When Republican Dan Russo was appointed to the Southampton Town Board in early February, he wouldn’t speculate on whether he would run a campaign this fall to keep his new post. But that question was answered Thursday night, May 8, at a political fund-raiser for the former prosecutor and U.S. Navy Reserve veteran at Casa Basso restaurant in Westhampton.
On February 6, Mr. Russo was picked to fill the seat on the Town Board left vacant when Town Supervisor Linda Kabot moved from her position as councilwoman to the town’s top chair. Mr. Russo’s appointment is through November; to serve out the duration of Ms. Kabot’s term, which ends December 31, 2009, Mr. Russo must be elected to the post in November’s general election. If victorious, he then would face another vote in November 2009, which could give him a full four-year term.
This fall, Mr. Russo likely will face Democratic challenger Sally Pope, a 25-year Southampton resident and mediation attorney. Mike Anthony, chairman of the Southampton Democratic Party, said Ms. Pope could be chosen to face Mr. Russo at the party’s nominating convention on May 19 at the Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton Village.
Mr. Anthony expressed confidence that, with Ms. Pope, his party could add another candidate to the Town Board. Current Town Board member Anna Throne-Holst was the sole victor among Democratic Town Board candidates in last year’s general election.
Mr. Russo said he was bracing for a competitive race and was not taking his position on the Town Board for granted. “This is going to be tough,” Mr. Russo said. “The national landscape this year does not favor Republicans.”
Mr. Russo said he was pleased with his campaign’s kickoff, saying that it surpassed expectations. “We were anticipating around 75 people,” Mr. Russo said. “But we ended up with around 130.”
Mr. Russo is at the beginning of a new election cycle, which means he must start from scratch as far as raising money. According to the Suffolk County Board of Elections, New York State election law allows individuals to contribute up to $1,896.90 to a given candidate per cycle. Mr. Russo’s election cycle began in February at the time of his appointment and runs through November.
Not a political novice, the East Quogue resident ran for a seat on the Town Board in last year’s general election but came up 195 votes short. Veteran Councilwoman Nancy Graboski was the top vote-getter, followed by Ms. Throne-Holst, the only member of the board who is not a Republican.
Mr. Russo said he has enjoyed his first three months in office and is proud of how his fellow board members have tackled the town’s finances. “We’ve got a long way to go,” Mr. Russo said. “But we’re getting it done.”
He also said he was happy with the town’s tougher stance on code enforcement and was pleased to see that the moratorium in East Quogue was wrapping up and the one in Hampton Bays was getting started.
At the event’s closing, Mr. Russo referred to his former political rival, Ms. Throne-Holst—who attended the event, along with all of her colleagues on the Town Board—as his “new best friend” and said he was glad not to be facing her again this November. “I won’t make that mistake again,” he said.
Mr. Russo said his working relationship with his former opponent proves that doing the town’s business is not about political parties. “It’s been a pleasure working with her,” he said.