Councilman John Dunleavy at Riverhead Memorial Day ceremonies on May 29. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Riverhead Councilman John Dunleavy is mulling a run for town supervisor.

Dunleavy’s current term as councilman will be his last, thanks to a local law adopted by the town board last year over his objection. The law limits service as a town councilman to 12 consecutive years. Dunleavy, first elected in 2005, is in the final year of his third four-year term.

He is the only sitting board member immediately impacted by the term-limit law. The councilman asked his fellow board members to carve out a one-time exception that would allow him to seek a fourth term, but got no support.

In an interview last April, after the board voted 4-1 to adopt the three-term limit, Dunleavy blamed incumbent Supervisor Sean Walter. He said Walter wanted to “get rid of” him. “I’m the only one this applies to. I won’t go along with everything he wants,” Dunleavy said.

Walter has had disagreements with every member of the board during his tenure. Some were significant, including most notably those with Councilwoman Jodi Giglio. She won the Republican party’s nomination for supervisor in 2015, which Walter challenged in a primary election. He lost the primary but ran on the Conservative Party line and was re-elected in November 2015 in a three-way race that pitted him against Giglio on the Republican line and his former political advisor and confidant Anthony Coates on the Democratic line.

After the conclusion of Memorial Day ceremonies yesterday, Dunleavy confirmed a report that he’s now contemplating a run for supervisor.

He won’t make a final decision “till summer,” he said. “When summer comes I’ll make up my mind.”

“I’m not filing no petitions. I’m not getting involved in any primaries or anything,” he said.

The deadline to file petitions for a party primary is July 13, according to the 2017 political calendar published by the State Board of Elections.

If Dunleavy wants to run for supervisor without seeking a spot on the November ballot on the Republican line, he’s got two options. He can circulate petitions as an independent candidate — not affiliated with any party — or he can mount a write-in campaign.

The deadline for filing independent petitions is later, Aug. 22.

To get on the ballot as an independent candidate in the November general election, Dunleavy would have to collect a specified number of signatures from registered voters
who have not already signed a designating petition for any other candidate. The minimum number of signatures he’d be required to get is calculated according to the total number of people in the town who voted in the 2014 election for governor. The maximum number of signatures needed would be 1,500, but the actual amount would likely be about a third of that.

A write-in campaign is thought to be almost impossible to win. The last time there was a write-in campaign for town office was in 2005, when then incumbent councilwoman Rose Sanders was passed over by the Republican Party in favor of Dunleavy. Sanders polled 6.45 percent of the votes cast — 1,077 votes — and placed fifth in a field of seven candidates for two council seats. Dunleavy was elected, placing second behind the incumbent Barbara Blass, also a Republican.

Third-party candidacies rarely have better odds. Walter was the first minor party candidate in memory to win the supervisor’s office in 2015. He has the Republican line again this year, with his former rival Giglio and newcomer Frank Beyrodt as his running mates.

Walter said this morning he does not think Dunleavy is serious about running for supervisor.

“I heard that and I asked him about it and he told me he is just saying this to bust chops,” Walter said. “I really don’t think he’s going to do it.”

Walter said he’d like Dunleavy to stay involved in town government and would ask him to remain on the traffic advisory committee and perhaps serve on other committees.

“Some men don’t retire well,” Walter said. “John is one of those men. He wants to work.”

Dunleavy is a retired Riverhead police officer. He also worked in banking after retiring from the force.

“We’ll see what happens,” Dunleavy said. “I’m keeping my options open.”

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.