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.