After all the absentee votes had been tallied Friday afternoon, Democratic Town Justice candidate Brian Hughes hadn’t just protected his slim lead over Republican opponent William Goggins — he extended it.
County officials plan to count about 450 remaining absentee ballots Friday to determine the outcomes of two Southold Town races that remain up in the air. READ
The candidates running for Southold Town justice this year made a gentleman’s agreement during the campaign that once the results of the election were in, they would make dinner plans together.
Mattituck attorney William Goggins has won all three primaries for the Republican, Conservative, and Independence party nominations for Southold Town Justice, according to unofficial results. READ
A trio of primaries will be held Thursday in the race for Southold Town justice.
The Southold Town Republican Committee has selected a familiar roster of names to serve as its candidates in this year’s town election.
Of the eight Republican candidates on the ticket, seven have run for office before, including all six incumbents who sought re-election. Town Supervisor Scott Russell, and Town Board members Jill Doherty and Bill Ruland, top the ballot. Mattituck attorney William Goggins is once again the party’s choice for Town Justice. (more…)
Southold Town Justice William Price said Monday that his next term will be his last.
The 62-year-old judge, who will be sworn in for his ninth term in January, said he does not plan to seek re-election in 2017.
“I’m not running ever again,” he said.
When asked why, he simply replied, “I’ll be 66 years old.”
Mr. Price, a former Republican, was first elected in 1981 when he defeated Democrat John Lee with 61 percent of the vote to replace Republican Justice James Rich, who did not seek re-election that year.
In office for 32 years, Mr. Price was dropped from the Republican ticket in favor of Mattituck attorney William Goggins this spring. But after receiving Democratic backing for the first time in his career, Mr. Price handily defeated his opponent with 59 percent of the vote.
Immensely popular, Mr. Price has only been challenged four times in his political career. After winning re-election by 70 percent of the vote in 1989, he ran uncontested in five consecutive elections prior to this November.
They call it The Silly Season for a reason. Elections — and particularly local elections — often bring out the silliness in everyone involved, including the candidates, their handlers and supporters, sometimes even the voters.
The former Joan Giger Walker and I decided the best way to avoid the silliness this year was to get out of town for Election Day. And we did, after having submitted our absentee ballots, of course. This is being written on Tuesday morning, Nov. 5, and we are 800 miles from home, in Asheville, N.C.
And yet the silliness has followed us here.
Actually, for us the silliness began last week when the paper made its endorsements. Friends of ours began to call and email us with essentially the same question: How could the paper possibly have endorsed challenger Bill Goggins over incumbent Town Justice Bill Price Jr.?
Our short answer: Ask the paper. Apparently even some of our close friends need to be reminded that Joan and I no longer own nor work for the paper. (Although I still do write this column every other week.) It’s been years since I was involved in the endorsement process — and it is a process, involving both editors and reporters, who make their final decision by majority vote — nor are we involved in any editorial or management decision making. Repeat: any.
Still, the silliness persists. On Monday a friend called to ask why the paper tipped off the Goggins camp in advance so they could mail a postcard delivered on Saturday morning, alerting voters to the endorsement. (Yes, this guy still is a friend.) The answer is simple: Every Thursday morning around 4 a.m., the content of the paper is “published” on its website, giving Goggins and his supporters 37 hours — more than enough time — to print, address and post the cards before the post office closed at 5 p.m. Friday. The paper never has provided — and, I firmly believe, never will provide — advance notice of any political endorsement, including to the former owners and co-publishers, who were surprised as anyone by the endorsement of Bill Goggins.
There’s one more indicator that this silliness has followed us here to North Carolina, although it’s really more a coincidence than pure silliness.
Last night, we were getting a brief tour of Asheville in a car driven by former Mattituck-Cutchogue School District staff member Debbie Gurriere. In the passenger seat was her husband, Ray, former owner of the Love Lane (Mattituck) Pharmacy. We knew Debbie and Ray when they lived in Mattituck, and we got in touch with them when we knew we were going to be passing through Asheville, where they have lived since leaving the North Fork several years ago.
They were, as you might imagine, curious about the local election back in Southold Town, and I told them about the endorsement flap and the fact that I had written an earlier column supporting Bill Price. (Living proof that we no longer have a say in the endorsements.) And as they were getting ready to drop us off at our B&B, Ray announced that he had just sent a text message to an old friend of theirs back in New Suffolk, saying they were currently riding around Asheville with Joan and Troy Gustavson.
Can you guess who the old friend is? None other than Bill Goggins himself.
Even 800 miles away from home, it seems the silliness cannot be avoided.
Four-year term, one open seat
William C. Goggins
Party lines: Republican, Conservative and Independence
About him: Mr. Goggins, 53, is a 1978 Mattituck High School graduate and an Air Force veteran with degrees from the University of Massachusetts and Bridgeport Law School. He opened a private law practice in Mattituck more than 23 years ago.
His pitch: He believes he could create efficiencies, and therefore savings, within the Southold Town Justice Court. As an attorney practicing law in various courtrooms across Suffolk County, he says he’s noticed the court in Southold has not updated its administrative functions in more than 20 years. He pointed to the lack of a computer in the courtroom, the way defendants are walked past a jury and the lag time in arraigning defendants as changes he’d like to make.
