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Gooding seeks Shelter Island Town Board seat: Island Democrats still split on candidates

Gordon Gooding will seek election to the Town Board to fill the vacant seat resulting from the election of Amber Brach-Williams as town supervisor.

Mr. Gooding sustained a close loss to Ms. Brach-Williams in the supervisor’s race last November, while his running mates — Albert Dickson and Benjamin Dyett — were both elected to the Town Board.

The three men ran under “A Better Island for All” banner, although they won the endorsement of the town Democratic Party in a primary race.

After a deadlock resulted in the four Town Board member’s effort to appoint a new member to the Town Board, a new election will await the November 2024 general election.

A vote at the Feb. 26 Town Board meeting to pass a resolution seeking Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) permission to hold a special election failed along party lines — the two Democrats, Councilmen Albert Dickson and Benjamin Dyett voting no, and the two Republicans, Supervisor Amber Brach Williams and Councilwoman Meg Larsen voting for the special election.

In the Better Island for All newsletter, distributed prior to Monday night’s meeting, it was announced the group does “not support a special election. It would be a big distraction from addressing the urgent needs of the town and focusing on our goals. By design, it would benefit the presumptive Republican candidate, who lost his race for Town Board in the last general election and would prefer to run in a low-turnout special election rather than run in the November general election.”

That candidate is Tom Cronin, who lost his race to join the Town Board in November.

The newsletter repeated the Democrats’ argument that a special election would be “a waste of some $30,000, which could be better used in any number of ways.”

That is untrue; the Suffolk County Board of Elections would bear the cost of a special election.

The newsletter asks residents not to sign petitions for other candidates until they know who is running.

“We understand that the SIDC [Shelter Island Democratic Committee] leadership is about to start a petition drive for a candidate for the vacant seat on the Town Board who does not reflect our priorities,” according to the newsletter statement.

“We urge you not to sign any petitions circulated by the current SIDC party leadership until you see what your choices are,” the newsletter stated. “By signing another petition, you may lose the opportunity to support our candidate for Town Board, or any of those candidates running to change the direction of the SIDC.”

In a Letter to the Editor published on Feb. 29, Shelter Island Democratic Chair Heather Reylek wrote: “A special message for Shelter Island Democrats and the Island: The candidate petitioning process began Wednesday, Feb. 27. There is a misinformation being sent. I have not stepped down as Democratic leader. That is false. I took a brief leave of absence after Bob’s fall until Jan. 1.

“I’d like to personally ask that you sign the Shelter Island Democratic Committee petitions printed as follows:

“If you reside in ED #1, John C. Cronin, Jr.; and Glenn W. Waddington.

“If you reside in ED #2, Catherine F. Brigham and Susan L. Jones.

“If you reside in ED #3, Heather L. Reylek and Robert F. Reylek.

“If you reside in ED #4, Barrie E. Silver and Katherine A. Doroski.

“This past year was unusual and divisive. There will almost certainly be a challenge to your entire Shelter Island Committee, the official Shelter Island Democratic Committee, which has worked very hard over the years to support our core democratic values and built up our enrollment.

“Signatures can only be from the Election District in which you are enrolled. If indeed, the committee is challenged with other petitions, it will trigger a primary in June, by specific Election Districts. This is a critical election year on all levels; from local to national.

“Democrats cannot afford to have internal divisions. By signing a petition, you are not voting. You are only facilitating that those names appear on a ballot under New State election law.”

Former supervisor Gerry Siller endorsed Ms. Brach-Williams rather than Mr. Gooding in last November’s election, and retiring Democratic Town Board members BJ Ianfolla and Jim Colligan didn’t work for the Better Island For All ticket.

The Better Island for All group said it would “support a diverse slate of candidates for the Shelter Island Democratic Committee, including some distinguished present and former members of that Committee” in the November election.

“We may not agree with all those candidates on every issue, but we are confident that they will change the direction of the party, making it more democratic in its orientation and practices.”

If there is a primary election, it would take place on June 25.