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May 18, 2017 11:36 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

UPDATE: Dual Primary Likely After Independence Party Backs Democratic Candidates In East Hampton

May 22, 2017 8:51 AM

UPDATE: Friday, 1 p.m.

The East Hampton Town Independence Party committee voted on Thursday to endorse the Democratic slate of candidates for Town Board—passing over the three Republican Party candidates, including one of their party's own registered members—making it likely there will be a dual-party primary election this fall.

The committee, according to Chairwoman Elaine Jones, will nominate Peter Van Scoyoc to hold its line in the supervisor's race and Democratic Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez and attorney Jeff Bragman to be the party's nominees for council.

In making their nominations, the party passed over former East Hampton Village Police Chief Jerry Larsen, who is registered with the Independence Party, after a "huge disagreement" among the party's committee members, Ms. Jones said. In the end, they chose to endorse the two Democrats because it would allow Mr. Larsen to easily force a primary vote.

"Some of our people wanted to endorse [Mr. Larsen] and some didn't, so we decided we should let the Independence Party voters decide," Ms. Jones said. "Primaries are healthy, as far as I'm concerned. Let the voters choose who they want."

To participate in the primary, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez and Mr. Bragman will have to file for permission to be on the party ballot with the Independence Party's founder and state chairman, Frank McKay.

As per the Independence Party's bylaws, Mr. McKay can also overrule the town committee and choose to hand the party's official endorsements to someone other than those chosen by the committee—a power he has exercised before.

An Independence Party primary would—if paired with the expected Democratic Party primary between Mr. Bragman, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez and Zach Cohen, who has said he intends to seek a primary for one of the party's Town Council nominations—set up a dual primary in which voters of the respective parties would attend the polls on the same day but would have to be given different ballots.

The Independence Party committee handed out a mix of Democratic and Republican, and incumbent and newcomer, nominations for the nine Town Trustees seats as well. The party chose to endorse Republican candidates Diane McNally, Joe Bloecker, Susan Vorpahl, Lynsey Hayes and Gary Cobb, and Democratic nominees Rick Drew, Bill Taylor, John Aldred and Rona Klopman. Ms. McNally, Mr. Drew and Mr. Taylor are the only three of the six incumbents seeking reelection who got the party's nominations.

The party also endorsed Democratic Tax Assessor Eugene DePasquale, who is being challenged by Republican candidate Tina Silverman, as well cross-endorsed candidates Steve Lynch for highway superintendent, Carole Brennan for town clerk and Steve Tekulsky for town justice.


The East Hampton Town Democratic Party made its official nominations on Wednesday night, unanimously supporting Peter Van Scoyoc to be the party's candidate for town supervisor, to replace Democrat Larry Cantwell, in this fall's election. He will face off against Republican nominee Manny Vilar.

The approximately 30 members of the party's committee who cast votes at Wednesday's nominating convention also nominated Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez to run for a second term on the Town Board and for attorney Jeffrey Bragman, a political newcomer, to be the candidate for the seat on the board being vacated by Fred Overton, who was elected as a Republican in 2013.

"It was a terrifically long process," Party Chairwoman Jeanne Frankl said on Thursday morning. "We had an almost unparalleled number of applicants. There were many good people, so the people who were selected were really outstanding. Which is a tribute to our community."

The convention vote may not be the last word on the party's ticket for the November races. At least one former party candidate has said he will seek support to force a primary election for the two Town Board seats.

Zach Cohen, who ran for supervisor on the Democratic ticket in 2011, was among 10 people who screened for Town Council seats with the committee this spring but was not recommended by the screening committee to be nominated. Mr. Cohen has said recently, however, that he plans to file a petition for candidacy, which would require a primary election open only to party members in September.

The party committee votes on Wednesday followed the smaller screening committee's recommendations for all of the other seats on the fall ballot, including endorsing Republican Highway Superintendent Steve Lynch and Town Clerk Carole Brennan, who is not registered with a political party, both of whom were also endorsed by the Republican Party's committee last week. Town Justice Steven Tekulsky will also receive the nominations of both parties.

As expected, the party nominated nine candidates to run for Town Trustee. There are currently five Democratic incumbents on the nine-seat board. Democratic Trustee Pat Mansir resigned from the board last month and incumbent Trustee Tyler Armstrong announced last week he would not seek reelection to a second term.

The party nominated incumbent Trustees Francis Bock, Rick Drew, Bill Taylor and Brian Byrnes, as well as Dell Cullum, John Aldred, Susan McGraw Keber and Rona Klopman to fill out the ticket.

Two of the three incumbent Republicans, Diane McNally and James Grimes, are seeking reelection to the board with Tim Bock choosing not to run again.

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