Local Politics: Campaign Fund Woes

Originally this week’s political column was only going to be about the difficulty that the Democrats of East Hampton were having this season raising funds to campaign against Republican incumbent East Hampton Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and his team running for the town board, which includes Steve Gaines along with Richard Haeg.

The East Hampton Town Republican Committee started 2011 with an opening balance of $6,703 in their campaign account. Now that total stands at $89,355 in contributions, as of July 11. According to the July disclosures, Bill Wilkinson had a reported $750 in contributions in his political committee also. As the incumbent Supervisor, no doubt he has the ability to raise more money. Richard Haeg raised $2,479 for his political committee and Steven Gaines has raised $1,010, whereas Zachary Cohen, the Democratic candidate for East Hampton Town Supervisor, has gone on record saying that raising campaign funds is not his or the other Democratic candidates’ highest priority right now. And that’s sort of alarming because July found the East Hampton Democratic Committee $4,318 in debt. This is all interesting but we are months away from the election and no doubt these numbers will change by thousands of dollars, however it seems unlikely that the East Hampton Democrats have any sort of momentum raising funds so far for this political campaign season in the town. Meanwhile, on the County level just the opposite is the fact with Democrat Steve Bellone, the candidate for the County Executive, has raised almost five times more than his Republican opponent Angie Carpenter (Bellone’s campaign has surpassed the million dollar mark). [expand]

But now this column is going to focus on Steven Gaines, who at the time of this writing is still listed on the Republican website as an official Republican candidate for East Hampton Town Board. Reports sent to the Dan’s Papers Editorial Office this weekend said that Gaines was in East Hampton reportedly seeking signatures for a petition so that he can be on the ballot for the “Opportunity Party.” Gaines has reportedly created the Opportunity Party, but the question is why? Supervisor Bill Wilkinson said the reason is to give voters who want to vote for Gaines but won’t vote for a Republican an opportunity to vote for him. Rumors of how at this late date the Republicans don’t want him on their ticket anymore because he is a registered Democrat are false. Strange…however, the smoke is still clearing and until it does nothing is certain.

Nevertheless, Gaines, who is openly gay, will be facing off against two Democratic candidates for the board, Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc, along with Republican Richard Haeg. Supervisor Wilkinson told me that the Opportunity Party is “only” another way to help Gaines win and the Republicans are happy with their candidates. Hopefully this issue will unfold in a more defined manner in the near future.

Gaines’ past, along with his future, intentions were well documented by his very public and successful acquisition of the East Hampton Republican selection as their candidate for the town board. Just this week Trace Duryea, Chairwoman of the East Hampton Town Republican Committee, did not mention any dissatisfaction with Gaines while she was commented upon Town Republican fundraising efforts to several publications. Perhaps this issue can be smoothed over or perhaps a new Republican candidate will be introduced in the near future.

Last on the campaign finance issue it should be mentioned that it is likely that the 2012 campaign for the seat representing the First Congressional District, which is presently held by Congressman Tim Bishop, will cost a record amount. Challenger Randy Altschuler and his followers will no doubt raise the stakes and the money to force Bishop to do likewise. Some reports have the combined cost of the winning and losing campaign funds at perhaps $8 million to $10 million.

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