Highway boss hopeful knocked off Republican line

Michael Panchak
FILE PHOTO | Michael Panchak will be running for highway superintendent on the Conservative line.

A state Supreme Court judge has thrown Michael Panchak off the Republican line in this fall’s race for Riverhead Town highway superintendent.

Judge Carol MacKenzie’s decision came in reaction to a lawsuit filed by Democratic incumbent Highway Superintendent George “Gio” Woodson, who is running for re-election against Mr. Panchak.

The lawsuit, which is similar to a complaint filed with Mr. Panchak’s nominating petitions by Riverhead Democratic committee person Keisha Washington Dean, claimed that Mr. Panchak cannot be on the Republican line because he is not a registered Republican, and he did not get a Certificate of Authorization from Suffolk County Republican leaders allowing him to run on their line.

But Mr. Panchak, who is not registered with a political party and is what the Board of Elections calls a “blank,” will be on the November ballot on the Conservative party line, as no challenges were raised to his being on that line.

Marge Acevedo, the Riverhead Town Demcoratic Committee chairwoman, said committee members were alerted to the mistake when they found that Mr. Panchak had signed a nominating petition for Ann Cotten-DeGrasse, who is running a Democratic primary challenge to party designee Angela DeVito.

Ms. Acevedo said they then noticed the lack of the authorization, which is often called a Wilson Pikula.

Mr. Panchak told the News-Review Friday that at this point, he can’t appeal the judge’s decision because the attorney he was under the impression the Republicans had hired for him never showed up in court.

“At this point, I’ll just be on the Conservative line,” he said. “I will still run an active campaign, we’ll just be a little bit behind the 8-ball because I’ll only be on the ballot with one party.”

Riverhead Republican committee vice chairman Mason Haas said Friday that he merely recommended the attorney, Steven Losquadro, to Mr. Panchak, and that it was up to Mr. Panchak to hire him.

“Mr. Panchak was told he had to hire an attorney,” Mr. Haas said. “He was referred to an attorney. Whether or not he hired him, I don’t know.”

Mr. Haas said the Republicans will continue to support Mr. Panchak in the campaign, but he just won’t have the Republican line.

Mr. Losquadro could not immediately be reached for comment.

As previously reported, Mr. Panchak is one of two candidates in this fall’s town elections to have nominating petitions challenged.

The other is Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse, who faces three challenges to her petitions, with much of the opposition centering on potential discrepancies in her mailing address.

The Board of Elections has yet to rule on that case.

Political sources say a primary is expected in the supervisor race.

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