Democrat tries to climb GOP hill in Smithtown
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Political observers say Smithtown Democrat Steven Snair faces long odds in his quest to win the town supervisor's seat held for more than three decades by Republican Patrick Vecchio.
Snair, 31, was plucked from political obscurity by the Smithtown Democratic committee last week and thrust into a race already upended in February when GOP Councilman Robert Creighton said he would challenge Vecchio.
Though a bitter Republican primary could hurt Vecchio and Creighton, Snair will be hard-pressed to turn that to his advantage, said GOP consultant Michael Dawidziak. Republicans in Smithtown outnumber Democrats 31,000 to 21,000, and the town has not had a Democratic supervisor since Vecchio switched parties in 1990.
"It's tough. Smithtown is a very, very Republican town," Dawidziak said. "It's an uphill battle, to say the least, for any Democrat to win townwide."
Snair, who is single and making his first run for public office, said last week his campaign will appeal to young families who "can't afford to live in this town."
The Nesconset resident, a lawyer whose practice specializes in foreclosures and landlord-tenant disputes, said he favors a master plan to redevelop Smithtown hamlet's business district, where he has his office.
Both Vecchio and Creighton said they were unfamiliar with Snair and had never met him. "Seems like a nice young man," Vecchio said.
"I really don't know anything about him," said Creighton.
Increasing his name recognition will be among Snair's greatest challenges, said LIU Post political science professor Stanley B. Klein. Voters well know Vecchio, 82, who has been supervisor since 1978, and Creighton, 75, a former Suffolk police commissioner.
"People will not vote for nobody to beat somebody," Klein said. But he said Snair could seize on perceptions that Vecchio has lost some zip on his fastball after 12 terms in office.
"Being formidable doesn't mean you don't have chinks in the armor," Klein said. "What new innovations has he [Vecchio] come up with in the last 10 years? . . . There are opportunities there. The test of an outsider is how well he makes use of those opportunities."
But Dawidziak said a September primary, even a bloody one, could raise Vecchio's and Creighton's standing among voters. "Whoever survives this primary is someone who's known townwide," and the win also enhances his ability to raise money, Dawidziak said. "It's a double-edge sword for someone with no money and no name recognition."Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer said he was impressed with Snair's energy and "thoughtfulness." County Democrats will pour money into the campaign if they believe Snair can win, he said.
"They've got to prove they can put together a campaign apparatus" with "volunteers who show up and the ability to raise money," Schaffer said. "If there's potential, then we'll get involved."