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Candidates tapped to duke it out for Keith Romaine's seat

The major parties have named two Brookhaven planning board members from Manorville to battle it out in a March 9 special election for the open town board seat caused by Keith Romaine's unexpected death.

Brookhaven Democrats last night named Douglas Dittko, while town Republican officials say they will nominate Dan Panico, who is also a deputy county clerk, at a convention at GOP headquarters in Medford Monday night.

Panico, 31, a lawyer, has worked in the clerk's office for six years and made an unsuccessful run against Democratic Assemb. Marc Alessi in 2006. Dittko, 58, a horse magazine publisher, is a former planning board chairman and once president of the Associated Brookhaven Civic Organizations. He also lost a race for the same town board seat in 2003 when it was held by Republican incumbent Edward Hennessey, who has become a Democrat.

The special election in the 6th District - located in the town's southeast corner - is needed because Romaine died shortly after winning his first re-election as a town board member last fall.

"Keith built a solid foundation of good things to come from the community and I intend to build on that foundation," said Panico, a close friend of Romaine.

Dittko said he'll hold regular meetings with civic groups, if elected.

His name surfaced after early front-runner Ron Lupsky, who lost to Romaine last fall, declined to run again. Republicans had also been pressing Romaine's father, Legis. Edward Romaine, to make the race but he declined. Romaine's father died yesterday.

A potential wild card is Joseph May of Mastic. He has run in the district's last two town board races as an Independence Party candidate and said he is not circulating petitions to get himself on the ballot for the special election. But he has asked minor party leaders for support. Peter Crist, town Independence chairman, said they will not back May and will announce a decision Monday.

In Southampton, Republicans are naming retiring Southampton Town police lieutenant Bill Hughes of Hampton Bays for the town board seat vacated by new town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, while Democrats have named attorney Bridget Fleming of Sag Harbor for a March 9 election.

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