Supervisor Yvette Aguiar at recent a town board meeting. Photo: Alek Lewis

Correction appended

Incumbent Supervisor Yvette Aguiar is on pace to out-raise and out-spend every supervisor candidate in recent Riverhead election history, according to the latest disclosures filed with the State Board of Elections.

With $101,930 total contributions to date, Aguiar’s fundraising has already surpassed almost all supervisor candidates since 2007, the oldest campaign finance records available on the state website.

Aguiar, who is seeking her second two-year term as supervisor, has also raised more than double the campaign cash raised by challenger Councilwoman Catherine Kent and has outspent the councilwoman by more than 3 to 1 this year so far, the filings show.

Kent, an incumbent one-term council member, has raised $30,235 so far in this election cycle, less than half Aguiar’s contributions.

Aguiar’s average contribution during the most recent reporting period was $669, with 72% of her contributions coming from individuals and businesses outside of Riverhead. Kent’s average contribution was $145, with 22% coming from outside the town.

As an incumbent, Aguiar has proven to be a prolific fundraiser. With Election Day less than a month away, she is already approaching Sean Walter’s total fundraising amount of $78,066 in 2017, the largest amount raised in a local supervisor race going back to 2007.

The incumbents in 2019, 2015, 2013 and 2009 campaigns raised far less, ranging from $22,120 by Cardinale in 2009 to $49,057 by Walter in 2013.

Aguiar has leveraged her incumbency to raise a significant portion of her campaign cash from businesses, developers, consultants and law firms — some of whom have pending applications before the town and others who do business with the town directly.

Her list of contributors includes: Metro Group, which has a 170-unit rental apartment special permit and site plan application pending on East Main Street; Nelson, Pope & Voorhis, planning and engineering consultant to Metro Group, as well as consultant to the Town of Riverhead in connection with several town planning studies, such as the Transit-Oriented Development District; Island Water Park, which has a site plan application pending before the town board for a development at the Calverton Enterprise Park; Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard, which has a site plan application pending before the planning board; Richmond Realty, which has numerous real estate projects pending around Riverhead; Area Real Estate, developers of the 7-Eleven on West Main Street; Steven Losquadro, lawyer for LI Solar/NextEra; H2M Engineers, the town’s long-time consulting engineers to the Riverhead water and sewer districts; and others.

Aguiar said in an interview Wednesday afternoon campaign contributions will “absolutely not” influence her decision-making as town supervisor. “It’s inappropriate,” she said.

“My campaign runs the contribution component. I need to remove politics, and any funds or anything of that nature that has to do with a contribution, from me running Town Hall. It’s totally independent,” Aguiar said. The supervisor’s husband, Paul Carr, serves as both her campaign manager and the treasurer of her campaign committee, Taxpayers for Aguiar.

Kent, whose campaign contributors are mostly Riverhead Town residents, said she is very concerned about the influence of “outside interests and developers” in Riverhead Town Hall.

“We should not be taking money from people with pending applications,” Kent said. “That compromises your position.”

The councilwoman said the town is listening to developers and their attorneys and consultants rather than the residents. “The community has basically been told to sit down and be quiet.”

The supervisor dismissed Kent’s criticism. “The councilwoman has made it very clear in the past four years that she’s anti-business and development. Businesses in Riverhead had no faith in the last administration, which included the councilwoman,” she said. “And businesses support me and unions support her.”

Aguiar said she’s received “very few contributions” from unions, but her opponent, she said, saw “most of her contributions come from unions.” In fact, Aguiar and Kent have both had six unions contribute to their campaigns this cycle, but the union contributions to Aguiar’s campaign were larger, totaling $4,250. Unions have so far contributed $2,850 to Kent’s campaign coffers.

Kent denied Aguiar’s charge that she’s anti-business and development, citing her support for the Wellbridge Treatment Center, the expansion of Peconic Bay Medical Center, and “getting a purchaser at EPCAL that has the financial wherewithal to actually get a shovel in the ground,” she said.

Kent said she supports “smart development” that will provide jobs that pay a living wage to local residents.

The incumbent supervisor has spent $56,840 on her re-election effort so far, compared to an outlay of $16,240 by her challenger. Her biggest expenditures to date were made to Public Relations Marketing Group in Patchogue ($12,000) [] and McLaughlin & Associates of Blauvelt, New York, a “national survey research and strategic services company,” that lists among its clients former President Donald Trump, Rep. Lee Zeldin, the Republican National Committee and the N.Y. State Republican Party. []

As the race for supervisor entered the home stretch, Aguiar had only about $4,000 more cash on hand than Kent, according to the candidates’ Oct. 1 campaign filing — $18,101 versus Kent’s $14,285.

During the latest reporting period, Aguiar repaid a $25,000 loan she’d made to her campaign. (Another $25,000 loan from the candidate remains outstanding.) The supervisor’s campaign committee also refunded more than $7,000 in contribution amounts over the $1,185 legal limit in a Riverhead Town race this year. (img)

Contributions this period from four other businesses also exceeded the $1,185 limit: Island Water Park of Port Jefferson Station, $3,815; Park Strategies of Manhattan, Parkland Golf of Middle Island and Squad Security of Glen Head, $2,500 each. The disclosure report did not reflect any refunds to those contributors.

Correction: The total contributions originally reported in this article did not include amounts raised by Aguiar between Nov. 6, 2019, the day after Election Day in 2019 and Jan. 11, 2020, the cut-off day for the January periodic report (filing date Jan. 15, 2020.) The contributions in that period immediately following Aguiar’s election in 2019 totaled $27,810, according to the N.Y. State Board of Elections online database, bringing Aguiar’s total contributions in the 2021 election cycle to $101,930 as of Sept. 27, 2021, the cut-off date for the 32-day pre-general disclosure report.

Aguiar-Kent Campaign Finance Report 32-Day Pre General by RiverheadLOCAL on Scribd

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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.