign Mr. Fischer’s petitions. The committee has taken the matter to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, Mr. Villella has said.

Shirley Coverdale was a Democratic council candidate in 2009 and was Mr. Cardinale’s running mate at the time.

Mr. Williams, meanwhile, will be on the ballot on both the Democratic and Working Families line, as well as on Mr. Fischer’s Riverhead First line, which is challenging the committee’s choices in the Democratic primary.

The Riverhead First line is an independent line, so Mr. Fischer and Ms. Pollack will be on the November ballot regardless of the primary outcome, as will Mr. Cardinale, who would still have the Working Families line if he loses the Democratic primary.

tgannon@timesreview.com

08/04/11 4:14am
08/04/2011 4:14 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Greg Fischer

Riverhead Town supervisor candidate Greg Fischer’s proposal to create a town power authority and break away from LIPA got a bumpy reception from members of the Suffolk 9-12 project last Wednesday at Polish Hall in Riverhead, where Mr. Fischer spoke at the group’s monthly meeting.

The group, a local branch of an organization formed by Conservative talk show host Glenn Beck and associated with the tea party movement, seemed to turn on Mr. Fischer once he began talking about global warming and its effects.

Mr. Fischer, who currently is the publisher of Political Patriot newspapers, is running a Democratic primary for supervisor in September against former supervisor Phil Cardinale, and plans to be on the November ballot on at least one minor party line.
He also attempted to run a primary on the Independence Party line against Republican incumbent Sean Walter but was unable to get approval from Independence Party chairman Frank MacKay.

Mr. Fischer says a centerpiece of his campaign is his proposal calling for the creation of a separate power authority in Riverhead Town, a move he says would allow the town to immediately begin purchasing lower-priced energy and replacing LIPA.

In 2002, during the administration of Bob Kozakiewicz, the Town Board considered putting a referendum on the ballot to determine if the public wanted to create a town power authority. It never got that far, however, because the Town Board had cost disputes with the company proposing to set up the authority.

Mr. Fischer says forming a new power authority would not only lower utility rates for residents of Riverhead Town but also drastically lower taxes, because the town’s utility costs would drop.

“I actually figured out what will turn this town around,” Mr. Fischer told the 9-12 group Wednesday, referring to the power authority proposal.

He said Greenport, Freeport and Rockville Centre all have their own municipal power authorities and all have drastically lower power rates than LIPA. Greenport, Mr. Fischer said, pays 40 percent less than LIPA. Freeport’s rates are also about 40 percent lower than LIPA, and Rockville Centre’s are about 32 percent lower, according to Freeport’s website.

Those three municipal power authorities are the only ones on Long Island independent of LIPA. All were built before LIPA and its predecessor, LILCO, so they didn’t have to pay the cost of acquiring LIPA’s distribution system.

Mr. Fischer said natural gas is now deregulated, so Riverhead could begin buying natural gas immediately upon getting an authority and using it to generate power. And he said natural gas is cheaper than diesel, which is what Greenport uses in its power plants, so Riverhead should save more than the 40 percent Greenport saves compared to LIPA.

“We have seen the lawn signs from Conservative candidates saying they will cut taxes, but taxes have never gone down,” he said. “But this will lop 20 percent off the taxes immediately.”

“How does something like this get built?” he was asked. He said the first step is a political one, creating the authority. From there, the town can immediately buy power from natural gas suppliers.

Mr. Fischer said there also are ecological benefits to buying natural gas.

“NASA scientists, non-partisan scientists, have said that if we don’t stop all the coal-fired plants on the planet, in 40 years we may cease to exist,” he said. “This is real stuff.”

“Let me ask you something,” said Bob Meyer, the president of Suffolk 9-12. “Do you believe that?”

“I think it might happen,” Mr. Fischer said. “We’re seeing a trend right now with the ocean of dying coral reefs, and we’re seeing the plankton in the oceans is dying.” He said plankton “creates a lot of the oxygen for the planet.”

Asked specifically what he thinks about global warming, Mr. Fischer said, “I think it’s not global warming, I think it’s the variations of temperatures. I don’t think it’s necessarily warming, I think it may be greater swings because of the variance in the atmosphere.”
Asked if he thought this phenomenon was man-made, he said he thought there was a man-made component to it.

“But what I’m really concerned about is pollution and deoxygenation, and this is only one step toward curing the problem,” Mr. Fischer said.

