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Sep 18, 2018 11:05 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Hampton Democratic Primary Kicks Off A New Campaign

Manny Vilar during the 2017 campaign for supervisor. Kyril Bromley
Sep 18, 2018 12:06 PM

East Hampton Town Councilman David Lys cruised to an easy victory in the Democratic Party primary on Thursday, September 13, but deep divisions in the party laid bare in the primary apparently will linger as he begins his campaign against Republican challenger Manny Vilar.

Neither David Gruber, whom Mr. Lys defeated to win the Democratic nomination on Thursday night, nor Rona Klopman, a co-founder of a splinter group within the Democratic Committee that calls itself the Reform Democrats, would say they support Mr. Lys over Mr. Vilar in the general election in November. Meanwhile, after the primary vote, they reiterated the gripes with their party’s leadership that were the foundation of their campaign.

“I will not endorse David Lys—but I’m not endorsing Manny Vilar either,” Mr. Gruber said in the wake of his defeat at the polls on Thursday. “My campaign sought to talk about the failures of government that are having a profound effect on the people of East Hampton. The frame of David Lys’s campaign is that he’s a beloved son of East Hampton, and that was successful, but it doesn’t make any of the problems go away. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how much people love East Hampton if they don’t get the job done.”

Democratic voters, who turned out in huge numbers for the primary vote, largely rebuffed the upstart faction, handing Mr. Lys an easy victory and mostly choosing candidates for the East Hampton Town Democratic Committee supported by the party’s leadership.

Mr. Lys received 1,489 votes, or about 63 percent of the votes cast on Thursday night, to Mr. Gruber’s 884 votes. The Suffolk County Board of Elections also received 495 absentee ballots for the town race, meaning that nearly 2,900 Democrats cast ballots in the race—nearly 40 percent of the total number of registered Democrats in the town.

The Reform Democrats also fell far short of their goal to wrest control of the party’s committee away from longtime party leaders and campaign strategists who have shepherded the party to dominance in town government. The committee candidates whom the Reform Democrats supported won just five of the 38 committee seats. Two of the Reform Democrats’ leaders, Rona Klopman and Ilissa Meyer, lost their bids to remain on the committee, though Mr. Gruber did win a seat on the committee, representing Election District 7 in Wainscott.

Ms. Klopman, who sparked the Reform Democrats’ rebellion with her challenge to the party leadership’s efforts last winter to install Cate Rogers as party chairwoman, said she would continue to hawk the Town Board and said the primary election results show that their rebuke of the status quo is not just the complaints of a few.

“There’s a lot unhappy people and we’re not going away,” Ms. Klopman said. “That’s 40 percent of the Democrats who were not happy with the cronyism. That many people cannot be ignored.”

After his win, Mr. Lys said he thinks the Democrats will mend fences and that he will set his sights on anchoring the Democratic stranglehold on the board.

“Now we need to protect the progress the current Democratic board initiated,” he said, and nodded to the need to repair the deep divisions within his newly adopted party that were stirred in the last six months. “With time, all rivalries will melt away. We will unite together as one Democratic Committee.”

Mr. Lys also harked back to the enthusiasm in the party, as evidenced by the large turnout for an off-year primary for one seat and a one-year term. He said that enthusiasm, even with the divisions that spurred it, bodes well for the party in November.

“It’s pretty amazing—and with the [1st Congressional District] race I think we are going to see a large turnout of Democrats in November, too,” Mr. Lys said, adding that he thinks he will appeal to Democrats as well as some Republicans and unregistered voters. “I think people just want a politician who can run a campaign without being negative and who is just here to work hard for the Town of East Hampton. That’s what I’ve done, and I will stay that course.

“The wheels of government don’t always turn as fast as we’d like them to, because there are processes that have to be followed and problems that come up that have to be dealt with. But I think you’ll see this board has moved a lot of things forward to the point that they are ready to be executed and will continue moving them as fast as is possible.”

Mr. Lys and Mr. Vilar will now face off for the right to hold a seat on the Town Board for just one year, completing the remaining term of Peter Van Scoyoc, who won election to the supervisor’s office—over Mr. Vilar—in last year’s elections. The winner would have to run again next year to earn a full four-year term on the board.

Mr. Lys’s victory on Thursday, though comfortable, leaves Republicans with hope that a divided Democratic Party may be beatable, despite the Republicans’ broad disadvantages in registered voters and campaign support.

“All the issues that I brought up in the prior election—Montauk, the communications system, affordable housing—were championed by the Reform Democrats and David Gruber, and, you know what? They’re right,” Mr. Vilar said on Monday. “I’m not a partisan guy. I’m doing this because I see the train going off the rails in East Hampton, like Mr. Gruber does. He raised a lot of good issues.

“David Lys is a very nice guy,” he continued. “He’s hardworking, he has a lovely family. We’re very fortunate as a community to have people who want to be involved, because it is not the easiest thing to do.

“I just think I’m better suited and better prepared, not because I’m a genius, just that nobody else has the experience I have.”

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Will 27east please do an article on Gruber removing all the signs that litter our town? Or better yet maybe David can do it, great photo op of him throwing Gruber signs where they belong; into the garbage.
By Preliator Lives (437), Obamavillie on Sep 14, 18 8:01 AM
Gruber signs out...Villar signs in. Just a mess of litter.
By harbor (415), East Hampton on Sep 14, 18 8:12 AM
1 member liked this comment
Well at least Lys will have less clean up to do after Gruber's minions ran around tearing down all of Lys' signs and putting up Gruber's signs in their place last week.
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Sep 14, 18 12:23 PM