Wooten keeps campaign active in 2012; doesn’t rule out supervisor run

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Councilman James Wooten at the Town board work session in 2011.

Councilman James Wooten was the only Riverhead Town Council member out of four to raise campaign cash in the first half of 2012, a non-election year for the board, according to midyear campaign reports filed with the state Board of Elections.

Mr. Wooten raised $19,333, according to the reports, though he later explained a listed $3,696 contribution was a mistake that would be amended soon. Subtracting that amount, the filings show Mr. Wooten raised $15,637, most of which came from his annual “Rootin for Wooten” golf outing — his chief fundraiser — that was held in May at The Links at Cherry Creek.

This was the first non-election year Mr. Wooten held a golf outing, although he said he was advised last year to make the fundraiser an annual event. He filed a “no activity statement” for the first half of 2010, the last non-election year for the Town Board.

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He also spent $11,762.52 from January through June, including $1,841.52 paid to political adviser Jim Teese for what Mr. Wooten said were services rendered in 2011, when he was seeking the GOP supervisor nomination. Craig Vasey was paid $500 for running the golf tournament. Jack Kratoville was paid $500 by the campaign for what Mr. Wooten described as media work and promotions.

“I used [Mr. Kratoville] for the tournament, for getting the word out,” Mr. Wooten said. “‘He’s not under retainer.”

Money paid to the Riverhead golf course and caterers totaled $7,480, the records show.

The rest of the spending came mostly in the form of donations to political clubs, charities and the Riverhead Fire Department.

Mr. Wooten eventually backed down after announcing he would seek the GOP supervisor nomination against the incumbent and fellow Republican Sean Walter, who won the general election. When asked if he was stockpiling money for a possible supervisor run in 2013, he explained that the campaign activity had more to do with the date of the golf outing than a big push for the town’s top job.

But, he added, “I like to always keep my options open.”

“It’s so early to even start thinking about [a supervisor run],” Mr. Wooten said. “I can tell you I enjoy what I do. I enjoy representing the people of Riverhead and I certainly want to leave my options open. Sometimes you never know what door might open for you. That’s why I run my golf outings, for my account. I keep my campaign open and alive because you never know what might present itself.”

Mr. Wooten, who was re-elected to a second four-year term in 2011, noted that he did screen for the recently vacated tax receiver position, as has been reported, but said he wasn’t sure he would accept the position even if it was offered to him.

He currently has $3,892.89 in his campaign account, after the $3,696 mistake is subtracted.

Filings from the Friends of Sean M. Walter to Elect were not immediately available online. Mr. Walter, currently in the middle of a second two-year term, said the reports were filed with the state, and that his campaign was told not all went up yet online.

His campaign just held a comedy night fundraiser Thursday at Calverton Links, he said, adding that an amended report would have to be filed once the returns from that event are figured out.

The campaign also had a small fundraiser in March, he added.

“There’s probably $2,000 or $3,ooo in the account, but we had a fundraiser Thursday so we’ll have an amended return,” he said, guessing the fundraiser grossed about $10,000 or $12,000.

“It’s tough to raise money and I don’t like to do it in an off election year, because you’re taking money from other candidates who are running,” Mr. Walter said. “We spent like $98,000 last year. We’ve shown our ability to be able to raise cash and I don’t know if anybody in a Town of Riverhead supervisor’s race ever raised that amount of money.

“And if we had to, we’d raise it again.”

He said his frequent trips to Albany, where he’s been lobbying for legislation to help jump-start development at the town’s Enterprise Park at Calverton property, also hampered fundraising efforts.

“Because you never knew when you were going to have to go up there,” he said.

Of the other members of the all-Republican Town Board, Jodi Giglio spent $3,016 and John Dunleavy spent $3,204 so far in 2012, mostly on various clubs and charitable organizations. That leaves Ms. Giglio with $6,066.53 in her account and Mr. Dunleavy with $6,221.72.

George Gabrielsen showed a $215.72 opening balance and $190 in loans, while spending $400. His closing balance was $5.72.

As for Mr. Wooten’s contributions, his top individual/partnership contributor by far, came in the form of two installments totaling $1,900 from “G & A Loesch,” who Mr. Wooten explained is an engineer at H2M, as well as the engineer’s wife. H2M is a Melville-based engineering and consulting firm that does a lot of contract work with Riverhead Town.

Mr. Wooten’s top corporate contributors include Mather Memorial surgeon Hesham M. Atwa PC ($1,000), Smithtown law firm Devitt Spellman Barret ($700) and Calverton Manor LLC ($500), developers that have sought to build on 35 acres in Calverton.

A retired town police officer, he’s also received contributions totaling $3,350 from police and labor unions, including $1,300 from the Riverhead PBA.

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