Riverhead Democrats will elect new chairperson in October

Vinny Villella, Riverhead Democratic Committee, Butch Langhorn
TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Vinny Villella with Butch Langhorn in 2010, the night Mr. Villella was elected to succeed the longtime Democratic Committee chairman.

While the Democratic convention in Charlotte was in full roar, Riverhead’s Democrats met this week to discuss the future of the local party, as chairman and former town supervisor Vinny Villella has said he won’t be seeking re-election to the two-year post due to health reasons.

The committee will elect a new chairperson in October.

Three people are showing interest, according to Mr. Villella. They are longtime North Fork Democrat Mike Comando,  Matt Van Glad of Calverton and active commiteeperson Marjorie Acevedo of Wading River.

Mr. Comando has ran for public office in the past. Most recently, he ran unsuccessfully for the 1st District county legislator seat against Ed Romaine in 2008. He also lost a bid for state Senate to current Senator Kenneth LaValle in 2006.

Mr. Van Glad ran unsuccessfully for a Town Council seat last year.

Mr. Villella, who served as Riverhead supervisor in 1998 and 1999, was elected party chairman in 2010, succeeding 10-year leader Butch Langhorn.

But Mr. Villella had a recurrence of prostate cancer last August, just before election season went into full swing, he said. He then had to go for intense chemotherapy treatments in Manhattan every three weeks through December.

His party got swept for three Town Board seats that election, including the supervisor seat.

“Because of what happened last year, with my health, I didn’t help out the candidates as much as I wanted to,” he said. “I couldn’t concentrate on it. And I felt bad for the candidates. That I couldn’t help them the way I should have.”

He said that though he’s regained his strength, and some weight, the stress of party leader would be too much to bear.

“I have more fun working in the background anyway,” he laughed.

Party vice chairman Mike Roth, a Wading River pizza parlor owner, has been running the meetings and serving as acting chairman through much of Mr. Villella’s recovery.

Mr. Roth said he does not have interest in pursuing the chairmanship.

As to who should take over, he said that’s “still open for debate, and that’s still an open opportunity.”

“We’re looking for someone who has experience…in politics, in running meetings,” he said. “We’re losing a lot of experience with Vinny and we need to replace that.”

Aside from his physical recovery, Mr. Villella said watching the Democratic National Convention has been a boost to his political spirits.

“It’s just been tremendous,” he said. The speeches and appearances, “and the President, it just make you feel gung-ho. It’s been great.”

He also took a swipe at national Republicans, who just wrapped up their convention, saying “You still don’t know what they stand for. It’s a mystery.”

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