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May 12, 2009 4:19 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Democratic slate likely set going into Tuesday's convention

May 12, 2009 4:19 PM

Because the East Hampton Town Democratic choice to run for supervisor, Ben Zwirn, set conditions that he would not run with anyone on the current Town Board, the town Democratic Party’s convention, which was held Tuesday night after this newspaper’s deadline, was expected to be a tame affair.

Mr. Zwirn, 57, who is currently a deputy Suffolk County executive, said this week that he had asked the committee to not back incumbent Councilman Brad Loewen, who has been on the board since 2006, because he didn’t want his campaign to be tainted by the financial mess at Town Hall.

Patti Leber, a former Merrill Lynch employee and the vice president of the Montauk School Board, and architect John Whelan, were expected to be named to run for the two board seats currently held by Pat Mansir and Mr. Loewen. Ms. Mansir has said that she will not run again.

“It was important to me that it be a new slate,” said Mr. Zwirn this week. “I couldn’t run with an incumbent board member…. Brad, he’s a decent guy, but you have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers to manage their money wisely. As a member of the Town Board you are obligated to be aware of the financial situation of the town. You can’t say ‘I didn’t know’ when you didn’t ask.”

“The financial situation—it’s a train wreck. They can’t even do a cash flow projection for the rest of the year and that’s an incredible statement,” he added. “They can’t possibly run for reelection on the record. They kept spending, they kept hiring individuals while the revenues were getting smaller and smaller.”

Mr. Loewen, a lifelong Democrat who helped manage two Trustee campaigns for the party and served on the Planning Board for 17 years before becoming a Town Board member, said that he was disappointed that the town Democrats did not have the courage to put up a fight against Mr. Zwirn’s request.

He said that he would not attend last night’s convention at Scoville Hall in Amagansett, and that he did not anticipate a floor fight to put his name on the ballot.

“The Democratic Party has rejected me. They threw me off the dock,” he said, adding that he was not going to demean himself by putting in an appearance at the convention.

Mr. Loewen said that he learned of the party’s decision in a meeting last week with party Chairman Bill Taylor, whom he said had championed Mr. Loewen’s experience on the board while the party was making its decision.

“My immediate gut reaction is that the Democratic Party in East Hampton has lost its soul,” he said. “It seems to have gone from a party for the people and for the environment, for making sure the right person is in the right job—not just my job, all the jobs. It’s turned into a party of ‘win at all costs.’ I feel hurt, I admit it. I think that my party has forgotten its roots, what they really are.”

“I live here. This is my home. I’m still a fisherman, so I’ll go fishing,” he said of his plans once his term ends at the end of the year. “I’m not going to throw my community away. I’m going to do the best I can for it for the next six months.”

“This is a very intricate and complicated job. It’s not something that you learn overnight,” he added. “Without experience, I’m afraid that nothing is going to be accomplished. Obviously Ben Zwirn has some experience, but there’s nobody else on either side who has experience.”

Ms. Leber and Mr. Whelan have both come to the race with backgrounds outside of Town Hall.

Ms. Leber, 56, worked for Merrill Lynch for nine years as a stockbroker, in institutional sales and in the company’s retirement account department in New York City. She has an MBA in finance from Rutgers University and raised two children in Montauk after she moved there full-time 15 years ago. She is currently a real estate agent with Kathleen Beckman Real Estate in Montauk. She has been on the Montauk School Board for eight years and is involved with the Children’s Museum of the East End, the Third House Nature Center and the Montauk Playhouse committee.

“Obviously, they have to stop the spending,” she said of the current Town Board. “I think we need a better organization system. The way we’re currently doing it with the School Board, I have the ability to see every check that’s been written. We check budget transfers. One of our main focuses is fiscal oversight.”

Ms. Leber, who has been attending Town Board meetings for several months, said that she doesn’t want to make any hasty decisions by selling off town property without doing all of her homework.

“It’s really hard to turn around a big ship, but they’re starting the process. You definitely need better communication,” she said.

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Did anyone think Zwirn would take any other tactic but to pretend he is a different "Kind of Democrat?" He did exactly what he was supposed to do - refuse to run with anyone on the current board. Problem is the Democratic committee either refused to see the problem or refused to admit there was a problem. Therefore, anyone running under their party has already lost the majority of taxpayers. He can say what he wants but anyone who lives in East Hampton who didn't show their face before Foster ...more
By disappointed (96), wainscott on May 13, 09 2:24 PM
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