Councilman John Dunleavy at the Jamesport Fire Department parade in July 2017. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Councilman John Dunleavy has submitted his Libertarian Party nominating petitions for Riverhead town supervisor.

Dunleavy said he collected 715 signatures on his petitions, which he turned in to Suffolk County Libertarian Party chairman Michael McDermott Sunday. Other people collect another 100 signatures.

Today is the deadline for filing the petitions at the county board of elections.

McDermott confirmed this morning he received Dunleavy’s petitions and was in the process of reviewing them to ensure compliance with state rules. He will deliver all petitions to the board of elections later today.

“We’ll have between 700 and 800 signatures on John’s petitions,” McDermott said.

Suffolk County elections commissioner Nick LaLotta said in an interview yesterday Dunleavy needs to obtain 449 valid signatures.

The law requires signatures by 5 percent of the unaffiliated voters that voted in the 2014 election for governor in the Town of Riverhead, LaLotta said.

McDermott said he expects the representatives of both major political parties will scrutinize the petitions very carefully and challenge any signatures they believe to be invalid.

“That’s how it works,” McDermott said. “They do everything they can to knock third-party candidates off the ballot.” McDermott, of Melville, was the Libertarian candidate for governor in 2014.

Dunleavy is one of about 15 candidates whose names will appear on the Libertarian Party line in November, McDermott said.

The Suffolk Libertarian Party committee screened about 100 candidates of all political stripes, he said.

“The most important thing for us in integrity,” McDermott said. “We believe in the Constitution. We people are free to do as they choose as long as they don’t interfere with somebody else’s rights. We belive in less government and more freedom.”

McDermott said his party represents a rebellion not unlike that of the founding fathers against the tyranny of King George. “Only today it’s the tyranny of both parties. We have to start getting the corruption our of Suffolk County, because it’s rampant,” he said.

“John Dunleavy is a wonderful man who really cares about the people of Riverhead,” McDermott said. “He has integrity.”

Dunleavy is a registered Republican. He was first elected to the town board in 2005 and is in the final year of his third four-year term. He is ineligible to run for another term as councilman because of a term limits law passed by the board last year over his objection.

He is the only sitting board member immediately impacted by the term-limit law. The councilman asked his fellow board members last year 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.

But he insists his decision to challenge Walter has nothing to do with that. He says it’s time for a change in the supervisor’s office and believes he’s the right person for the job. Dunleavy, 76, a retired Riverhead Town police officer who had a second career in banking before turning to town politics, said he’s not ready to be put out to pasture.

If Dunleavy is successful in winning a place on the November ballot, the supervisor race will again be a three-way contest: Dunleavy versus the incumbent Walter and Democrat Laura Jens-Smith. In 2015, Walter was refused the nomination by Republican party leaders. The GOP chose Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, then in the middle of a four-year term. Walter mounted a primary election challenge and lost to Giglio in a close race. He ran on the Conservative Party line in the November election and won in a race that pitted him against Giglio and Democrat Anthony Coates — Walter’s former paid political consultant.

Dunleavy points to 2015 as evidence that a third-party candidate can win a supervisor race in Riverhead. Walter says it showed his strength as a candidate. But if Dunleavy’s presence in the November race merely splits the Republican vote, Democratic challenger Jens-Smith could be the beneficiary.

“This is Councilman Dunleavy trying to trump term limits,” Walter said today. He said he does not think the candidate on the Libertarian line will pull many votes because of its position on the ballot: down at the bottom.

Jens-Smith said she believes voters won’t see much to distinguish either of her opponents from each other. “They have both been there eight, 12 years. I think it’s time for both of them to go.” The Democrat said she is the only candidate offering a fresh alternative.

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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.