While Smithtown Republicans are backing Town Supervisor Patrick Vecchio's decision to run for another term, Democrats are eyeing it as an opportunity to gain ground.
Vecchio, who turns 83 years old in September, announced Feb. 3 at a Smithtown Republican fundraiser that he would seek a 13th term this coming November. First elected in 1977, Vecchio has held the supervisor's seat for 35 years and is the longest-serving town supervisor in Long Island's history.
Before Vecchio's announcement, Suffolk Legis. John Kennedy Jr. had considered a run at supervisor's seat.
"Absolutely, if the supervisor was not a candidate for another term I absolutely would seek the nomination," Kennedy said. "He is a candidate, so I am not."
Kennedy, a Republican colleague from Nesconset first elected to the county legislature in 2004, is a relative newcomer to holding political office compared to Vecchio. Prior to serving as a legislator, Kennedy worked as the official examiner of title for the Suffolk County Clerk’s Office.
Vecchio's long-standing position as supervisor of Smithtown does give him an edge in running for re-election, according to Kennedy.
"[Vecchio] knows the general thinking and the sense of priorities of what's important to most of the residents of Town of Smithtown," Kennedy said. "He maintains contact with many residents in a variety of ways."
Republican Councilman Bob Creighton is also familiar with local needs, working with them on a daily basis since 2008. Creighton expressed interest in running for supervisor before Vecchio's announcement and told Times of Smithtown he was "not ruling out a run."
At 75, Creighton has spent less time on the board than his fellow councilman Ed Wehrheim. Wehrheim was elected to the board in 2003 and has 40 years of experience serving the town, but says he has no intention of throwing his name into the ring – at least not now.
"Last year, I successfully ran for re-election," Creighton said. "I have a lot on my plate as councilman."
For the past 2 years, Creighton said his focus has been on the town's economic development and taking care of Smithtown's business districts. He helped oversee $72 million in renovations at Smith Haven Mall and wants to improve Smithtown's downtown business district.
Turning around Smithtown's Main Street could set the stage for a future run as supervisor.
"I would not rule out something like that in the future, providing that I'm still here," Creighton said.
While Smithtown Republicans respect Vecchio's seniority, the Smithtown Democrats are considering taking advantage of this opportunity to break the Republican stronghold.
"I'm very optimistic we can get some Democrats elected to the town government," said Ed Maher, chairman of the Smithtown Democratic Committee. "The Republicans themselves are admitting the job is not getting done."
Maher said he plans to call the Democrats screening committee together in early March to review potential candidates. At stake is not only the Smithtown supervisor's seat, but also two town board seats held by Kevin Malloy and Thomas McCarthy.
"It's time for Smithtown to have Democrats in town government and we are going to do our best to win races," Maher said.