Editorial: Election will heat up the North Fork

Riverhead News-Review
Riverhead News-Review

Thanksgiving is in the past and Christmas and Hanukkah are in the near future, so why are local politicos charged up these days?

It’s simple: There’s a one-of-a-kind election coming in January to fill the county Legislature seat Ed Romaine left following his election last month as Brookhaven’s new town supervisor.

The election is one-of-a-kind in more than just the unusual timing. It appears that Southold Democratic Councilman Al Krupski will go head to head with Riverhead Republican Supervisor Sean Walter. This may be the first time an elected official from one North Fork town has run against one from the other.

But even before the campaigning begins, there’s a dispute brewing over the election’s timing.

Democrats, who control the county executive’s office and the Legislature, are expected to move next week to schedule the vote for Jan. 15. Republicans question the rush and note that, by law, the county has 90 days from the time of Mr. Romaine’s departure to schedule the vote, which could push it back into February.

The GOP says voters should be given as much time as is available to get to know the candidates. But there’s also the concern that the North Fork is left without representation at the county level every day the seat is empty.

As is often the case, there’s more to this than meets the eye. Democrats, still basking in the glow of President Obama’s and Congressman Tim Bishop’s winning campaigns, and flush with cash, would like to get voters to the polls as soon as possible. Then again, the GOP could use more time to campaign against Mr. Krupski, who seems to have developed no political enemies in 28 years in office. A farmer of Polish lineage, the councilman also hopes to tap into both constituencies in Riverhead.

Does an earlier election give the Democrats a competitive advantage? Perhaps. But the GOP faces a greater concern in the fractious nature of the Riverhead party. Mr. Walter’s party controls the Town Board, but peace rarely seems to hold among board members. Will the GOP support him fully — a Walter victory would open Riverhead’s top spot for someone else — or will they leave him on his own?

It doesn’t seem that a month’s difference in the vote would affect that either way.