Political Notebook: How the cash stacks up in Town Board races

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.


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.



“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.


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.


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.

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