In the past 20 years, Democrats have challenged for the position of Southold Town Assessor only once — in 1995, when they secured just 32 percent of the vote.
The office has long been controlled by three mostly unopposed Republicans: Robert Scott and Kevin Webster, who are up for re-election this year, and Darline Duffy, who retired June 1. Ms. Duffy’s retirement means all three seats will be voted on Tuesday.
For the first time in 18 years, Democrats have chosen to nominate a full slate of assessor candidates, picking Marie Domenici and Terry Hofer to run against Mr. Scott and Mr. Webster, and Jason Petrucci against Republican challenger Richard Caggiano in a special election for the final two years of Ms. Duffy’s unexpired term.
On one hand, it’s nice to see the Southold Town Democrats running a mostly full slate of candidates — the party did not endorse for Fishers Island Justice or town clerk — in a year when all the incumbents on the ballot are Republican.
On the other hand, we believe many of this year’s Democratic candidates came up short in terms of qualifications. Nowhere is this more evident than in the assessor race, where none of the three Democratic challengers has any work experience in the real estate or accounting industries. While it’s good to see an underdog political party fill out a ballot with a full slate of candidates, it’s troubling to learn that some of those candidates aren’t exactly qualified for the office they seek.
Of the three Democrats running for assessor, Mr. Petrucci, a student of government who is fully up to speed on the goings on at Town Hall, is best suited for a government post. He said he scored well on his civil service exam and it would be good to see his number called for a union position.
That said, it’s hard to argue that he’s more qualified than Mr. Caggiano — a municipal accountant who most recently worked in the county comptroller’s office — for Ms. Duffy’s former job.
Ms. Domenici and Ms. Hofer are among the most personable candidates on this year’s ballot but this is no congeniality contest. Mr. Scott and Mr. Webster are two of the hardest-working and most knowledgeable staffers in all of Town Hall. Southold is a town with nearly 1,300 property tax grievance cases each year and just as many homeowners approaching the assessor’s office directly with a grievance. It’s a high-demand public and customer service position that demands institutional knowledge. It would be a shame to see either Mr. Scott or Mr. Webster booted from his current position by an unqualified opponent.
Ms. Domenici’s primary talking point during the campaign was to educate the public on how the assessor’s office works. However, she freely admitted during the campaign that she herself has no knowledge of the inner workings of the office. Ms. Hofer, too, seemed to lack basic knowledge of how the assessor’s office operates.
Mr. Scott, an assessor for the past 24 years, said that if re-elected this year he will not run again in 2017. We hope Democrats will use the next four years to produce a more qualified assessor candidate than the three on the ballot this year.