“I wouldn’t pitch it that way to this group,” a 9-12 member said from the audience, which then began laughing. “What I want to know is where are you going to get the money to build this?”

Mr. Fischer said you would have to float a bond to pay for the system, but the reduction in energy rates would offset the maintenance and retrofitting costs of the power system.

“I get that you guys don’t like the global warming thing,” Mr. Fischer said to the audience.

But that wasn’t all they didn’t like.

“You’re talking about creating jobs, would these be government jobs?” another audience member asked. When Mr. Fischer said it would be government employees running the power system, 9-12 members raised concerns that those employees would be covered by a government employee’s union. If that’s the case, they said the employees would eventually be getting big benefit packages, regular contractual salary increases and, as one man said, “we’re not going to see any rate reduction.”

Mr. Fischer reiterated the cases of Greenport, Freeport and Rockville Centre, which are government-owned and still have lower rates than LIPA.

One woman in the audience said her family comes form Rockville Centre and she worked in Freeport for many years.

“I cannot tell you the amount of times the electric was down,” she said. “The wind blows, everything goes down. It’s not a good system.”

Mr. Fischer said that under his proposal, the town wouldn’t be entirely off the LIPA grid and would still have LIPA available for backup.

He asked the group what their plan for cutting taxes would be if they don’t like this plan.

“Spend less,” one man said.

tgannon@timesreview.com

07/27/11 2:21pm
07/27/2011 2:21 PM

Incumbent Republican Supervisor Sean Walter is raising more money this year than his Democratic opponent, Phil Cardinale — but Mr. Cardinale still has more than three times as much money on hand than his rival, according to campaign disclosure statements filed this month.

That’s because Mr. Cardinale has been mostly carrying over unspent funds from his previous campaigns, while Mr. Walter has been consistently raising money and spending what he receives.

Thus, the July 15 disclosure statements, posted on the state Board of Elections website, show Mr. Cardinale with a closing balance of $30,956 and Mr. Walter with a closing balance of $11,663. Yet during the period covered by the reports, Mr. Walter had contributions totaling $19,730 and expenses totaling $26,021, while Mr. Cardinale raised $3,000 and spent $7,676.

PHIL CARDINALE

Mr. Cardinale, who served as supervisor from 2004 to 2009, was defeated by Mr. Walter in the 2009 election. The two are prepping for a November rematch.

A January 2010 filing by Mr. Cardinale showed an opening balance of $35.632 in unspent funds left over from his unsuccessful 2009 campaign.

In a report filed 11 days after the 2009 election, Mr. Cardinale had a closing balance of $51,584.

By contrast, Mr. Walter’s campaign began 2010, his first year in office, with a deficit of $1,612 but he continued raising money throughout 2010, a non-election year. The various disclosure forms filed in 2010 showed Mr. Walter raised a total of $51,648 and spent a total of $29,044 in the non-election year.

Counting only money that reports filed in 2011 show as raised, Mr. Walter has $19,730 and Mr. Cardinale just $3,000, as of the July 15 filings.

“We are going to have fundraising letters going out soon, and we have events planned in September and October,” Mr. Cardinale said in an interview while acknowledging he didn’t spend enough of his campaign money in 2009. He said he failed to fully assess the nationwide voter anger against Democrats at the time.

Of Mr. Walter’s strategy of continually raising and spending money, even in a non-election year, Mr. Cardinale said, “It demonstrates that Sean is a much better politician than he is an elected official.”

He said Mr. Walter’s background is in being a political party leader, as he’s a former Conservative party chairman, rather than in governing.

 

SEAN WALTER

“If you’re not a good politician, you can’t be a good elected official,” Mr. Walter responded to his opponent’s comments. “That’s the most moronic comment I’ve ever heard from someone who used to be an elected official.”

As for his continually raising and spending campaign funds, Mr. Walter said, “That’s what you’re supposed to do, raise. I wouldn’t put any credence in the amount of money you have in the account. The campaign money isn’t supposed to be left in your account, it’s supposed to be used in the campaign.”

Mr. Walter said 75 percent of his campaign spending is done, and that starting Aug. 1, he plans to walk door to door and speak to people, as he did in the 2009 campaign.

“I plan to knock on 5,000 doors,” he said.

