Featured Story

Wooten says next term is his last if he wins


On the night he secured the second spot in Thursday’s three-man primary race, incumbent Councilman Jim Wooten indicated that if he wins the general election this fall, his next term will be his final one in office.

“I don’t want to give up on my town,” he said during his election party Thursday. “I don’t want to be a lifetime politician, either. I feel that I still have more to offer. I’d like to do one more term.”

Mr. Wooten, alongside Tim Hubbard, beat out Robert Peeker to secure a place on the Republican ballot last night. Mr. Hubbard received the most votes, 1,561, followed by Mr. Wooten with 1,154 and Mr. Peeker with 1,065.

At The All Star in Riverhead, Mr. Wooten hugged his wife, Rebekah, and his daughter, Alivia, when the results were announced while about 10 supporters clapped and cheered.

“I have so much love for the town and for the people here,” Mr. Wooten said. “The people need a voice in town hall.”

Last year, Mr. Wooten pushed for a 12-year limit to be established for all policy-making elected officials. A month later, though, he changed his mind after reading Karl Grossman’s column on the topic in the Southampton Press, and Mr. Wooten successfully voted against holding a public hearing about term limits, effectively killing the legal push.

He explained the distinction this week: Mr. Wooten believes on a personal level that no one should remain in office for too long, but he also believes voters should have the ultimate power to choose.

In other words, he wants elected town board members to step down after three terms — himself included — of their own accord, not through a government mandate.

“I don’t feel that anybody should make a career out of elected office,” he said.

Mr. Wooten acknowledged some criticism that he does not frequently push for legislation, but he said that is part of his style as a Republican. He did stress, however, that he would gladly legislate on matters such as public safety, health and welfare, and environmental preservation since he views those as key issues.

“I don’t believe in legislating for the sake of legislating,” he said. “There are too many laws in this country. The government has its hands in everybody’s pockets at every turn. It’s time for us to get out of peoples’ pockets.”

In May, the Riverhead Republican Committee named Mr. Peeker and Mr. Hubbard their official nominees, leaving Mr. Wooten to run in the primary without party support — something he described as “going up against the machine.”

“If the public came to me and said, ‘Jimmy, thanks for your work, but we’re done with you’ and voted me out this time, then I’d leave with my head held high,” Mr. Wooten said. “But let the people throw me out.”

However, Mr. Wooten said he hopes everyone involved can put the matter behind them and move forward together, even if his relationship with the GOP is “strained” at first.

He wasn’t the only Republican looking beyond primary night — even as the party waits to hear who won the supervisor’s nomination.

At GOP headquarters on Thursday night, the chairman of the Suffolk County Republican Party, John Jay LaValle, told the group “now is the time to unite.”

[email protected]