Democrats set primary for top highway job

Huntington Town Hall Huntington Town Hall Photo Credit: Alexi Knock

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The three contenders seeking the Democratic nomination for Huntington highway superintendent will compete in a primary in September, after the party could not decide on a nominee at its convention Thursday night.

Two separate votes failed to produce a majority for any of the candidates -- longtime incumbent William Naughton and challengers Kevin Orelli, a business owner, and town parks chief Don McKay.

In the first round of balloting, Orelli received 13,813 votes in a weighted system, McKay had 10,858 and Naughton 4,585.5. The second time around, Orelli received 13,330 to McKay's 9,434. Naughton got 5,020. At that point, the party declared a deadlock -- something Democratic chairwoman Mary Collins said she could not recall happening in her 30 years in the party.

Naughton -- the highway superintendent since his election in 1987 -- has been sparring in recent years with the Democratic-majority town board over budgeting and hiring, with both sides trading lawsuits over the extent of Naughton's authority.

Naughton said Friday he did not expect to get the nomination and that he wasn't upset he got the lowest number of votes Thursday. "People are going to vote for whoever they are going to vote for," he said.

All three said they are gearing up for the primary, with fundraising a top priority.

Orelli said Thursday night he was disappointed he didn't get the nomination but that he was "excited to have been the candidate with the most votes."

"The primary will happen and I hope I will be triumphant," he said.

After the convention, McKay said he had hoped to come away with the nomination and thought he had enough support. "I look forward to discussing the issues in the next coming months," he said.

The Democrats did nominate incumbents Supervisor Frank Petrone and Councilman Mark Cuthbertson for re-election. The party will pick a second nominee for town board on Tuesday, when the nominating convention continues at 7 p.m. at the Halesite American Legion. The party decided to adjourn late Thursday night and to continue on Tuesday.

Collins said five people are vying for the second board seat: small-business owner Keith Barrett, South Huntington school board member Edward Nitkewicz, real estate salesman Ed Perez, Verizon region president Tracey Edwards, and St. Joseph's College adjunct professor Jim Kelly, a retired Nassau County Police Department civilian employee.

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