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Splintered Democrats in East Hampton endorse different slate for 2019 races

Reform movement plans to endorse candidates backed by the GOP and Independence parties for town supervisor post and seats on the board of trustees.

A rift in the East Hampton Town Democratic

A rift in the East Hampton Town Democratic committee emerged in the past year over several local issues, beginning with an April lawsuit filed by a former committee member. Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

A splinter faction of East Hampton Town Democrats will once again challenge the establishment Democratic Committee in the race for town board seats  in November.

The East Hampton Democrats have endorsed Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, who is seeking his second two-year term. Also on the ticket are council members David Lys, who was appointed in January 2018 and then elected in November to fill the remainder of Van Scoyoc’s council term, and Sylvia Overby, who is seeking her third four-year term.

“This group of candidates has a proven track record of promoting renewable energy, affordable housing and clean water, and I know they will continue working to achieve those goals,” Democratic Committee chairwoman Cate Rogers said in a statement.

The East Hampton Democratic Party holds a 5-0 supermajority on the town board. Registered Democratic voters outnumber registered Republicans 2-to-1 in the town. The GOP has struggled to win races, with Lys receiving more than 71 percent of the vote to defeat Republican challenger Manny Vilar in the general election  in November.

A rift in the Democratic committee emerged over several local issues in the past year — beginning with an April lawsuit filed by former committee member Rona Klopman alleging malfeasance in the committee member selection process — and led to the creation of the Reform Democrats. That lawsuit was dismissed by a judge in May.

A fusion slate of East Hampton Town council candidates endorsed by the local GOP, Independence Party and a group known as the Reform Democrats will face off against the establishment Democratic incumbents.

The Independence Party is also backing David Gruber, one of the leaders of the Reform movement, for supervisor. Gruber is also considering a primary challenge for the Democratic nomination, said Reform vice chairwoman Ilissa Meyer. Lys defeated Gruber in a town council primary in June, receiving 61 percent of the vote.

Rogers noted that Gruber failed last year in both his primary challenge and in his bid to be elected to the committee.

“I see, and many others see this, as nothing but a power grab by Mr. Gruber,” she said.

Gruber did not return a call Thursday seeking comment.  

The GOP has endorsed Richard Myers, a travel agent who sits on the town’s architectural review board, for supervisor.

Fusion slate Town Council candidates are Bonnie Brady, a registered Democrat and the director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, and Elizabeth Bambrick, an unaffiliated voter and the former head of the town’s ordinance enforcement department.

Klopman likened the fusion slate’s politics to those of Fiorello La Guardia, the Republican former mayor of New York City who appealed across party lines and in the 1930s broke up the corrupt Democratic political system known as Tammany Hall.

“Like the NYC Democratic Party of the 1930s, the East Hampton Democratic Party we love and have served faithfully for years is in need of reform, a housecleaning,” said Klopman, a fusion candidate for town trustee, a nine-member governing body separate from the town board.

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