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Oct 5, 2011 10:02 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Youth In GOP See Changes On Horizon

Oct 5, 2011 12:49 PM

The Southampton Town Republican Committee ushered in a youthful new era last month when it elected 32-year-old William Wright as its party leader. Mr. Wright appointed a slate of young members to his executive committee, who took their positions touting goals of reenergizing a party that has seen its once-dominant position in the town whittled away from a variety of angles in recent years, and attracting new, young, enthusiastic residents to the party after years of declining registration advantage.

But according to some of those close to the party’s internal operations, there is still a portion of the town GOP membership that sees the ascendency of Mr. Wright and his executive committee—former Town Attorney David Gilmartin Jr., Town Tax Receiver Theresa Kiernan and Brian Doyle—as a continuance of party business as usual, just with a younger elephant, and not the step the party needs to take to assert itself again.

These Republicans, who each asked not to be identified because it could jeopardize their future with the party, say they see more fundamental change within the committee as necessary if the party is to attract new members and generate the kind of enthusiasm it needs to wield power in a town that is now nearly two-thirds non-Republican.

“The old guard still runs it,” said one committee member, who asked not to be named. “There’s four or five of them who steer things, elitist political insiders who run things for their own benefit and get their kids jobs at Town Hall. It has to stop.”

The perception of politicians and party operatives has evolved in young generations, and the party cannot expect to continue things the way they always have been and still attract new blood, these progressive Republicans said. A willingness to work openly on policy issues with members of other parties, to be more forthright with the public, the media and employees about why decisions are made, and to take stands that are in the interest of the town, not those of powerful party supporters or officials, must be the hallmark of the Republican future, they say.

“The problem with the Republican Party is that years ago they would burn bridges rather than build them,” the committeeman said.

“You’ve got to work with everybody, Republican or not,” said another Republican Party member. “It’s the only way we’re going to get anywhere—you can’t just keep fighting for the sake of fighting. People won’t stand for that anymore.”

Those dissatisfied with the party’s direction and apparent continuance of its path say that town voters, even those registered as Republicans, will not support “politics as usual” at the polls anymore. Internal policy agreements cannot be brokered with a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” approach.

“Our deal is we help each other, but we don’t expect anything in return,” said a committeeman who acknowledged working with others in the committee to garner support for a new direction. “That is the crux of the old regimes—there’s a string attached to every backroom deal.”

Evidence that the concerns and interests of Republican voters have diverged from the party in recent years can be seen at the ballots from the last two elections.

Linda Kabot, a former two-term councilwoman and one-term supervisor, twice ran primaries against the party committee’s choice for supervisor, including when she was the incumbent supervisor in 2009, and won at the polls. Councilwoman Nancy Graboski did the same in 2007, after the committee voted to drop her from its ticket following her refusal to reappoint longtime GOP operative Jim Zizzi to the Town Planning Board.

“The party is not listening to what voters are telling it,” a committee member said. “You saw it with Kabot. They want someone who is working for them, not someone the party sees as a loyal soldier.”

This summer, the Republican Committee, under former leader Ernie Wruck, voted to nominate Councilman Chris Nuzzi as the party’s candidate for town supervisor. Visibly stunned by the vote, Mr. Nuzzi declined to accept it days later, leaving the party without a candidate for the post it once had a stranglehold on—a misstep many saw as a key reason for Mr. Wruck’s dismissal. Ms. Kabot has since announced that she will wage a write-in campaign to reclaim her former office.

“Nuzzi was never going to do it—he couldn’t afford to,” one committeeman said, referring to the fact that Mr. Nuzzi likely would have had to quit the private job he holds as a part-time board member should he be elected supervisor, a full-time post. “But, as usual, the committee said, ‘We tell you what to do,’ and got stuck. We need people in charge that work all day and still have a hard time paying their mortgage. These guys don’t understand that.”

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Michael Wright has gotten the Town’s political history wrong.
During the 1980’s and 90’s despite the heavy Republican enrollment advantages numerous candidates who did not have the Republican endorsement or line served on the Town Board. Michael you might want to talk with Pat Neumann, Doug Penney, Roberta Hunter and Joanna Ferraro-Levy . Not a Republican candidate in that group. If memory serves me well need even an enrolled Republican in that group. However in the 90’s ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Oct 6, 11 6:38 PM
“The old guard still runs it,” said one committee member, who asked not to be named. “There’s four or five of them who steer things, elitist political insiders who run things for their own benefit and get their kids jobs at Town Hall. It has to stop.”

How now, brown cow?
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Oct 6, 11 6:49 PM
Your guy's got that right, Z. Nothing's changed, Countess Marietta and her crowd still run the show, period. Town Hall's a nest of Republican kids, relatives and pals, just like he says. And like he says, "it has to stop." How does that happen? Change the people at the controls, election coming up.

Just look at the last paragraph of this story, where it says even the critics can't forgive Schultz and Havemeyer for accepting the Dem nod. Think about that, either it means nothing's ...more
By clam pie (161), Westhampton on Oct 8, 11 10:39 AM