Some Interesting Primary Battles On Tap

American flag on Hamptons beach

Primary Day can be a rather humdrum affair hereabouts, but there are several interesting challenges to the status quo on the June 25 ballot.

Consider perhaps the most august board in the state: The East Hampton Town Trustees, with 350 years of history, has undergone a total transformation over the past decade or so. In the days of yore, it was a Republican stronghold, the nameplates dotted with bubbie surnames synonymous with “baymen.” But like the town board, it has become completely dominated by Democrats.

This year’s Democratic slate offers nine candidates, one for each seat. They are Mike Martinsen, Bill Taylor, Ben Dollinger, Susan McGraw Keber, Francis Bock, Tim Garneau, Jim Grimes, Rick Drew, and John Aldred. Taylor, Drew, Grimes, McGraw Keber, and Bock are the incumbents.

But there were some feathers ruffled when the slate was chosen. Grimes, though a Republican, was chosen to run by the Democrats this year. Ken Collum, though an incumbent Democrat, was replaced on the Democratic ballot but will challenge in the primary. Stephen Lester, a Democrat and former Trustee, will run as well. Rona Klopman, a former Democratic Party officer and longtime member, has bolted from the old school and helped form a splinter group dubbed the Reform Party. The East Hampton Independence Party has joined forces with the rebels in many cases and so have the Republicans, leading to yet another entity, the Fusion Party.

East Hampton Town Justice Lisa Rana, a four-term incumbent, is a local and a popular one — she swept into her latest four-year term with endorsements from every major party and was chosen to serve in Sag Harbor as well. Though a Republican, she earned the Democratic Party endorsement last time out.

This year, though, Andrew Strong, a relative newcomer to town, was chosen by the Democratic Committee.Strong was recently hired as an advocate for immigrant civil rights by Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island. He is a human rights attorney by trade and practiced in The Hague, and has also worked for the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. He has drawn some ire for criticizing Rana — candidates in the justice race are urged to refrain from personal attacks.

“I don’t want to get into political bickering,” Rana countered. “I have my own resumé.”

In Southampton, Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor is seeking the Independence Party line against incumbent Supervisor Jay Schneiderman. The pair have butted heads over several issues, and Schneiderman is a proven vote getter, but Gregor sees some chinks in his armor. Suffolk Comptroller John Kennedy narrowly bested Schneiderman last year for that countywide office.

Also in Southampton, six Democrats will run for five town trustee seats including two popular former trustees, Fred Havemeyer, who stepped away from the board in 2013, and Eric Shultz, who chose not to run for reelection in 2017. Incumbents Bill Pell and Ann Welker and newcomers Andrew Brosnan and David Mayer complete the ballot. One of the six will be left off.

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