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Dec 8, 2018 10:09 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Manny Vilar To Chair East Hampton GOP After Amos Goodman Is Charged With Fraud

Manny Vilar, left, on election night in Springs.    PRESS FILE
Dec 11, 2018 3:17 PM

Just two days after its former chairman, Amos Goodman, was arraigned on 20 felony charges, having been accused of forging the signatures of Republican voters on the party’s nominating petitions, the East Hampton Republican Party announced that its standard-bearer in the last two elections, Manny Vilar, would take over as chairman.

Mr. Vilar’s nomination to the post was announced by the party’s committee last Thursday, December 6, one day after Mr. Goodman was arraigned on felony charges related to his submission of petitions last summer that appear to have contained numerous forgeries.

Mr. Goodman was charged with 10 counts each of criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree and offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree, all low-level felonies.

Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini’s office said that an investigation in recent weeks had led to evidence that Mr. Goodman had forged at least 43 signatures on petitions for three separate candidates. Some of the signatures were on petitions nominating Republicans to run for county judgeships on the Green Party line. Some were on petitions nominating Lisa Larsen to run for the Town Board in the special town election on the Independence Party line. And some—though statements from the DA’s office do not detail how many—nominated Mr. Vilar for the Republican line.

Mr. Goodman was arraigned in Suffolk County Court in Central Islip on Wednesday, December 5, and released on his own recognizance.

The day prior, a former Independence Party vice chairwoman, Pat Mansir, had been arraigned on eight similar counts for what the DA’s office said appeared to be forgeries on the Independence petitions nominating David Gruber for the special town election. Those signatures were thrown out by a state judge over the summer, leaving the Independence Party with no line on the November ballot.

Mr. Vilar inherits a party in obvious disarray and in a deep hole politically: It faces a Democratic Party that enjoys a more than two-to-one advantage in voter registration, has a phalanx of popular candidates in office and a deep bench of experienced town leaders waiting in the wings.

In looking at the daunting future his party faces, Mr. Vilar admits that strange bedfellows may well be its only potential saviors.

“All you have to do is look at the numbers: there’s 8,400 Democrats, 3,700 Republicans, 1,000 Independents and 4,000 non-affiliated. So just relying on the Republican vote, we can never win,” he said on Monday. “So, we have a saying in Albany: Half a loaf is better than no loaf. We have to find common ground with other people if we want to stand a chance.”

The lone chink in the Democrats’ formidable electoral armor would appear to be a disaffected group within the party that mounted a challenge to the establishment this year. While the group, which called itself the Reform Democrats, lost its bids for the party chairmanship, control of the committee and the nomination of its chosen candidate, Mr. Gruber, for the Town Board seat, it did garner about 40 percent of Democratic votes in the party-only polls.

Along with a local Independence Party that also would seem dissatisfied with Democratic leadership, Mr. Vilar sees potential if the groups can find issues on which they—old-school Republicans and some of the Democratic Party’s most liberal firebrands—can agree.

“At the end of the day, are we here to talk about national politics? No, we’re here to talk about this town’s government and town policies,” he said. “I think you can find a lot of common ground. In this last election, [the Reform Democrats] were talking about a lot of the same issues we were. They were talking about Deepwater Wind, they were talking about nothing getting done on affordable housing, they were talking about the senior center still not moving forward. There are issues out there that people don’t want to just see one-party rule, only one voice, on.”

Mr. Vilar said he has not yet spoken to Elaine Jones, chairwoman of the Independence Party, nor any of the leaders of the Reform Democrats, about a hoped-for alliance, and he acknowledged that he will have some fence-mending to do with Ms. Jones, who had called attention to doubts about the signatures on Mr. Goodman’s petitions.

The new chairman will now lead a party that has not won a Town Board seat in the last three elections—and in two of which he was a candidate on the party ticket.

The apparent forgeries that brought Mr. Goodman down were on petitions nominating Mr. Vilar to run for the lone Town Board seat on the ballot in this year’s special election. Without the more than 100 signatures that Mr. Goodman submitted on his behalf, Mr. Vilar would not have met the requisite number to qualify to be on the ballot.

But the new party chairman said he had no knowledge of any of his predecessor’s signature-gathering efforts. “I had no involvement with Amos gathering his petitions,” Mr. Vilar said. “I had my own petition sheet—I got 26 signatures, and that was it. As always, we need to respect the rights of both victims and the accused, and everyone is entitled to due process, so that will play itself out.”

Mr. Vilar works as a sergeant in the State Parks Police and is the head of the state policeman’s union, which he helped found.

He also would not write off the possibility that he could run a third time for one of the three Town Board seats that will be on the ballot in November 2019, even though he has already lost to two of the candidates who will be on the Democratic ticket: Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc and Councilman David Lys. Councilwoman Sylvia Overby’s second term on the Town Board will also expire at the end of 2019.

Mr. Vilar said his first priority will be righting the ship of the Republican committee and getting on a new course.

In a statement announcing his chairmanship, he invoked a memoir of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

“Like so many Republicans, Ike knew our party stands for transparency, integrity and honesty, supporting the sharing of ideas and having real debate on the issues facing our residents,” Mr. Vilar said. “Our candidates and officials will continue to fight for our families, small businesses and environment.”

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