The race to replace former East Hampton Village Mayor Paul Rickenbach intensified last week when a third candidate threw his hat in the ring. With just three months until the June election, Arthur “Tiger” Graham, running on the Fish Hooks Party ticket, has decided to challenge longtime village board member and current deputy mayor Barbara Borsack and former village police Chief Jerry Larsen.
Graham, a current member of the East Hampton Village Board, originally supported Borsack for mayor following the resignation of Rickenbach in December, but said he had second thoughts, leading him to announce his decision to run March 16.
“I had been supporting Barbara Borsack, as she has been a dedicated public servant and an extremely nice person,” he said. “But I was waiting for her to campaign. If she were doing that, she could probably beat Jerry, but she’s not. He’s gotten traction, and she has not.”
Borsack, running under the Elms Party, and Larsen, on the NewTown Party ticket, are in the midst of a very public feud.
The latest salvo has played out on the letters pages of local newspapers, where Borsack mentioned that “Larsen was required to attend sensitivity training due to racially-charged comments he made at a public event [from the microphone], which resulted in police officers from neighboring departments calling for his resignation.”
In a letter Larsen wrote in response, he said it was short-lived, and stemmed from a remark made in jest at a public gathering, which he regrets.
Borsack, a 19-year member of the board who also served on the zoning board of appeals, is a 30-year member of the East Hampton Village Ambulance Association, was its first female chief, and has personally responded to more than 3500 emergency ambulance calls. Her roots in the village date back to the 18th Century.
When asked about Graham’s entry into the race, Borsack said, “Our strategy has not changed. Our message has been the same from the beginning, and we trust the residents of the village to know that they are always our first priority.”
Larsen, who spent 33 years on the police force and 13 as its head, sued the village in August 2017 after the village ordered him to divest himself of a home security business, even though, he claimed, Rickenbach and current interim Mayor Richard Lawler had similar businesses. Larsen’s lawsuit was thrown out on a technicality, but the contempt between Rickenbach and his former police chief grew. Borsack sided with Rickenbach, creating a chasm that has been widening ever since.
Larsen said Graham’s candidacy is just another in a series of maneuvers to keep him from becoming mayor.
“I find it interesting that Arthur Graham, who is a village trustee in mid-term, has decided to run against his longtime friend Barbara Borsack after supporting her campaign for the last year,” he said. “He completely betrayed the woman he claims to adore, which has now caused a complete divide on the current village board. He then attacked me personally, and he does not even know me.”
“I am running for mayor because I feel I am the best candidate for the job,” Graham countered.
Editor’s note: Jerry Larsen is currently head of security for Ronald Perelman, who owns The Independent.