Stephen Kiely, a Mattituck attorney, is circulating petitions to run a Republican primary in Southold against 14-year GOP Town Supervisor Scott Russell, saying “fresh air needs to be blown in to get the stagnation out.”
Kiely, 43, is a former senior deputy county clerk and has worked in the town attorney offices in Southold, Brookhaven and Southampton. He is in private practice, specializing in land use, and also works as a village prosecutor in Greenport and Westhampton Dunes.
“We have top-down and unilateral governance . . . which over-regulates and under-enforces,” said Kiely. He said Russell has served too long as supervisor, noting that Russell also had spent 15 years earlier as town assessor.
Kiely screened for the nomination with the Southold GOP committee, which decided last month to support Russell. Kiely needs a minimum of 304 valid petition signatures to qualify for the June 25 primary.
“What he sees as a weakness — my getting elected a number of times — tells me I’m doing something right,” said Russell, 55, of Cutchogue. “His moving from one political job to another, a number of times, also speaks volumes.”
Russell said Kiely screened not only for supervisor, but also for town board and tax receiver and threatened a primary if he did not get the tax receiver nod. The party chose Kelly Fogarty, a CPA, instead.
Kiely says his candidacy has nothing to about getting a job.
He said Russell has a “strained relationship” with the business community and has failed to bring in affordable housing for the next generation. Kiely also said the town failed to grant a special use permit to a proposed sports complex that would have brought a pool and gym to the town.
Kiely also favors a 12-year term limit for town elected officials.
Russell countered that he has beefed up code enforcement, which may result in complaints from a few businesses that violate the law. Russell said Southold has 50 units of affordable housing underway.
Russell also said the town has proposed changes in its code to permit a sports complex. He said the town board will issue a request for proposals to build one on 10 acres of town property in Peconic, once the code is changed.
And, Russell said, “we already have term limits. It’s the ballot box, which lets the public decide.”
While Russell is better known, Kiely said he believes his campaign is “resonating with many residents” who want a change. He said Republicans once dominated the town, but now have only 759 more registered voters than Democrats.
“Republicans are going in the wrong direction because we are traipsing out the same old, same old,” Kiely said.--Rick Brand