In his words: “As an attorney, I see inefficiencies at the town court, which is causing a burden on our police resources and our town resources. I believe I can institute changes … to make [the court] function much better, by making it more efficient. Efficiency saves us all money as taxpayers.”
William H. Price Jr.
Occupation: Incumbent Town Justice, attorney
Party lines: Democrat, Working Families
About him: Mr. Price, 62, is a Greenport native who attended Greenport Schools, Mount Hermon School, Boston University and Albany Law School. He opened a private law practice in Greenport in 1977 and served as Greenport’s village attorney from 1978 to 1979. First elected in 1980, he has served as a Southold Town Justice for nearly 32 years, having been re-elected to seven consecutive four-year terms. He also serves as a Drug Court Judge at no additional compensation. Additionally, he has served as a director of the Suffolk County Magistrates Association and is a former director of the NYS Magistrates Association.
His pitch: Mr. Price believes residents should re-elect him based on his record of serving with “integrity and independence” for more than three decades.
In his words: “As a Town Justice, I have had to make the difficult decisions concerning individuals’ liberty and property rights. I understand the implications of my decisions. I have presided over more trials than I can count. I have had to send people to jail and fined many people. I have had to decide not to send people to jail. My years of judicial experience benefit all of the people of the Town of Southold.”
It’s clear to anyone who’s spent time in various courtrooms across Suffolk County that the Southold Town Justice Court operates differently from all the others.
It’s not uncommon for a family member of someone who was arrested on a Saturday night to show up at the Southold court Monday morning and have to wait until the early afternoon for their relative’s arraignment.
If you ask what the hold up is, you’ll often be told, “We’re waiting for the judge.”
That’s how Justice William Price has chosen to operate his courtroom. For some folks, it’s no bother. For others, it’s a nuisance. Attorney William Goggins, Judge Price’s Republican opponent in Tuesday’s election for Town Justice, falls into the latter category.
Efficiency, he says, is the number one reason he’s running.
As a go-to attorney in Southold Town for more than two decades, Mr. Goggins spends as much time in Southold’s courtroom as just about anyone not named Price or Bruer (the last name of the other town justice). He doesn’t like what he sees. He says not only are attorneys, clients and family members often kept waiting for court to begin at an unscheduled time — even for some arrests in which most jurisdictions would issue the defendant an appearance ticket — he also believes the way defendants are walked across the entire courtroom before a proceeding creates a safety hazard for everyone in attendance. He says he’d like to create a holding area closer to the side entrance, away from the public, which he suggested might also make things easier for the town police officers who escort the men and women in and out of the court.
Mr. Goggins also told Suffolk Times editors the courtroom could use a technological upgrade. “Southold is the only courtroom I’m ever in that doesn’t have computers inside the courtroom,” he said. The purchase of just one computer could create efficiencies for the court clerk and the judge, he said.
But what’s made this year’s justice race more interesting than most races — in the eyes of many who follow such things — is an old rift that has divided the candidates for the past decade. Following a real estate transaction in which the men represented different parties, Mr. Goggins sent Mr. Price a letter of complaint about the way Mr. Price handled the transaction. Ever since, in his capacity as judge, Mr. Price has declined to hear Mr. Goggins’ cases, according to both candidates. Rather than risk an accusation of bias should he rule against Mr. Goggins’ client, those matters are transferred to Justice Bruer’s calendar.
Mr. Goggins says he was approached twice by Republicans about running for Town Justice but refused both times before finally accepting the nomination this spring.
For Mr. Price, also a Republican, this meant being abandoned by the party that has nominated him for eight four-year terms dating back to 1981. He says he was dropped from the ticket because he’s fiercely independent.
Instead, he’s running on the Democratic and Working Families lines this year. A judge with 32 years in the courtroom and a mostly favorable reputation, he has certainly added some much needed experience to the Democratic ticket. It’s been 24 years since Democrats have even run someone against Mr. Price, who first won his post in 1981 by 61 percent of the vote and saw his popularity grow to 69 and 70 percent in his next two elections before running unopposed to win his five most recent terms. For the person who always votes Democratic, but hasn’t had a choice since 1989, the veteran judge is a perfectly fine option.
But for the conflicted Republican, or the independent voter who turns to a local newspaper for guidance on Election Day, we’re endorsing Mr. Goggins this year.
The case can be made for a vote for Mr. Price based on his judicial experience but such a vote also represents support of the status quo inside a stagnant Southold Town Justice Court that operates at the sleepy pace of its senior judge. Ironically, Mr. Price pledged to make the Southold Town Justice Court more accessible in his very first Suffolk Times election preview advertisement in 1981.
Mr. Goggins boasts experience not as a town justice but rather as a hard-working attorney who can modernize our town court by introducing systems he’s seen work in other places. We trust he’ll have the support of Mr. Bruer, also a Republican — and a town justice for 18 years — to make our town court more, well, accessible.
A vote for Mr. Goggins signifies a desire for change in a courtroom we believe is in need of a little shaking up.