Mr. Walter said that if Mr. Cardinale plans to wait until September and October to hold events, it may be too late, since Mr. Cardinale is facing a Democratic primary challenge form Greg Fischer of Calverton.

Among his larger donations, Mr. Cardinale received $1,000 from wealthy animal activist Gail Waller of Glen Cove, who has donated money to the town animal shelter and has criticized Mr. Walter over the town’s management of that shelter. Photographer Steve Berger of Jamesport also gave Mr. Cardinale $1,000.

Among Mr. Walter’s biggest contributions shown in the July 2011 filing were $1,000 from Robert Scheiner, a principal in the H2M engineering firm that has done work with the town for years; $750 from Irwin Garsten, owner of Apple Honda on Route 58; $500 from Theresa Elkowitz, a planner with VHB, the company the town hired to study EPCAL land use; $500 from the Parr Organization, which is hoping to build a multiplex at the former Woolworth building in downtown Riverhead; and $500 from New York Environmental Group of Ronkonkoma, which has the same address as New York Cesspool.

Mr. Walter’s expense report shows that since he took office, he has paid political consultant Anthony Coates $1,000 a month from his campaign funds.

Traditionally, incumbents receive more contributions than challengers, particularly from companies that do business with the town.

Mr. Walter said he doesn’t see anything wrong with accepting campaign contributions from companies that work with the town.
“That’s a form of free speech, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

WHAT ARE THE PARTIES UP TO?

As for the political parties, the recent filings show that the Riverhead Republican Committee reported $27,209 in contributions and $13,145 in expenses. The Riverhead Democratic Committee reported $5,360 in contributions and $4,454 in expenses.
Among the larger contributions to the Republicans was $1,740 from the Friends of Bob Gaffney, the political committee of the former county executive who’s been out of office for several years.

Other large contributions include $840 from Michele Murrell of Deer Park; $900 from the Friends of James Wooten; $1,000 from Fumuso, Kelly, Deveran, a Hauppauge law firm; and $940 from Atlantis Marine World.

The Democrats’ biggest contribution in the July 2011 filings was from Regina Calcaterra of New Suffolk, who ran for state Senate last year before being knocked off the ballot on a residency issue. She gave $500.

The Democrats also got a $500 contribution from 1199 SEIU-NYS Political Action Fund. The SEIU is a union that serves health care and other public employees. The Democrats also received $330 from RMH Realty of New York, which has the same address as attorney Ron Hariri. A Democratic screening committee recommended nominating Mr. Hariri as a council candidate, but the full committee voted for two candidates, Matt Van Glad and Marlando Williams. instead.

Mr. Hariri’s contribution was dated July 20, which was after the nominations.

Among the council candidates, Republican Jim Wooten’s July 15 forms weren’t posted online yet due to a death in his treasurer’s family, but his January 2011 filings show him with $17,699 in contributions and $9,899 in expenses.

Among Mr. Wooten’s biggest contributions were $1,000 from CMC Wireless of East Islip; $850 from his brother, Carl Wooten; $800 from architect Richard Wiedersum; and $700 from John Burke, who hopes to build a multiplex and apartments on Railroad Avenue.

Mr. Wooten had sought to run a primary for supervisor but later changed his mind.

Republican Councilman George Gabrielsen’s July 2011 filings show $490 in contributions and $2,555 in expenses, leaving $2,884 from his opening balance of almost $5,000. His biggest contribution was $1,000 from the Riverhead Pistol and Rifle Club.
Democratic Council candidate Matt Van Glad’s July filings show $1,689 in contributions and $1,029 in expenses. His biggest contribution was $199 from East End Nephrology of Greenport.

Marlando Williams, the other Democratic council candidate, did not have a report on file.

Greg Fischer, who is running a Democratic primary against Mr. Cardinale and is running on the Libertarian line for supervisor, showed no contributions and $186 in expenses in his July filing.

FISCHER, POLLACK GUN FOR DEMS

Not objections were filed to Mr. Fischer’s petitions for a Democratic primary, thus, he will be on the ballot, according to Board of Elections officials. A Democratic primary will also be waged for town council by Ruth Pollack of Riverhead, who is an attorney, though her license is currently suspended.

Mr. Fischer said he’s also seeking to get an independent line called Riverhead First on the ballot, with himself, Ms. Pollack and Mr. Williams, although Mr. Williams has indicated he supports the Democratic ticket.

