The race for Oyster Bay Supervisor got more crowded this week as two independent candidates submitted petitions which could make it a five-man race in November.
Independent candidates, who were required to obtain 1,500 signatures, had to submit their petitions this week.
Jericho attorney Jonathan Clarke submitted 2,432 signatures for a slate called the Progressive Bull Moose Party, according to a Nassau County Board of Elections official.
Former New York City police officer Robert Ripp of Massapequa submitted 3,199 signatures for the End Corruption Party, according to a Nassau County Board of Elections official.
Submitting petitions doesn’t guarantee names will be on the ballot in November as the validity of the signatures could be challenged.
The two independent candidates join a race that already features an incumbent, Republican Joseph Saladino who was appointed on Jan. 31 to replace former Supervisor John Venditto, and a Democratic challenger, Woodbury dentist Marc Herman.
Bayville attorney John Mangelli was chosen as the candidate for the Reform Party but faces a challenge in the form of an “opportunity to ballot” primary in which write-in votes have the potential to knock him off the ballot. In 2015, Mangelli, a virtual political unknown, lost to Venditto by 99 votes.
Mangelli and Clarke sought unsuccessfully to force a Democratic primary. Mangelli is a registered Democrat while Clarke and Ripp are not registered with a political party, according to the board of elections. Clarke, who unsuccessfully tried to change his party affiliation to Democratic before a possible primary, was previously registered as a Green Party member and Ripp was previously registered as a Democrat, public records show.
A large field of candidates would likely benefit Saladino, experts said.
“It unquestionably benefits the incumbent because the incumbent is going to defend the status quo of his administration, no matter how short it may be,” said Michael Dawidziak, a Sayville-based political consultant who primarily works with Republicans. “The challenger is getting the votes of the people who are unhappy with the way things are. The more people you have in it, the more that vote gets split up.”
Lawrence Levy, executive dean at the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, said that while the race is “clearly winnable” for Democrats, Saladino “still should be seen as the favorite.”
“That the Democrats have a surplus of potentially strong candidates is a sign that they smell blood in the water,” Levy said in an email. “But if several Democrats end up on the ballot in a general election it can only help the incumbent Republican who will definitely get out his base vote in what still amounts to a Republican town.”
Saladino has sought to portray his administration as a break from past scandals that saw Venditto and other former town officials and vendors arrested on corruption charges. Challengers have tried to portray Saladino, who served in Venditto’s administration more than a decade ago, as part of the same political machine.
“It is never good policy to run against someone who is not on the ballot,” Dawidziak said. “If they’re going to run against John Venditto, that’s probably a losing strategy.”