‘Debate’ proceeds without Democratic opponents

09/09/2011 11:51 AM |

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Supervisor hopeful Greg Fischer addresses a crowd of largely motorsports enthusiasts at Polish Hall Thursday night.

The two challengers in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for the Riverhead Town supervisor and council seat went forward with a debate Thursday night, even thought the Democratic committee nominees for those positions did not attend.

Greg Fischer of Calverton, who is running a primary against former Supervisor Phil Cardinale, the Democratic nominee for that position in this fall’s elections, and Ruth Pollak of Riverhead, who is challenging Democratic council nominees Matt Van Glad of Riverhead and Marlando Williams of Calverton, gave seven minute presentations, two minute followups, and then answered a few audience questions at the Polish Hall debate, which was organized by Mr. Fischer.

Mr. Fischer said he rented the hall for the night using $150 from his campaign funds.

Elena Sassower of Center for Judicial Accountability, who Mr. Fischer has described as a friend in a prior email, acted as moderator.

After the event was over, Mr. Fischer received a phone call from widely known political sparkplug Jimmy McMillan, who ran for governor last year on the Rent Is Too Damn High Party. Mr. McMillan spoke for several minutes over a cell phone speaker phone that was held up to a microphone. But since the phone reception was so poor it was very difficult understand what Mr. McMillan was saying.

Mr. Fischer said that Mr. McMillan is a friend of his. Mr. Fischer had posted on his Facebook page earlier in the day that he had contacted Mr. McMillan, who is black, to help combat allegations by his Democratic rivals that he had made racially charged comments to a media outlet recently.

Mr. Cardinale, a former Riverhead supervisor, previously said he wouldn’t attend because he believes “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.”

He was referring in part to a press release Mr. Fischer issued on Aug. 1, which accused Mr. Cardinale of having “aided and abetted a child abduction” in 2007 by not reporting that that Fischer’s two children were allegedly abducted after Mr. Fischer reported that to town police.

Mr. Van Glad said he didn’t want to participate in a debate that’s hosted by one of the candidates, saying he felt an impartial group like a civic association should host.

And Mr. Williams, who agreed to be on the ballot as a running mate of Mr. Fischer and Ms. Pollack on the independent Riverhead First line — while also being on the ballot as a running mate of Mr. Cardinale and Mr. Van Glad on the Democrat and Working Families lines — this week sent a letter to the media denouncing Mr. Fischer and saying he supports the Democratic candidates.

Mr. Williams’ letter, which ran in the Sept. 8 News-Review, said that Mr. Fischer’s “outrageous behavior has convinced me that I must in no way be associated with this individual.”

He cited an allegation that Mr. Fischer submitted signatures on his nominating petition from Rev. Charles and Shirley Coverdale, who deny signing his petition and have gone to the district attorney with the matter.

Mr. Williams also wrote in his letter that recent comments Mr. Fischer had made to a media outlet — that his opponents were going to hang — were racially charged, even though it was not clear whether Mr. Fischer was referring to the Coverdales, who are black, or Democratic party leaders.

Given the context of the quote, it seemed as if he was directing his comments at the party leaders, who made the accusations.

About 35 to 40 people did attend Thursday’s debate. Many of them were motorsports enthusiast who support Mr. Fischer because he supports locating a motorsports facility at EPCAL.

A number of people associated with the Riverhead Republicans also were in attendance, including Republican committee vice chairman George Harkin, Assessor Mason Haas, Deputy Supervisor Jill Lewis and Tony Coates, a political advisor to Supervisor Sean Walter.

During the debate, Mr. Fischer said he supports replacing the Long Island Power Authority with a town-run municipal power authority, and putting all permiting processes online to make the government more open.

He said he’d like to create a system where “if someone sees a pothole or a vagrant, you can take a picture of it with your cell phone and put it up online,” so the town will know about it.

In addition to the motorsports facility at EPCAL, Mr. Fischer said he also supports putting a zoo there.

He said of Mr. Cardinale, “the people already spoke two years ago. They don’t want him.”

Mr. Cardinale served three two-year terms as supervisor, from 2004 to 2009, before losing to Mr. Walter in 2009.

Ms. Pollack said, “I know a lot about how things work. I’m not afraid to speak up and question authority.”

Mr. Fischer said he has worked as a business strategist and has three business degrees. Ms. Pollack is an attorney, although her license to practice is currently suspended.

Ms. Pollack has a campaign web site at www.eleckpollack.us while Mr. Fischer has established a “Vote for Greg” Facebook page.

The Riverhead Democrats have a web site at www.riverheaddemocrats.com which has additional information on their candidates.

The winners of Tuesday’s Democratic primary will take on Republican incumbents Sean Walter for Supervisor and George Gabrielsen and Jim Wooten for council. The Republican’s web site is www.riverheadgop.org.

The Brookhaven League of Women Voters was supposed to moderate the debate but Mr. Fischer said they canceled Thursday when they learned that the Democratic nominees weren’t coming. The Center for Judicial Accountability and Americans for Legal Reform group was supposed to co-host the event, Mr. Fischer said, but Americans for Legal Reform canceled as well.

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