Suffolk County Democratic Committee Chairman Rich Schaffer has named Democrat James Gaughran as his choice for county comptroller—opting against Suffolk County Legislator and Montauk resident Jay Schneiderman.
Mr. Gaughran, who works as the chairman of the Suffolk County Water Authority Board and is a former county legislator, said on Monday that he’s ready to run a strong campaign as a “fiscal watchdog” who will focus on reducing costs and borrowing, increasing the county’s bond rating and working across party lines to get things done.
The Northport native has been an attorney for 30 years and has also spent 30 years as a public official. He has served as the Suffolk County Water Authority Board chairman for the last four years, making $32,000 a year.
“I’m very thrilled to be in the race, and I’m looking forward to getting out there,” he said.
Mr. Schaffer said on Tuesday that Mr. Gaughran started his campaign early and had already achieved so much toward his running. All three candidates—Mr. Gaughran, Mr. Schneiderman and Louis D’Amaro—spoke together as a group and individually with Mr. Schaffer and had all agreed Mr. Gaughran should go forward, according to Mr. Schaffer.
"This was the final decision," he said.
Despite the chairman’s choice, Mr. Schneiderman said he was still hopeful that the Democratic Committee would choose him.
“I think a lot of people in the inner circle believe I am a stronger candidate, but possibly because I’m registered Independent," he said. "Part of it comes down to the chairman, who committed early to Jim and didn’t want to change that.”
He said that the committee might feel that the Republican candidate, John Jay LaValle, who is actually the chair of the Suffolk County GOP, is an easy target and not a strong candidate, so the committee doesn’t need a strong candidate.
Mr. Schneiderman said he had clearly been the choice of County Executive Steve Bellone, but that he expects Mr. Bellone will ultimately support the Democratic Party’s choice.
Mr. Schneiderman’s position as legislator ends in two years, with term limits, so there is time to figure out his next step, he said.
“Obviously, I cannot be a legislator anymore,” he said. “The clock is certainly ticking and there are a lot of things I can do ... but I’d like to stay in elected office if I can. There is something sacred about that trust, when people put their confidence in you and you know exactly who you serve."