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Monday, September 25, 2023

Summer Ends as Campaigns Accelerate


As summer draws to a close, the campaign season is now accelerating into full motion. With just a little over two months to go until Election Day, candidates on both sides of the aisle are sparing no expense in the prime networking opportunities summer events typically provide.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor and County Executive candidate Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches) is vying to be Suffolk County’s first elected Republican County Executive since Robert Gaffney won his final election in 1999. Over the weekend, he attended the Knights of Columbus’ First Annual Barbecue in Mastic.

The James V. Kavanaugh Knights of Columbus Council #5293 held its inaugural event at their hall located on Madison Street. Officials included Congressman Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport) of the Second Congressional District, Assemblyman Joe DeStefano (R-Brookhaven) of the Third Assembly District, Suffolk Legislator Jim Mazzarella (R-Mastic) of the Third Legislative District, and Supervisor Romaine. Mazzarella and Romaine are both on the ballot this year. While Romaine is in for a competitive race against businessman and former prosecutor Dave Calone (D-Setauket) for the open County Executive seat, Mazzarella looks comfortable for re-election. The Messenger rates his seat as “Safe Republican.”

“Thank you to the JV Kavanaugh Knights of Columbus Council of Mastic for hosting a fantastic free BBQ,” said Legislator Mazzarella. “Kudos to Grand Knight Frank DeNatale for bringing the community together for this fun event!”

Although the more competitive seats this year are located in Brookhaven, the East End has seen typically reliable Democratic margins thin over the last couple cycles.

The South Fork in particular is experiencing a change as four-term incumbent Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac) is not running for re-election. The Second Legislative District contains the entirety of the Town of East Hampton and most of the Town of Southampton. The two towns are consistently Democratic by large margins, although Fleming saw her margin of victory dip below 60% for the first time. While still a comfortable victory, there has been some momentum towards Republicans in Eastern Long Island.

Another recent notable feat was that of Peter Ganley (R-Mattituck), 26, who came within single-digits of taking down Fred Thiele (D-Sag Harbor) in the 2022 race for First Assembly District. Thiele had not seen a race that close in his thirty years at Albany.

In the race for the Second District, Manny Vilar (R-Springs), Chairman of the East Hampton Town Republican Committee, is in an uphill battle to flip the Second District red.

After his February nomination, Vilar said:

“We have a lot of tremendous issues on the East End of Long Island that are going to take a lot of advocacy and some different thinking. I believe that the economic solvency of the county starts with eastern Long Island.”

Vilar has been the East Hampton GOP Chairman since 2018. He ran unsuccessfully for the Town Supervisor seat in 2017 and a special election for the town board a year later.

He faces Ann Welker (D-Southampton), a Southampton Town Trustee.

Vilar spent Monday at the Amagansett Fire Department Chicken BBQ. He wrote on his campaign’s Facebook account:

“Had an incredible time at the Amagansett Fire Department Chicken BBQ. So many old and dear friends. The food was fantastic, the clams by James Bennett were out of this world, the beer was crisp by Westhampton Beach Brewing Company and the wine by Amagansett Wine and Spirits was perfect.”

Meanwhile, County Executive candidate Dave Calone (D-Setauket) has been campaigning to keep the office in Democratic control. He attended the Brookhaven Democratic Committee Summer BBQ last week. In a Facebook post, he wrote:

“Had a great time at the Brookhaven Town Democratic Committee Summer BBQ, rallying supporters with our terrific slate and tossing around a football as the Giants & Jets pre-season began! 85 days until the election, and the energy behind our effort to move #SuffolkForward has never been stronger.”

Brookhaven Democrats seem bullish on their chances of flipping the Town Supervisor office with Lillian Clayman, an adjunct professor at SUNY College at Old Westbury and former mayor of Hamden, Connecticut. Clayman ascended to the ticket earlier this summer after Port Jefferson Margot Garant (D) stepped down due to health concerns.

Brookhaven Democrats held a meet-and-greet for Clayman at C.P. La Mannos Have a Pizza in Miller Place on Tuesday night.

As one of the most Republican townships in the county, anticipated down ballot energy from Romaine at the top of the ticket, and the mid-campaign ticket change on the Democratic side, Brookhaven might be a bit out of reach for Democrats this fall. Councilman and Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico (R-Center Moriches) has essentially been campaigning during his tenure at Town Hall. Panico has been campaigning throughout the summer, leading The Messenger to rate the Brookhaven Town Supervisor as “Safe Republican.”