It’s early, but the three Riverhead Town Board members up for re-election this fall already say they are running together as a team.
This is no small bit a news from a group of fellow GOP members often at odds with one another.
But Councilwoman Jodi Giglio says she hasn’t ruled out the possibility of challenging incumbent Supervisor Sean Walter for their party’s nod for that position.
“There’s a lot of supporters out there, both regular people and political people; that have urged me to run for supervisor,” Ms. Giglio said Friday. “I want to look to serve the taxpayers in the best position I possibly can. I haven’t definitively said yes or no to running. There’s a lot of time to decide… so we’ll see what turns out.”
Apparently, I’ve got the most popular job in town,” Mr. Walter said in response to Ms. Giglio’s comments.
“We are planning to present ourselves as a team to the Republican nominating committee,” he said of himself and council members Jim Wooten and George Gabrielsen, who will be seeking new terms in November.
The current all-Republican Town Board has had the same five members since 2010.
Mr. Walter first brought up the issue of the unified ticket in a WRIV radio interview Friday after being asked about comments by Ms. Giglio earlier this week. She had said in a radio interview Wednesday that the supervisor has created an environment in Town Hall where people are always fighting with one another.
She compared the situation to the environment in state and federal government. Mr. Walter countered that it was Ms. Giglio who has caused division.
In 2009, Ms. Giglio and Mr. Walter both sought the Republican nomination for supervisor against then-incumbent Democrat Phil Cardinale. The committee eventually went with Mr. Walter for supervisor and Ms. Giglio for council.
In separate interviews Friday, Mr. Walter, Mr. Wooten and Mr. Gabrielsen all said they can work together.
“We’re all up for reelection, we’re all Republicans, and we’d certainly like to continue doing what we’re doing,” said Mr. Wooten, who had considered challenging Mr. Walter for the Republican nomination for supervisor in the past, but backed off each time.
“I have thought about running for supervisor in the past, but only because I’d love to have a chance to do that,” Mr. Wooten said. “It’s a battle I’m growing weary of at this point. I am happy being a councilman and I can do some good work as a councilman, supporting initiatives we have here. I don’t have any intentions of screening or running for supervisor this year.”
“I’m very happy,” Mr. Walter said. “We’ve forged a pretty solid working relationship over the past five years. George Gabrielsen and Jim Wooten were top vote-getters when I ran with them back in 2011, and so I look forward to running with them again, as a team.”
“The three of us don’t really fight, if you look at it,” Mr. Walter said. “We are pretty much the steady rock consistency on the board. There are other members of the board that may create some consternation amongs the other board members.”
All five of the current Town Board members have won their town re-elections by safe margins over the past five years, although Mr. Walter did lose an election for a county Legislature position by a wide margin in January 2013.
“That’s because people just judge us on what we’ve accomplished,” Mr. Walter said of the town election results. “People are not down in the weeds, looking at all the different idiosyncrasies of the board members. They want to know the taxes of kept down, they want to know that the town is growing and that we’re preserving farmland and they want to know that they will get the state rebate check, which they will get.”
The rebate check is given to municipalities that stayed within the state’s two-percent tax cap, he said.
“We’re moving together as a team,” Mr. Gabrielsen said. “I’m very focused on the EPCAL energy park, Sean’s very focused on the EPCAL subdivision and Jim has worked with us on both projects. It’s a good team moving forward. I just don’t like all this conversation about how much we’re fighting. We are working together trying to get stuff done.”
Ms. Giglio seemed somewhat surprised by the comments of Mr. Wooten and Mr. Gabrielsen.
Riverhead Republican Committee chairman Mason Haas said the committee will have open screenings, during which even the incumbents will have to re-screen for their positions. He said this is how they’ve always done it.
He had no comment on the issue of the three board members running as a united ticket.