Mr. Fischer said he and Mr. Williams also were endorsed by the Libertarian party, although he’s not sure he’ll seek petitions for that line because they didn’t back Ms. Pollack. Petitions for independent lines are due Aug. 23.

Mr. Fischer had also filed petitions challenging Mr. Walter on the Independence line, but those were rejected because Mr. Fischer is not registered with that party and the county leader of that party didn’t give him permission to use the line.

Mr. Fischer said a major plank in his campaign will be forming a local power authority in town to replace LIPA, which he said will cut town costs. He said the town could acquire LIPA’s assets in town through condemnation.

tgannon@timesreview.com

04/21/11 4:10am
04/21/2011 4:10 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Councilman James Wooten at the Town board work session last Thursday morning after he screened for Supervisor.

“My response to him is, jump in, Jim. The water’s fine.”

That was Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter’s reaction to the news that Councilman Jim Wooten planned to challenge him for the Republican nomination for supervisor.

The Republican committee screened both Mr. Walter and Mr. Wooten for the supervisor candidacy Thursday night, April 14, at the American Legion Hall on Hubbard Avenue.

In seeking the nomination, Mr. Wooten stands to lose his council seat. His term ends this year as does that of Councilman George Gabrielsen, also a Republican. Former town Conservative Party leader Warren McKnight also screened for supervisor.

With their seats up for grabs, three other candidates screened as GOP candidates for Town Board Thursday: Brian Mills, a financial adviser from Wading River who heads the Riverhead Republican Club; former deputy town attorney Mary Hartill of Wading River; and Bob Weir of Baiting Hollow, a marketing and design firm owner who screened for a Republican Town Board nomination in 2009.

Mr. Wooten, 51, a downtown resident and retired Riverhead Police officer who was elected in 2007,  announced his intention to run for supervisor a week ago but it seemed for a while he might not go through with it.

Trying to head off a party battle, Mr. Walter, Republican chairman John Galla and vice chairman George Harkin met with Mr. Wooten last Tuesday night at Mr. Walter’s law office in Wading River. After the meeting, Mr. Wooten said he needed about 24 hours to decide what he was going to do.

On Thursday morning, Mr. Galla disclosed that Mr. Wooten had told him he would screen for a council seat, not the supervisor’s post. But by Thursday afternoon, Mr. Wooten had issued a press release announcing that he did intend to screen for supervisor.

“I do not make this decision lightly or out of any motivation other than my love of Riverhead,” Mr. Wooten said in his press release. “Ultimately, a run for supervisor would mean forgoing a re-election effort” for his Town Board post. “I am confident I would win. My remarks before the committee tonight will outline why I believe my vision for Riverhead is the right one at this time. I was born in this community. I have chosen to remain to raise my family in this community. I have lived a life of public service in this community. It will be a privilege and a pleasure to use my experience and leadership skills for the continuing betterment of Riverhead.”

Mr. Wooten said he had asked the GOP committee to consider him as a candidate for his council seat if it chooses Mr. Walter for supervisor at its May 11 nominating convention.

Of Mr. Wooten’s challenge, Mr. Walter said that “in the unlikely event that he obtained the nomination of the Republican committee, I will be waging a primary.” Though he stopped short of saying so during his screening, sources said.
The supervisor had some harsh words for Mr. Wooten in an interview last Thursday, immediately after Mr. Wooten issued his statement.

“It seems to me that Councilman Wooten wants to run for both town supervisor and town council,” he said. “You can’t have it both ways, and if he cannot figure out what he wants to do for his personal life, how in the world is he ever going to make decisions affecting the town residents?”

Mr. Walter, 44, a Wading River resident and former town deputy attorney and former Riverhead Conservative Party chairman, said he also would seek the supervisor nomination of the town Conservative and Independence parties. He said Mr. Wooten was akin to a “liberal Republican” and might be more suited to running as a Democrat.

Mr. Galla, who was recently elected chairman of the town Republican committee, said this was the first year in at least 30 that the entire Republican committee had met to screen candidates, rather than just an 8- to 12-person screening committee.
“I think the whole evening went well,” Mr. Galla said. “There was a great amount of civility. Everyone was polite. They basically asked the same questions of both candidates.”

While the decision will be up to the committee, Mr. Walter doesn’t think it should consider Mr. Wooten for a council seat if he doesn’t get the supervisor nod.

