Two Southampton Town candidates who lost on Election Day are getting a redo in a January contest that will determine control of the town board.
Democrat Julie Lofstad and Republican Richard Yastrzemski were tapped by their parties last week to run in a Jan. 26 special election for the seat vacated by ex-Councilman Bradley Bender, who pleaded guilty to drug charges and resigned Nov. 24.
Yastrzemski, a Southampton Village trustee, spent the past nine months running as the Southampton GOP’s candidate for town supervisor but lost to Suffolk Legis. Jay Schneiderman on Election Day.
“As a golfing buddy of mine said, it’s like a mulligan,” said Yastrzemski, who was renominated at a Republican convention on Dec. 8.
Lofstad, a community activist from Hampton Bays, fell 115 votes short of winning a town board seat in a four-way race Nov. 3. She came in third behind her Democratic running mate John Bouvier and Republican incumbent Christine Scalera.
“Before, I was a total newbie to politics,” Lofstad said. “Now, I am certainly not an old hand at it, but I do feel I have a bit more of a grasp on the issues.”
Suffolk Conservatives took the unusual step of endorsing Lofstad at a convention Wednesday despite backing Yastrzemski in his supervisor bid on Nov. 3.
Conservative chairman Edward Walsh said five party leaders from the East End led the screening process and were drawn to the Democrat’s “work ethic and commitment to the community” and her answers to concerns about a planned golf course development in East Quogue.
Walsh said that in town elections, party leaders judge candidates as individuals, and pointed to Suffolk Legis. Al Krupski as an example of a Democrat who has won Conservative support. “We truly look at who serves people well,” he said.
Suffolk GOP chairman John Jay LaValle criticized the Conservative endorsement Friday, saying Walsh “is literally providing the balance of power in Southampton Town to the Democratic Party.
“It’s not only clear that Ed Walsh doesn’t know right from wrong, but he no longer knows left from right,” LaValle said.
Democrats tapped Lofstad to run again at a convention on Dec. 6, Democratic chairman Gordon Herr said. “She’s never been an elected official,” Herr said. “She’s not a politician. I think that’s very appealing to the voters of Southampton Town. But at the same time, she’s not naive.”
Lofstad, who ran this year on a platform of addressing water quality and housing problems, also has the advantage of living in Southampton Town’s most populous hamlet, Hampton Bays.
Yastrzemski said he agrees that quality-of-life and environmental issues are top concerns, but that his eight years on the village board give him the advantage of experience. “I could sit in that chair tomorrow and I don’t have a learning curve,” he said.
Bender, an Independence Party member, resigned the day he admitted in federal court to trading oxycodone for money and steroids. His departure created a 2-2 split on the town board between Republicans and a Democrat-Independence alliance.
Schneiderman, an Independence Party member who is replacing departing Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, was backed by Democrats in the general election and ran alongside Bouvier and Lofstad.
Yastrzemski predicted the monthlong campaign will be “a bit more intense and face-to-face” because of the short time frame and the fact that control of the town board is in play. “There’s a lot at stake for both sides,” he said.