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Assessor Mason Haas resigns from party committee, fueling rumors of a run for supervisor, which he denies

Riverhead Town Assessor Mason Haas, pictured here at a county legislature hearing in 2013, says he resigned from the Republican committee so he can speak out on the proposed EPCAL sale 'without restrictions.' File photo: Denise Civiletti

Former Riverhead Republican chairman Mason Haas has resigned from the party committee.

A letter announcing his resignation was read to committee members at last week’s meeting, according to members of the committee.

The decision fueled rumors already percolating in political circles that Haas is preparing to run for town supervisor next year — the first local election year in a decade without an incumbent Republican supervisor. Haas, an elected town assessor, previously sought the Republican committee nomination for town supervisor in 2013, asking the party to give then-incumbent Sean Walter the boot. Haas withdrew his bid on the eve of the Republican nominating convention.

Last night, Haas laughed off the idea he’s thinking of running for supervisor next year.

“I stepped down because of the EPCAL thing,” he said in a phone interview.

Haas said he wants to be able to speak out about the proposed sale to Calverton Aviation and Technology “without restrictions” and without it appearing that his personal opinion reflects the party committee’s position on the issue. “I wanted to separate it so it doesn’t seem like I’m speaking on behalf of the committee,” he said.

Haas said he hears from taxpayers every day who are struggling to make ends meet and he believes the proposed sale of land to the joint venture between Triple Five Realty and Luminati Aerospace would bring much-needed tax base and job opportunities to the town.

“I thought about running for supervisor a few years back, but that was a few years back,” Haas said. “I was a little bit younger then,” he said. Haas said “at this time” he has “ruled out” a run for supervisor.

Haas was elected Riverhead Republican party chairman in September 2013, after he withdrew his bid to challenge Walter for the party nomination.

During the next local election cycle in 2015, a nearly deadlocked committee passed over the incumbent Walter and nominated Councilwoman Jodi Giglio for town supervisor, who won the committee’s designation by half a vote. In the midst of the bitter primary battle that followed, the town board adopted an ethics code change barring elected officials from serving on the executive committee of any political party. The code already barred appointed officials from holding those party posts. Haas was the only elected official affected by the change. He sued the town for the right to retain that post, challenging the constitutionality of the change. The suit was dismissed and Haas stepped down as party leader, but stayed on as a committee member.

With Democratic Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith’s administration just past the 100-day mark, it’s too soon to think about a possible run against her, Councilman James Wooten said in an interview last week. Wooten, who also once sought the Republican party’s supervisor nomination during Walter’s tenure, cannot seek another term as councilman due to a term limits law adopted in 2016. In an interview following the supervisor’s “State of the Town” speech April 10, Wooten would not rule out a possible run next year, but said it was too soon to think about. 

The supervisor’s term of office is two years, while council posts come with a four-year term. Every two years, two of the four council seats are open, setting up the possibility of a shift in party control of the board. The Republican party has held a town board majority in Riverhead since 2000 — including under two Democratic supervisors, Phil Cardinale (2004-2009) and now Jens-Smith.  In 2019, the seats held by Wooten and Deputy Supervisor Tim Hubbard, also a Republican, will be up for grabs.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter and editor, an attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including a “writer of the year” award from the N.Y. Press Association in 2015. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website. Email Denise.