“If he screens for supervisor and other individuals screen for council and Jim doesn’t get the supervisor nomination, I think the other individuals take precedence over Jim,” Mr. Walter said. “I don’t think the committee should go with him just because he’s a sitting councilman.”

He added, “What I look for in a leader is the ability to be decisive and I think that I’ve been decisive. I understand the criticisms, but you don’t always make everybody happy when you’re decisive. The fact that Jim can’t make that fundamental decision as to what position he’s likely to seek shows indecision.”

The Democrats have not begun to screen candidates, according to party chairman Vinny Villella.

Meanwhile, Riverhead Republicans hosted the Republican committees of the other four East End towns Friday night at Polish Hall to screen three candidates for county executive.

Mr. Galla said the committees screened County Treasurer and former County Legislator Angie Carpenter, State Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick of St. James, and State Sen. John Flanagan of East Northport. He said County Commissioner of Jurors Michael O’Donohoe has screened with other town committees, but was not present Friday.

Former Congressman Rick Lazio and Randy Altschuler, who narrowly lost a Congressional race to incumbent Tim Bishop last November, did not appear at the screening despite talk that they might be candidates.

Mr. Galla said County Comptroller Joe Sawicki of Southold had withdrawn from consideration for a county executive run, and County Legislator Ed Romaine, who represents the North Fork, was there Friday but had not asked to be screened.

The incumbent, Steve Levy, was elected as a Democrat in 2003, re-elected with both Democratic and Republican support in 2007 and then switched his registration to Republican last year, before announcing this year that he is not running for re-election.

The Democratic frontrunner for the county executive nomination appears to be Babylon Supervisor Steve Bellone.

tgannon@timesreview.com

04/14/11 2:07am
04/14/2011 2:07 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Councilman James Wooten (left) an Riverhead Republican Committee Chairman John Galla leave Supervisor's Sean Walter's law office in Wading River after they met Tuesday night.

On the same day Riverhead Councilman James Wooten was planning to formally announce his intention to seek the Republican nomination for supervisor, a scrambling Republican leadership asked if he would instead meet with them and the incumbent, Republican Sean Walter, to reconsider.

The two men, along with the Riverhead Republican Committee’s chairman and vice chairman, met Tuesday night for about an hour in Mr. Walter’s law offices in Wading River, a meeting into which the supervisor carried a handful of Newcastle Brown Ale beers to lighten the mood.

Chairman John Galla did most of the talking and gesturing, from what the News-Review could see through a window. Mr. Wooten later said that Mr. Galla, who had not yet spoken to the media on the issue, had urged Mr. Wooten to consider what the supervisor and he had in common — and what squabbling could do to the party’s chances come Election Day.

But Mr. Wooten told his fellow Republicans he needed up to 24 hours before deciding whether to challenge Mr. Walter. In the meantime, he wanted to seek the advice of friends and political advisors.

“We talked about some commonalities we have,” Mr. Wooten told the News-Review after the meeting. “And we talked about what a primary would do and what could happen politically in the infighting. There were a couple of good suggestions made.”
“But to be honest,” he then said the next day, “there was nothing that was too convincing at the meeting, I think, that will really compel me to reconsider.”

Although he never held a formal press conference, Mr. Wooten already has told the local media that he would seek the nomination.

He said on Tuesday that he expected to release a statement late Wednesday or early today, Thursday.

Before Tuesday’s meeting in Wading River, Mr. Walter appeared hopeful the two men would “settle our differences.” he said.
“I think there are forces [within the Riverhead Republican Committee] that are wreaking some havoc,” he said. “But we’ll get through it. We’re having a meeting and I think our executive committee is going to try to work through those issues.”

The trio was joined about 30 minutes into Tuesday’s meeting, which started at about 6:15 p.m., by Riverhead Republican Committee Vice Chairman George Harkin. The four emerged from the session smiling.

“We met as gentlemen and we worked out some of our differences,” said Committee Chairman John Galla. “We’ll have to take it from here.”

The men seemed amiable as they posed for photos with a News-Review photographer.

“Can we use these for the campaign?” Mr. Walter joked.

“There will an be announcement in the next 12 to 24 hours,” Mr. Walter later said. “That’s all I’m saying.”

