Fightin’ words at GOP convention as Walter preps for Cardinale rematch

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Supervisor Sean Walter during his acceptance speech.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter came out swinging against his Democratic opponent last Thursday night while accepting the Riverhead Republican Party’s nomination to run in November for a second-term in the town’s highest office.

Mr. Walter is about to square off in a rematch against former supervisor Phil Cardinale, who was nominated last Monday at the town Democratic convention at The Pizza Pie in Wading River.

“On Monday, at a pizza place across town, the Democrats met to select their candidates for office this year, but no matter how you slice the pie, they went with the same old leftovers,” Mr. Walter told a packed ballroom at the Elks Club on East Main Street in Riverhead.

“Under Phil Cardinale, downtown that was a gray, dispirited and broken ghost town and Mr. Cardinale’s only plan was to offer futuristic renderings on artist easels and the doomed Apollo project,” Mr. Walter continued. “Yet, under this administration, and this Town Board, downtown is coming alive,” he said, citing several new businesses that have opened downtown.

On the subject of EPCAL, Mr. Walter said Mr. Cardinale “failed to sell even one acre of land at EPCAL” during “the biggest land boom Long Island has ever seen.”

He also blamed Mr. Cardinale for the multi-million dollar cost overruns at the landfill and for the town’s budget deficit.
Mr. Walter said his administration has reduced the size of government and has taken steps needed to make land at EPCAL sellable.

“We will run on our accomplishments,” he later said of his slate.

Mr. Walter was elected in 2009 in a close race that saw him defeat Mr. Cardinale, who was seeking a fourth two-year term, by just 249 votes.

The current supervisor will head into Election Day leading a team of incumbent Republican candidates, including Town Board members George Gabrielsen and James Wooten, each seeking a four-year term as councilman. Mr. Wooten will be seeking his second full term, while Mr. Gabrielsen was appointed, and later elected, to fill the remaining two years of a term Tim Buckley resigned in 2009.

Mr. Wooten, who up until last week appeared to be gunning for the supervisor nomination over Mr. Walter, was nominated by committeeman Brian Mills, who had screened for Mr. Wooten’s position, had that seat opened up. The nomination was then seconded by Linda Hulse, who ran a failed bid for town clerk in 2009, and Mr. Wooten was chosen to run for re-election without any drama.

Mr. Wooten told the committee during his acceptance speech that the GOP sticking together as a team was far more important than any personal goals he might have had in running for supervisor.

The Republicans also nominated incumbents Richard Ehlers for town justice, tax receiver Maryann Wowak and assessors Mason Haas and Paul Leszczynski, all to no opposition.

Last Monday, the Democrats nominated Marlando Williams and Matt Van Glad to run for council seats, as well as incumbent Diane Wilhelm for town clerk and Evan Philcox for a town assessor seat. The Democrats do not have nominees for town justice, tax receiver or the other assessor position. The Republicans did not pick a candidate Thursday night to run against Ms. Wilhelm.
When asked for a response to Mr. Walter’s criticisms of Mr. Cardinale’s administration, the former supervisor said he saw some of Mr. Walter’s comments, but added, “I kind of stopped after the pizza comment.”

Mr. Cardinale, who served as supervisor from 2004 to 2009, said downtown needs to be developed with a comprehensive plan, not a piecemeal one, as he says Mr. Walter is doing. He also called the $500,000 planning study Mr. Walter has commissioned for EPCAL a “waste of money.”

”He’s presided over the demise of $170 million in contracts and basically shut EPCAL off as a source of income for the next five years,” Mr. Cardinale said of his opponent. The Democratic candidate also claimed that much of the downtown development Mr. Walter is taking credit for was initiated during Mr. Cardinale’s administration.

Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches), whose re-election bid the Riverhead Republican Committee voted to support, said a few words to kick off the night Thursday, telling committee members the county cannot raise taxes during a recession.
At the end of the night, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, who is not up for re-election, alluded to the barely averted war between Mr. Walter and Mr. Wooten. “I think one Kumbaya is in order,” she said.

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