There’s a new addition in the November election to fill two council seats in Riverhead.
William Van Helmond, a Jamesport businessman and president of the Greater Jamesport Civic Association, is running for councilman on the Libertarian Party line, Suffolk Libertarian Party chairman Michael McDermott announced today.
The Libertarian Party has an automatic ballot line for the first time this year, following the party’s candidate for governor winning more than 50,000 votes in the 2018 election.
“We’ll have automatic ballot access for at least the next four years,” McDermott said.
As a newly recognized political party in New York, the Libertarian Party has until Sept. 1 to nominate candidates for local offices in the November election, Suffolk County Commissioner of Elections Anita Katz said today. Under state election law, the party’s candidates do not have to circulate designating petitions in this year’s election, the first since being recognized as a political party, Katz said.
McDermott said today the Suffolk Libertarian Party has more than 60 candidates countywide. He said the party is discussing a run for supervisor with former councilman John Dunleavy, who was term-limited out of office in 2017, after 12 years as councilman.
“We like John Dunleavy,” McDermott said. “He’s a man of integrity. He really loves the people of Riverhead,” he said. “I’m not sure what he wants to do yet.”
Dunleavy said today he’s already decided not to run. He said he called McDermott last night to inform him of his decision.
McDermott said he is looking for another council candidate to run with Van Helmond.
“We haven’t screened anyone else who would be a councilperson of integrity,” McDermott said. “Our candidates must follow their own minds and hearts rather than do the bidding of the party leaders.”
“Van Helmond is a registered Libertarian and a good man,” McDermott said. “I wish we could find people like him everywhere.”
Van Helmond, a Jamesport resident, owns and operates WCVH Landscaping Services in Jamesport. He was nominated by the Republican Party to run for Riverhead highway superintendent in 2017, but withdrew from the race, citing health reasons.
“I’m a little tired of the power and control of the two dominant parties,” Van Helmond said in a phone interview today. “It’s kind of a corrupt system,” he said.
“Riverhead Town government needs to get put back on the path that the people intended it to be,” Van Helmond said.
He cited the town’s contract to sell more than 1,640 acres of vacant, industrially zoned land at the Calverton Enterprise Park as an example of poor management of town resources.
“As a business owner and taxpayer I’m offended,” Van Helmond said of the $40 million sale price, which he said was far too low, citing the buyer’s purchase of former Dowling College land in Shirley for a much higher per-acre price.
“If you’re going to sell land for $24,000 an acre, I’d like 100 acres, please,” Van Helmond said.
“I think there’s been inexperience in land management,” he said.
“The town could have leased some of the land to Charles Wang to bring the Islanders out to Riverhead,” Van Helmond said. That would have created jobs and revenue for the town, he said.
Van Helmond said he does not intend to step down as Jamesport civic president while running for office, but if elected to the town board he would step aside from the civic post.
McDermott said the Libertarian Party hopes to run candidates for the legislative seats currently held by Democrats Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) and Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac), who represent the two East End legislative districts.
The party has chosen Greg Fischer of Calverton to run for Suffolk County Executive facing off against incumbent Democrat Steve Bellone and Republican challenger county comptroller John Kennedy.
Fischer, who has mounted unsuccessful campaigns for State Senate, Riverhead supervisor, town council, and assessor, and several times for Riverhead school board, says he is undaunted by past losses.
“I’ve run more times than anyone else in New York State,” he said today. “I’ve gained a tremendous amount of respect and admiration,” he said. “I have street credibility.”
Fischer says he’s not looking for a job on the public payroll; he will be a public servant not a public employee, he said. If elected, he won’t take a paycheck, he said.
“I don’t need the money. I’ve been retired for 10 years,” he said. Fischer is a self-described “turnaround strategist” and business consultant with a background in computer programming and software development.
“Money is the root of all that’s bad in politics. You need to get people to stand up and say, ‘I’m not going to be part of it,’” said Fischer.
“I’m not going to kiss ass. I’m not going to use the office to create a slush fund. I’m not into pay to play,” he said. “I’m not in it to get jobs for relatives or friends.”
Fischer said government lacks and desperately needs responsibility and accountability.
“I’m focused on how we’re going to fix the many many problems we have in Suffolk,” he said.
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