Mr. Wooten, a retired Riverhead Police officer, was elected to the Riverhead Town Board in 2007. His four-year term as councilman expires this year. Mr. Walter, a lawyer and former Riverhead Conservative Party chairman, was elected to a two-year term in 2009 along with three Republicans who ran for Town Board seats. Members of the resulting all-Republican Town Board have since been involved in a string of public battles over controversial issues.

Mr. Wooten last weekend emailed the News-Review, saying he would be scheduling a press conference to announce his intention to run for supervisor, “possibly Tuesday afternoon.”

“My compulsion for this whole thing is I think Riverhead can do better,” he then said in an interview. “I see this dysfunctional board, which I think hinders government. I’ve always been a Republican and I certainly support the committee but I’m trying to do this the right way and convince others there are other choices in government besides the incumbent all the time.”

Mr. Wooten also said he had sent his résumé to the Democratic screening committee but was only looking for a cross-endorsement.

“Would I consider screening solely with the Democrats? No,” he said, explaining that Democratic Committee Chairman Vinny Villella had asked the councilman for his résumé. “I’m a Republican. I’ve been a Republican my whole life. I owe my allegiances to the Republican Party and I’m not going to just jump ship because of this.”

Councilmembers George Gabrielsen and John Dunleavy, reached by phone Monday, both theorized that the potential political fight stemmed from a personality clash between the two men.

“Wooten’s a nice guy and he’s very community minded but I really don’t know where he’s coming from,” Mr. Gabrielsen said. “I think we got some really good projects moving forward with the supervisor and you have to put personality aside. I’m 110 percent behind Sean. I have nothing bad to say about Wooten. I’m just puzzled; I don’t have a clue what he’s thinking. I think personalities is what’s driving this. It’s almost bizarre to me.

“Believe me,” he continued, “Sean and I go at it sometimes, but the next day we’ll talk and we’ll get back” to work.

Mr. Dunleavy said Mr. Walter’s management style can be off-putting. He also blamed the supervisor for a lack of leadership skills required to build more consensus on the board, whose members have disagreed loudly and publicly over issues. He said the supervisor also resorts to threats and scare tactics with board members.

“Last week, he got mad at me and came into my office and said some threatening words to me,” Mr. Dunleavy said when pressed for details. “And I looked at him, and said, ‘What the hell did I do now?’ I had to talk to him after, when he was calmed down. As long as you haven’t done anything wrong, he shouldn’t be able to come in and give you any threatening words, which he does. And I think that’s immaturity.”

Told of Mr. Dunleavy’s remarks, Mr. Walter described the board as split, with Mr. Dunleavy and Mr. Wooten — who served together under former Democratic supervisor Phil Cardinale — often voting together on controversial issues, and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio and Mr. Gabrielsen often voting the other way.

“I’m the swing vote,” he said, “but I don’t know what John Dunleavy’s saying. We’ve built consensus on many different things. With the previous board, it was paralysis by analysis. We chart a path once we build a consensus of three votes. I told the board, we make a decision and move on. Sometimes the other board members are not happy because they don’t have the votes. In my opinion, it’s better to make a decision and move forward than not make a decision at all.”

As for Mr. Dunleavy’s charge that Mr. Walter had threatened him, the supervisor said he had not been “threatening him.”
“In my family when you raised your voice, it wasn’t a really a big deal,” Mr. Walter said. “But some families, if you raise your voices, people think you’re angry or mad. I like to project.”

Councilwoman Giglio, reached Monday afternoon, declined to offer comments on a potential primary.

“This is between party leaders and between my colleagues,” she said. “Whatever comes out of this will, hopefully, be in the best interest of the taxpayers.”

Meanwhile, the Riverhead Democratic Committee is getting ready to screen potential candidates for this year’s local elections.
Democratic chairman Vinny Villella said the GOP’s infighting could work to his party’s advantage in November.

“It depends on how it plays out,” he said. “If Wooten gets the GOP [nomination] and Sean goes on a third-party line, then I’m sure that would help us.”

Asked about the possibility of Mr. Wooten screening for the Democratic supervisor endorsement, Mr. Villella said, “If we have a Democratic candidate, we go with the Democratic candidate. If he switched parties, we can think about that; that’s why there’s a screening process.”

Such a move could put Mr. Wooten in a showdown at the Democratic convention with former Supervisor Phil Cardinale, who Mr. Villella has said is considered to be the party’s presumptive supervisor candidate.

mwhite@timesreview.com