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Patrick Vecchio may face primary in Smithtown supervisor race

Town of Smithtown Councilman Robert Creighton poses for

Town of Smithtown Councilman Robert Creighton poses for a portrait at Town Hall. (June 30, 2011) Credit: James Escher

Republican Patrick Vecchio, Long Island's longest-serving town supervisor, is being challenged in his bid for re-election by a member of his own party.

Smithtown Councilman Robert Creighton, saying the town needs a change in leadership, said Wednesday he will attempt to unseat Vecchio, who has announced he will seek a 13th term as the town's supervisor.

Creighton, 75, a former Suffolk County police commissioner, said he intends to seek the party's nomination for the seat Vecchio, 82, has held since 1978. Creighton plans to make a formal announcement Monday night at a Republican Party fundraiser for town Receiver of Taxes Deanna Varricchio.

"We have got to do more in the Town of Smithtown to bring businesses to the town, to improve infrastructure, to improve parks in the town," Creighton said in an interview. "We are not doing that to my satisfaction. We are kicking the can down the road."

Reached at his Town Hall office, Vecchio's response was, "Et tu, Brute?" The reference was to a scene in the Shakespeare play "Julius Caesar," when the Roman emperor is betrayed by his former ally Brutus.

Vecchio and Creighton, members of the all-Republican town board, have battled over spending, appointments and Creighton's proposal to build a town park on state land in Kings Park.

Creighton, a former Conservative, said Wednesday that he changed parties in October to run against Vecchio. He said he could not win by running on the Conservative line alone.

"It's a different twist on a family feud," said Assemb. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-St. James), a Vecchio backer.

Republican leaders will endorse a supervisor candidate at a party convention in May, town Republican chairman William Ellis said. Vecchio and Creighton could face off in a September primary if each garners at least 500 signatures on nominating petitions, he said.

Councilman Thomas McCarthy, who backs Vecchio, said a primary could hurt the party in November's general election. "People say things about each other that they come to regret after the fact," he said.

Councilman Edward Wehrheim said Vecchio is "an excellent fiscal manager" but added he supports Creighton because he would usher in more economic development to increase tax revenue.

"I think if we want to move Smithtown forward in a different direction where we can attract development and increase the commercial tax base, it's going to require a new administration," he said.

Smithtown Democratic leader Ed Maher said he hopes to have a nominee for supervisor by the end of March. Maher said a Republican primary would help his party "because now the Republicans are starting to say what we've been saying . . . that town government is not doing a good job."

A GOP primary also might open the door for Vecchio, a former Democrat, to reunite with his old party, said county Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer. Party sources say talks could center around Vecchio getting Democratic backing in return for his support for a Democratic town board candidate, who would give Vecchio and McCarthy a majority on the board. With Rick Brand

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