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Jun 21, 2018 5:46 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

David Gruber To Seek Democratic Primary For East Hampton Town Board

David Gruber
Jun 26, 2018 1:06 PM

Former East Hampton Town Democratic Party Chairman David Gruber says he will seek to force a primary for the party’s nomination to the Town Board seat on the November ballot, and that he has formed a new political “caucus” within the town party that is calling itself the East Hampton Reform Democrats.

Earlier this month, the Democratic Party committee members nominated Councilman David Lys to be the party’s candidate for the seat he was appointed to in January—supporting him over Mr. Gruber by a 19-10 vote.

But Mr. Gruber has started circulating nominating petitions that would allow him to have his name put on the ballot against Mr. Lys in the Democratic primary. He will need to collect about 400 signatures and file them with the Suffolk County Board of Elections by July 12 to earn a spot on the ballot in a local primary, which would be held on September 13.

“I believe strongly that we need to have competitive elections—you can’t have government by appointment,” Mr. Gruber said on Thursday morning, June 21. “In David Lys’s case, he’s never been elected. There has to be at least one election in which he has to stand before the voters and ask for their support. And there should be an alternative.”

Mr. Lys was appointed by the other four members of the Town Board to fill the council seat left vacant when then-councilman Peter Van Scoyoc became supervisor. The election in November will give the winner the seat for the final year of that term. After that, the seat will again be on the ballot in November 2019 for a full four-year term.

Mr. Lys, in addition to securing the signatures of the requisite number of Democrats, also must receive an official endorsement by Suffolk County Democratic Party Chairman Rich Schaffer to be on the primary ballot, because he is technically still registered as a Republican until after the November election. Mr. Lys filed to change his registration to the Democratic Party shortly before being appointed to the board in January, but election laws don’t allow an official switch until after the next election, to prevent cross-party voting in primaries.

Mr. Lys said he welcomes Mr. Gruber’s decision to seek a primary but said he is confident his own record of community service before and since being appointed to the board, will stand up well among Democrats on primary day and among all town voters in November.

“I have 42 years of experience at being from Bonac and of standing up for my hometown,” he said, using a colloquial nickname for East Hampton. “I’ll let my record speak for itself. I think my work on the [Amagansett Life-Saving Station] showed that I can work with people from all over the community and that I can get things done. I’m a local family man and I always fight for the things that other families here care about, and I think I have the support of others with the local roots that I have.”

Mr. Lys served on the Town Zoning Board of Appeals for five years, was a founding member of the beach access advocacy group Citizens for Access Rights and led the drive to renovate the Amagansett Life-Saving Station.

Mr. Gruber was the Democratic Party’s candidate for town supervisor in 2001 in a three-way race with then-incumbent Republican Jay Schneiderman and independent candidate Bill McGintee, which Mr. Schneiderman won. He later was the chairman of the town’s Democratic Party for two years, and he has wielded substantial influence behind the scenes since then. He serves on the town’s Airport Management Advisory Committee and has been a strident advocate for restricting use of the airport.

Parallel with mounting his challenge to the party committee’s nomination choice, Mr. Gruber and “others in the party,” he said, formed the East Hampton Reform Democrats caucus, and a campaign finance committee of the same name, that Mr. Gruber said was aimed at halting what he called a “Republican drift” among some in the party’s leadership and on the Town Board.

His candidate petition also lists Rona Klopman, who recently lost a bid to be the party’s next chairperson, and Ilissa Lowentstein-Meyer, who was the party’s vice chair until the end of last year.

Mr. Gruber pointed to the board’s review of the Deepwater Wind applications, permits granted to the East Hampton Library to hold its giant “Authors Night” fundraiser on town-owned property in Amagansett and the design process for the new senior center building, which some critics have said have not been thoroughly shared with the public. Each, he said, was rife with closed-door decision-making and shrugging off environmental concerns.

“These are just a few of the instances where the Town Board is waffling on their commitment to environmental protection and what used to be a commitment to investigating environmental impacts before giving approvals,” he said. “It used to be the Democrats who were critical of Republicans for seeking ways to skirt such requirements. Now, the Democrats are doing it. And, apparently, they’ve adopted the Wilkinson administration habit of meeting in secret now also.”

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Wilkinson administration meeting in secret??? Are you kidding me. You may not have liked the exchanges but there were plenty of them.. Mr Gruber seems to forget the work sessions McGintee had that would allow no more than five members of the public to attend because the space was so small. Wilkinson brought those meetings into the main meeting room. Wilkinson put Montauk into the regular work session schedule. Wilkinson even scheduled the work sessions on Saturdays so the part-timers could ...more
By pluff (60), East Hampton on Jun 22, 18 12:42 PM
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