G.O.P. Supervisor Nominee Makes His Exit
The East Hampton Town Republican Committee’s choice for town supervisor, Richard Myers, has declined to run, according to an announcement this week from the chairman of the committee.
The Republicans were to re-screen candidates last night at the American Legion Hall in Amagansett, and David Gruber, a co-founder of the East Hampton Reform Democrats who is the East Hampton Independence Party’s nominee for supervisor, is seeking their nomination. Mr. Gruber no longer plans to challenge Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc in a Democratic primary, he said this week.
There will be a Democratic Party primary election for town trustee, however. The Reform Democrats, which Mr. Gruber has described as a caucus within the Democratic Party, have filed nominating petitions for Dell Cullum, an incumbent Democrat who was left off the party’s roster of nominees, Stephen Lester, a former Democratic trustee, and Rona Klopman, a co-founder of the Reform Democrats. All three will appear on the Republican and Independence ballots in the Nov. 5 election.
The late moves add more intrigue to a nascent campaign characterized by candidates crossing the political aisle to seek and receive endorsements by parties with which they are not registered.
“I think it’s much better for everyone concerned for me to run in a general election than in a Democratic primary,” Mr. Gruber said Tuesday. “I think there needs to be a competitive election in East Hampton. Otherwise, elected officials won’t feel accountable to voters. This way, I can assure a competitive election in November. That’s the goal, at least of the nominating process. Then the goal is to win the election.”
Before he secured the Independence Party’s nomination, Mr. Gruber had planned to challenge Mr. Van Scoyoc for the Democratic nod. “A month ago I couldn’t tell whether the Democratic primary was my only opportunity for ballot access. It would have been foolhardy to pass up that opportunity by failing to gather the [nominating petition] signatures, realizing that by the time I knew whether another line — Independence in particular — was available to me, it would have been far too late to start.”
Last year, the East Hampton Independence Party named him as its can didate for town board, only to have his nominating petitions invalidated after East Hampton Republicans challenged them. Mr. Gruber, who had no involvement in the gathering of signatures for the Independence Party petitions, lost a Democratic Party primary election to Councilman David Lys in September. “I learned that lesson last year the hard way,” he said. “Having learned a bitter lesson, I decided I needed to cover the contingency that I wouldn’t end up on the Independence line, so I went to get signatures on the Democratic line. However, I’m now certain I will be on the Independence line, and it makes far more sense to run in an election where everybody gets to vote — the whole community, rather than one where only Democrats can vote.”
Manny Vilar, the Republican Committee’s chairman, said Tuesday that he did not know who or how many candidates would screen at last night’s meeting. If the committee did name a candidate — which he said it would not necessarily do — his or her name will have to be submitted to the Suffolk Board of Elections by tomorrow, which is the deadline for nominations.
In a town in which registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than two to one, Republicans and Independents, as well as the Reform Democrats, are taking a collaborative approach this year, uniting around candidates to challenge Mr. Van Scoyoc, Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, and Mr. Lys, all Democrats. The Republicans, Independents, and Reform Democrats have all endorsed Bonnie Brady and Betsy Bambrick for the two open town board seats. Ms. Brady is a registered Democrat. Ms. Bambrick is unaffiliated with any political party.
These moves, Mr. Vilar said, represent “a clear understanding that the town has issues, and likeminded people on a local level are concerned about similar issues. ‘Bipartisan’ has become a dirty word, and there’s nothing wrong with bipartisanship. When you have people from different walks of life convening to work toward an issue, everybody brings to the table their own views, how they think. But what’s important is what’s happening with the current town board, where it’s my way or the highway. That’s not good for anybody.”
“The fact that groups are able to reach across party lines and work in a bipartisan fashion, I think it’s a great thing,” Mr. Vilar added. “We’re striving to do that to bring better government to East Hampton.”
Adding yet another wrinkle to what is shaping up to be an unconventional campaign, Zach Cohen, who was named a Democratic Party candidate for trustee in February, told The Star yesterday that he had declined the nomination. “I have tried to officially decline for a week and signed two declination forms,” Mr. Cohen wrote in an email, but there were several unexpected errors and unknown actions (the Working Families Party nominated me after telling me directly that they were not endorsing me and I was not notified until after the deadline to decline). I believe all of that was finally resolved.”
Cate Rogers, chairwoman of the East Hampton Democratic Committee, said yesterday that Ben Dollinger, a member of that committee who lives in Montauk, would replace Mr. Cohen on the ballot.
Despite a flurry of speculation as tomorrow’s deadline to name a candidate nears, Mr. Vilar cautioned that the Republican Committee may opt to leave the supervisor’s line on the ballot blank. He said that he, along with Diane McNally, the committee’s recently named vice chairwoman, and Kyle Ballou, its secretary, are all relatively new to their positions, and noted that John Jay LaValle stepped down as chairman of the Suffolk County Republican Committee last month. “We’re trying to do the best we can with what we’ve got, but we’re new to the game,” he said.