Southampton GOP unveils town board challengers

Democrats Seek All-Blue Board

Speonk resident Craig Catalanotto, 50, a Democrat, is running for Republican Councilwoman Christine Preston Scalera’s soon-to-be vacant seat. Independent/Craig Catalanotto

Democrat Craig Catalanotto says he is hoping to cut the divisiveness.

The Southampton Town Board candidate said, if elected, he’s looking to make the council position his full-time job and work with local chambers of commerce to see how the town can help foster viable businesses.

“I have big plans,” he said. “I think being a member of the town board is a part-time job in name only. I love this work, and given the opportunity, I will be out there. I want to be a candidate approachable by anyone.”

Catalanotto will join the incumbents Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and Councilman John Bouvier at the top of the Democratic ticket this November.

Meanwhile, the Republicans, who met last week to pick candidates, have announced that North Sea’s James Ding and Hampton Bays’ Rick Martel, neither of whom were available for comment, had been chosen to run for town board. The GOP has yet to pick a candidate to challenge Schneiderman after Christine Preston Scalera, who has reached her two-term limit as a town board member, quashed scuttlebutt that she may be interested in the town’s top job.

“While I love what I do, the demands of a campaign and the physical and mental commitment required to do the very best I can — and I wouldn’t know how to do less — make running for supervisor not in the best interest of my family right now, and that has to come first,” Preston Scalera said. “I am grateful for the support many people have given through the years. I hope that while some are disappointed with my decision not to run that, overall, they have been proud of the way I have represented them in Town Hall and know that I poured my heart into my work. I remain grateful, humbled, and proud to have been able to serve our community and intend to maintain the same level of commitment through my term.”

Republican Chairman David Betts in an email this week would only say, “Things are evolving a bit” as to the Republicans’ plans.

Catalanotto, a 50-year-old small business owner, Speonk resident, and father of two has lived in the community since 1999, building a home with his wife and getting involved in local issues. Most recently, Catalanotto, who is co-chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee West, became the liaison of sorts between the community and the town board regarding an affordable housing complex on North Phillips Avenue.

“I worked really hard to try to settle the nerves of the community,” he said. “I’m not very political by nature, and I think I offer a little bit of a different perspective because of that. I like to gather information. I like to analyze the information, and then come up with the best possible strategy for the best possible outcome. I think I take a very calm, rational approach, and I think when others see fairness and transparency, it resonates. My feeling is that people are ready for that sort of candidate.”

The first-time political candidate owns a business — Spire Awards & Gifts in Speonk — that acts as a wholesaler for employee-recognition awards programs.

With Catalanotto running for the seat of the board’s only Republican, Preston Scalera, the Democrats could have a 5-0 majority on the board should Bouvier, who is seeking his second term, also win.

“John has a big heart. He cares about people, and he cares about this place,” Catalanotto said. “The way he goes about things inspired me to make this run. I love Southampton. I’m very passionate about my town. If you look around Long Island, there’s not many places like it. We have a vacation and maritime economy, so our surface water and our groundwater are pretty much the backbone of that economy. We need to do everything we can to make sure it’s healthy and protected. And when I say everything, I mean real, strategic plans to make sure our bays and drinking water are clean.”

The Speonk resident said he also sees Amazon putting significant pressure on Main Street businesses, and the exodus of both young and more mature residents who can no longer afford to live in the area. Those are two issues he’s hoping to tackle.

“I see an opportunity here to bring in some more enterprise business if we can tie it to things that we do well here,” he said. “I think it would be neat to have a factory making surfboards — related industries to draw people out here and create jobs and add to our tax base.”

In the town trustee race, all five seats are up for re-election, and all five incumbent trustees — Republicans Scott Horowitz, Ed Warner Jr., and Bruce Stafford, and Independents Bill Pell and Ann Welker, both cross-endorsed by the Democratic Party — hope to retain their seats. The Democrats have nominated Eileen Duffy, 53, of Quogue, and David Mayer, 39, of Hampton Bays, to run. The party is still looking for a third candidate. Republicans tapped Don Law, who ran for trustee in 2015 and 2017, and Thea Dombrowski-Fry, who ran for town board in 2017 to round out their ticket.

Town Justice Gary Weber’s first four-year term is also set to expire, with Democrat Brette Haefeli, 46, of Westhampton Beach, chosen to run against him. Democratic Committee Chairman Gordon Herr will challenge incumbent Theresa Kiernan for tax receiver.
Kiernan is seeking her fourth term.

Former Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot has screened with both the Southampton and East Hampton Reublicans to run against Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, but the county Republican Committee will ultimately make that decision.

desiree@indyeastend.com