05/25/11 6:55pm
05/25/2011 6:55 PM


With the exception of town assessor, Southold’s Democratic Party will field a full slate of candidates in the fall town elections, and the party promises a “very dynamic” campaign.

Democrats, who in recent years have focused on Town Board races, chose seven candidates during their convention Tuesday night. Among them are challengers to Republican incumbents in the tax receiver and town justice positions who have long gone unchallenged.

“Anticipate that this is going to be a very dynamic election season,” said Regina Calcaterra of New Suffolk.

The one ballot slot the party will not fill is town assessor. Town Chairman Art Tillman said the party believes tax assessments should be taken out of the political process and completed by non-elected civil service employees.

Although some party members previously called for leaving the supervisor’s position uncontested as well, the party nominated Southold attorney Robert Meguin, a former member of the town’s ethics committee, to take on incumbent Scott Russell.

Mr. Meguin described himself as a “reluctant” candidate who agreed at the last minute to step in. The top of the ticket includes town council candidates Marie Domenici and Nicholas Deegan, both of Mattituck. They’ll be up against Councilman Bill Ruland and Jill Doherty, a town trustee. Councilman Vinny Orlando, whose term is up, is not seeking re-election.

A native of Ireland, Mr. Deegan has been active in local athletics and serves as a Mattituck Parks District commissioner. Ms. Domenici said she became active in local issues while recovering from breast cancer. She worked for the North Fork Environmental Council and serves as chair of the town’s renewable energy committee.

The Democrats also chose Steve Brautigam of Laurel and Lynn Summers of Mattituck to run for town Trustee. They’ll face Jimmy King and Bob Ghosio.

After 20 years with the Village of Greenport, at one time serving as clerk/treasurer and head of utilities, Mr. Brautigam now works as village administrator for Ocean Beach on Fire Island.

Ms. Summers is an educator who has been involved in a number of causes, including the construction of a playground behind the Cutchogue East School and the preservation of Wolf Pit Lake in Mattituck.

To take on tax receiver George Sullivan, the party chose Kerrie Amerson of Southold. Ms. Amerson is a dispatcher for the Southampton Village Police Department.

Brian Hughes of Southold will challenge Town Justice Rudolph Bruer. Mr. Hughes worked as a prosecutor in the City of New York’s fire marshal’s office and served as head of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s public corruption section.

Although the Democrats are not fielding a challenger to assessor Darline Duffy, the party will ask the Town Board to seek first-class town status, which would permit the elimination of elected assessors, Mr. Tillman said.

“It’s ludicrous to get your assessments through the political process,” the chairman said during the party gathering at the Universalist Church in Southold. “There’s always the hint of bias, if not out-and-out bias.”

Several weeks ago, the party backed Mr. Tillman’s call to push the town to obtain first-class status to permit a switch on electing town council members from the present at-large system to councilmatic districts. That issue was not discussed during Tuesday’s convention.

Supervisor candidate Meguin has served as law clerk for several county court judges who moved on to private practice. In 2005, he ran unsuccessfully for state Supreme Court judge.

He said Town Hall suffers from a lack of vision and that he will wage “a campaign of ideas.”

“I want to dissect the entire government and see if we need it,” he said. “Nobody thinks about what the consequences are 10 and 20 years down the line.”

Although he did not initially seek to challenge the supervisor, Mr. Meguin said, “My heart is really in this … I will listen, learn and, with you, lead.”

During an impassioned address, the chairman also said the Democrats will not limit the campaign to local concerns.

“We’re going to talk about national issues in this town because national issues have an impact on the people of this town,” he said.

On historic social issues such as the creation of Social Security and Medicare, “You name it, we were behind it,” said Mr. Tillman. “They [the GOP] fought it and continue to fight it.”

He added that the party will offer voters a true alternative.

“We’re going to out-grass roots them, but this is no Tea Party, no way,” the chairman said. “This is not Republican-lite, this is the Democratic Party.”

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10/06/10 4:48pm
10/06/2010 4:48 PM

The Tuthill era has ended for Southold’s Democrats and the Tillman epoch has begun.
Art Tillman of Mattituck was elected Tuesday night as the party’s new chairman after Larry Tuthill, who held that position for 10 years, withdrew his name from consideration.
Mr. Tillman described the party as “in shambles” and in need of rebuilding.
Considered perennial underdogs in local politics, the Democrats currently have only two elected officials serving in town government. More than half of the party’s committee seats are vacant. The committee did not meet between October 2009 and September 2010, has not held a fundraiser in the past year and has only about $600 in its treasury.
“We are hurting big-time,” Mr. Tillman said shortly after assuming his new position. He was the only one nominated for the leader’s job. “I like to think that a vote for me is a vote for change.”
He described the 2007 elections, the last time the supervisor’s seat was on the ballot, as “disastrous for us.” In that race, Republican Supervisor Scott Russell won re-election with an unheard of 83 percent of the vote and incumbent Democratic councilmen Dan Ross and Bill Edwards both were turned out of office. Those results left the party with a “general malaise and a sense of discouragement,” the new chairman said.
“We have to turn the party around and I think we can do it,” said Mr. Tillman, a retired teacher who has lived in Mattituck since 1976. “But I can’t do it alone.”
He suggested that the party must at times reach out to the town’s Conservative and Independence party organizations.
“We don’t win elections, generally speaking, unless we can bring people under this big tent,” he said. Toward that end, the party has appointed its first Hispanic committee member, Carlos Gonzalez of Southold.
“His job is to reach out to the Hispanic community and make them feel they are a part of us,” said Mr. Tillman. “The Hispanics are the future base of this party.”
Mr. Tillman said he began calling committee members over the weekend seeking their support in his bid for chairman. Mr. Tuthill, whose two-year term was up, informed the committee of his decision to step aside a few hours before the convention at First Universalist Church of Southold.
Mr. Tuthill has been a committeeman for 20 years, and has seen the party’s fortunes rise to new heights and sink to new lows during that time. During the last half of the Josh Horton administration, the Democrats controlled the Town Board for the first time in memory. He agreed that the 2007 town elections left the Democrats reeling.
“I don’t regret any of the candidates we’ve run,” said Mr. Tuthill. “I am proud of the fact that we’ve run excellent candidates who won and served the town well.”
As to his decision to step aside in deference to Mr. Tillman, his second in command, Mr. Tuthill said, “The party is ready for a change, I’m ready for a change and it will be good for Southold Democrats.”
Denis Noncarrow, the town’s GOP leader, had nothing but praise for Mr. Tuthill.
“Working with Larry was an absolute pleasure,” he said. “He taught me the greatest truth about doing this stuff, which is never take anything too seriously. I’ll never forget that.”
Mr. Noncarrow said he doesn’t know Mr. Tillman, “but I’m sure we’ll work well together.”
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