The intraparty battle between Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio and Councilman Robert Creighton will have its first test Monday night when Republican leaders meet to endorse their standard-bearer.
At the party's convention, leaders are expected to nominate one of the two men to run in November for the seat Vecchio has held for 36 years. Regardless of who wins the endorsement, party officials expect the pair to face off in a September primary.
Voting at the Elks Club in Smithtown, either in person or by proxy vote, will be 184 Republican committee members -- two from each of the town's 92 election districts.
"This is going to be exciting," said town Republican chairman William Ellis, adding he would not choose sides and has asked the party's executive committee not to endorse either candidate.
Vecchio declined to comment, but his supporters said they are confident he will win, as he has with ease for decades.
"The supervisor led us on a course through the second greatest economic depression, and the Town of Smithtown came out unscathed," said Councilman Thomas McCarthy. "Why would you want to make a change?"
Councilman Edward Wehrheim, a Creighton supporter, said there appeared to be "close support for both candidates."
Smithtown Democrats, who plan to hold their nominating convention on May 20, have chosen attorney Steven E. Snair, 31, to run for supervisor.
Vecchio, 82, the longest-serving town supervisor ever on Long Island, has trumpeted his fiscal conservatism, saying the town has relatively little debt.
But Creighton, 75, a former Suffolk police commissioner in his second term on the town council, has said Vecchio's policies have led to stagnation.
Vecchio "doesn't want to make any kind of change," said Creighton. "I intend to make it [Smithtown] a more attractive and accommodating town for business and the community."
Creighton said he was "confident" he would win the nomination and said he is also seeking the endorsement of the Smithtown Conservative Committee. The former Conservative switched to the GOP last year.
Town Conservative chairman Gary Forte said endorsements will be announced at a convention Wednesday.
Vecchio said he would seek neither Conservative nor Democratic endorsement.
Creighton and Vecchio are expected to collect at least 500 signatures on nominating petitions to run in a primary.
"Bob's a good guy, but he is no match in my opinion for Pat Vecchio," Fitzpatrick said.
Wehrheim criticized Vecchio's "reactive" management style and said Creighton would be a "proactive" supervisor, who has already led efforts to boost economic development. "He has a lot of governmental experience . . . He has a very amicable way about him," Wehrheim said.
Town Democratic chairman Ed Maher said the party would not endorse Vecchio. "We're behind Steve Snair 100 percent," Maher said.