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Riverhead Dems banking on ‘mom’ power in next election

Riverhead Democrats are touting their roster of prospective candidates as the first all-woman slate to run for Town Board.

The trio of “Riverhead moms” has “extensive experience serving the public, raising families and working with community leaders and residents,” a press release from the Democrats states. “They also bring a new, common sense perspective on resolving concerns and issues that have long troubled our town.”

Nominations are not official until the May 23 convention.

Laura Jens-Smith of Laurel is running for supervisor, and anticipates running against incumbent Republican Sean Walter in November. Catherine Kent of Calverton and Michele Lynch of Riverhead are running for council seats on the Democratic line.

Ms. Jens-Smith is a project coordinator for the North Fork Alliance, which works to reduce youth substance use. If elected, she would be the first female supervisor in Riverhead Town history, although several other female candidates — including Angela DeVito, Anne Moroh and Harriet Gilliam — have previously sought the town’s top position.

Ms. Lynch, the latest addition to the ticket, recently retired as political director for the 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East union. She is a longtime member of the Riverhead Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary as well as a “lifelong organizer, activist, mom and grandmother,” according to a release issued by Democrats.

Ms. Lynch said she feels Riverhead needs to create affordable housing for young people and senior citizens and believes the town needs to preserve its ecosystem and farming resources.

Ms. Kent, also retired, taught in the Riverhead school district for 31 years. She’s also a mother of three, a community advocate and a former member of the executive board of the Riverhead Central Faculty Association, the union representing teachers in the district.

Ms. Kent recently spent 10 days teaching math and English to children in Haiti as part of a program called Kindest Hearts Academie.

She said her top concerns include the recently proposed sale of land at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, the revitalization of downtown and the continued growth of development on Route 58.

Ms. Jens-Smith, who ran for a council slot two years ago, announced her bid for supervisor Jan. 24. Ms. Kent publicly announced her plan to run for town council March 27, during a press conference Ms. Jens-Smith held at EPCAL.

“I think we’re a pretty strong team, so I’m optimistic we’ll get the Democratic nod. I think it’s a strong group of hard-working community-minded Riverhead women,” Ms. Jens-Smith said. “We’re all willing to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work that needs to be done here.”

Town Democratic chair Marge Acevedo said the candidates still have to be approved at the Democratic convention.

“This is a group that came together and are working together as a slate,” she said. “The only other person that screened for town council is Greg Fischer. Now it’s up to the committee.”

Mr. Fischer has run for numerous public offices over the years and has never won. He is also running for a Riverhead school board seat this month and has twice run for town assessor on the Democratic slate.

Ms. Acevedo said that attorney Susan Ambro of Wading River has screened for the assessor post this year and incumbent George Woodson of Riverhead will run again for highway superintendent. The May 23 nominating convention will be held at the Polish Town Civic Association building on Lincoln Street beginning at 7 p.m.

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Photo: From left, Laura Jens-Smith, Catherine Kent and Michele Lynch pose for a photo near Ms. Kent’s home in Baiting Hollow on Tuesday morning. (Credit: Krysten Massa)