Town Race a Hot One

Dem primary, G.O.P. candidate, Indy curveball
Three who would be town councilman: David Gruber, left, Manny Vilar, center, and David Lys. Mr. Gruber plans to challenge Mr. Lys, an appointed councilman, in a Democratic primary in September. He also has support from the East Hampton Independence Party. Mr. Vilar is the Republicans’ choice. Durell Godfrey Photos

It appears that there will be at least one primary election for a seat on the East Hampton Town Board on Sept. 13. 

The East Hampton Reform Demo­crats, which its candidate for town board described as a caucus within the town’s Democratic Party, announced on Monday that it has filed sufficient designating petitions with the Suffolk County Board of Elections to put David Gruber on the Democratic primary ballot.

Barring any successful challenge to a petition, Mr. Gruber will face off against David Lys, who was appointed to the town board in January to fill the seat vacated when Peter Van Scoyoc became supervisor. 

Republicans, meanwhile, have nominated Manny Vilar, who ran for town supervisor last year on the Republican and Conservative tickets, to run for a seat on the town board. And the East Hampton Independence Party announced on Saturday that it had filed sufficient designating petitions to put Mr. Gruber on its ballot.

The East Hampton Town Democratic Committee chose Mr. Lys as its candidate last month over the objection of a sizable minority of its members. 

Not long after, Mr. Gruber, a former chairman of the committee and its 2001 candidate for supervisor, launched the East Hampton Reform Democrats and declared his candidacy for a seat on the town board. He serves on the town’s airport management advisory committee, was a founder of the Hayground School in Bridgehampton, and was a co-founder, with the actor Alec Baldwin, of the East Hampton Conservators.

Mr. Lys has changed his party registration from Republican to Democratic, but a statement issued by the Reform Democrats says that as he is not yet technically an enrolled Democrat, “he required special permission from the Suffolk County Democratic Committee,” known as a Wilson-Pakula certificate, in order to appear on the Democratic Party ballot. 

For its part, the East Hampton Town Democratic Committee issued a statement on Saturday criticizing Mr. Gruber’s actions and accusing him of filing petitions for a slate of candidates for the committee “apparently in retaliation against those who did not vote for him” for the party’s nomination for councilman. The statement described Mr. Gruber as “a hedge fund manager and previously unsuccessful candidate for supervisor” who “recently returned to East Hampton having lived in Paris and New York for the past 14 years.” The statement quotes Mr. Van Scoyoc, former Supervisor Larry Cantwell, and former Supervisor Judith Hope as supporting Cate Rogers, who was elected chairwoman of the Democratic Committee last month, and opposing Mr. Gruber’s candidacy. 

As for the Independence Party, Elaine Jones, its chairwoman, said in a statement on Saturday that her party “came away convinced” that Mr. Gruber “is far better equipped” than Mr. Lys “to achieve what our members want — clean healthy water, job opportunities for young people, affordable housing for seniors, working families, and especially young adults who grew up here and don’t want to be forced to leave.” She also cited protection of the commercial fishing industry against perceived threats posed by the proposed South Fork Wind Farm, and of the laws governing the community preservation fund, in supporting Mr. Gruber.

Amos Goodman, chairman of the East Hampton Town Republican Committee, was quick to criticize Mr. Gruber on Tuesday, calling him “a strident and stubborn throwback to yesterday” who “will deliver nothing but more partisanship and less competence. Our town government can little afford that type of backwards vision for the future,” he said in a statement. 

Lisa Mulhern Larsen, who ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the town board in 2015, had considered a run on the Independence Party line but decided against it last weekend, according to the Republicans’ release. She could not be reached for comment.

According to the release, Ms. Larsen has endorsed Mr. Vilar, the founding president of the Police Benevolent Association of New York State and a first sergeant with the New York State Parks Police. 

While the Democratic factions’ feud plays out publicly, Mr. Vilar took a conciliatory approach to the campaign. “I commend everybody that ever runs for office,” he said. “It’s a good thing they’re invested in their community, throwing their hat in the ring. Everybody involved has the best intentions at heart. They’re all good people. I look forward to moving the ball forward. I look at every campaign as an opportunity to bring issues to light and give our community a voice.” 

He criticized the proposed South Fork Wind Farm as “an industrialization of our oceans for profit” that would put commercial fishing at risk, and said that the town board has fallen short on work-force housing, remediation of the aging and failing septic systems that are compromising the health of the town’s waterways, and stabilization of the ocean beach in downtown Montauk. “The airport,” he said, “is still a mess. Nothing has been worked out. Everybody keeps pointing the finger at someone else, I don’t see anybody rolling up their sleeves. . . . The airport is a vital part of our economy and necessary in case of natural disaster, but we’ve got to try and reach a happy ground.” 

Mr. Vilar spoke of a “long and well-established track record” of bipartisanship. “I’m looking forward to getting on the town board, making friends and allies, and working with everybody to push the ball forward. I’m not under any pressure by any party, anywhere. I truly am Switzerland.”

The winner of the election will serve only the final year of Mr. Van Scoyoc’s term, and will have to stand for election in 2019, should he or she seek to hold the seat.