Jun 19, 2013 10:48 AMBy Michael Wright The Southampton Town Independence and Conservative parties threw their weight behind slates of candidates last week that will bolster the chances of some to get elected this fall, and leave others—including some incumbents who have enjoyed their support in the past—with just one line on the November ballot.
And as much as each party’s selections sends ripples through the newborn campaign, the failure by both major parties to offer endorsements for some positions has left candidates and political operators clawing for any advantage.
Perhaps most momentous, even if not entirely shocking, was the Conservative Party’s failure to endorse a candidate for town supervisor this year. The race pitting Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, on the Democratic line, against her predecessor, Linda Kabot, on the GOP line, is likely to be a tight one—and the “other” party endorsements could play a key role.
Ms. Throne-Holst is a registered Independence Party member and, as expected, got her party’s nomination to go with her endorsement by the town Democrats. Ms. Kabot has the Republican Party line, but the failure of the Conservatives to back her up puts her at a disadvantage. In 2009, Ms. Throne-Holst unseated Ms. Kabot by some 1,900 votes, more than 1,100 of them coming from the Independence Party line.
And while the Conservative Party has largely been a supporter of Republican candidates throughout most recent political history, it has not supported Ms. Kabot since she ran for Town Board in 2005. In 2007, when she mounted a Republican Party primary election against former Supervisor Patrick Heaney, who was running for his last eligible term as supervisor, and ousted him from the party line, the Conservatives put him on the ballot on their line.
In 2009, her first reelection campaign, the party offered no supervisor endorsement, despite endorsing Ms. Kabot’s Republican running mates, Town Councilmen Chris Nuzzi and Jim Malone, who both won their races with close to 1,000 votes on the Conservative line.
Mr. Malone, who is not seeking reelection to a second term this year, is the town’s Conservative Party leader. He said the decision not to endorse a supervisor candidate this election isn’t set in stone, explaining that there is still time before the July deadline for candidates to submit ballot petitions. The Conservative Party’s relatively small registration numbers means a late-comer could gather the requisite signatures in just a couple of days.
For the Town Board race, the Independence Party executive committee and Suffolk County Chairman Frank McKay endorsed another of their own, Brad Bender, who has been cross-endorsed by Democrats, and current Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone, a Democrat, for the second Town Board seat on the ballot. The Conservatives, meanwhile, endorsed Republican candidates Jeff Mansfield and Stan Glinka, both political newcomers.
The Independence Party also endorsed Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, a registered party member, who is being challenged by Mr. Nuzzi for this seat on the legislature. Mr. Nuzzi, who cannot seek reelection to the Town Board due to term limits, received the Conservative Party’s endorsement.
Town Clerk Sundy Schermeyer, who is a Republican but unchallenged in her reelection bid, received nominations from both the Independence and Conservative parties. Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor, who is a registered Independence Party member and cross-endorsed by the Democrats, also secured his party’s nomination, while his challenger, David Betts, got the Conservative nod.
Perhaps the races most stirred by the smaller party nominations are those for the five open seats on the Southampton Town Board of Trustees, where a few hundred votes typically separate those who earn a seat and those who do not.
The Independence Party endorsed just four candidates for the five Trustees seats on the ballot, passing over two longtime incumbents: Ed Warner Jr., a Republican, and Fred Havemeyer, a Democrat. The party endorsed two incumbent Trustees—Bill Pell, a registered Independence Party member, and Eric Shultz, a Democrat. Democratic candidate Howard Pickerell and Republican candidate Scott Horowitz secured the Independence Party’s other nominations.
Southampton Town Independence Party Chairman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who is also a state assemblyman, said the party’s five-member executive committee—made up of the party’s four elected office-holders and Tom Schiavoni—could not reach a consensus on whom to endorse for the fifth Town Trustees seat and chose to put off the decision. He said the party could make that endorsement at a later date.
“There’s still discussions going on, so we may still fill that fifth Trustees slot,” said Mr. Thiele, who took over as the local Independence Party chairman earlier this spring. “Until we’re able to build a larger committee, which is something I want to do, we decided to do it in a consensus fashion.”
Mr. Pell, Mr. Shultz and Mr. Horowitz also received the Conservative Party endorsements, as did Mr. Warner and Republican candidate Cornelius Kelly.
Mr. Havemeyer declined to comment on the Independence Party’s decision not to offer him its nomination as it had in 2011. Mr. Warner, who was endorsed by both the Independence and Conservative parties in 2007, 2009 and 2011, said he was surprised at the decision of Independence Party members to shun two incumbents. He said he felt the decision was not personal but a product of political machinations that he pays little attention.
“I don’t understand how the politics work,” Mr. Warner said. “When I’m elected, I got to Town Hall, and I serve the people and I try to do a good job ... and, hopefully, the people reelect me.”
The Independence Party, meanwhile, plans to actively campaign for its candidates over the next four months, showing that its influence extends beyond simply endorsing one candidate over another.
“We’re going to run a campaign for our candidates,” said Mr. Thiele, who served two terms as town supervisor in the early 1990s after forming his own third party, the Southampton Party, to counter the major parties in local politics. “It’s not going to be one of those things where we give them endorsements and then let the major parties dictate their campaign. We’re going to be aggressive.”