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Nov 30, 2011 11:26 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

New Brand Of Politics In The Future For Southampton Trustees

Nov 30, 2011 11:41 AM

The Southampton Town Trustees have for decades been largely detached from the rancor of town politics. Of course, it was easy to keep politics out of the mix when the board was, for the better part of four decades and 20 election cycles, all Republican.

But now politics, and the policy and personal concerns that come with it, have washed over the Trustees.

Two of the longtime incumbent Republicans, Trustees Eric Shultz and Fred Havemeyer, say they do not expect to be on the GOP ticket in two years when they seek reelection, having been shunned by the party in the midst of the recent election campaign. Both filed paperwork this week with the Suffolk County Board of Elections to begin the process of formally changing their registration to Democrat, a move that wouldn’t take effect until after elections in 2012.

The switch would rob the Republican Party of a majority on the board for the first time in more than a half century, and set up a 2013 campaign that would have the potential to upset the apple cart even further.

Mr. Shultz and Mr. Havemeyer, both longtime Republicans starting their eighth and fifth terms on the Trustees boards, respectively, say they have been told the Republican Party will not endorse them again in the future after they both accepted cross-endorsements from the Democratic Party this year.

“Eric and I are seen as having gone against the Republicans, so we will have to align our political affiliations in the future with those parties that see our efforts as being in the interest of the town residents and freeholders,” Mr. Havemeyer said. “The Democrats were very gracious and far-seeing in cross-endorsing us this time. Times change.”

Were the two incumbents to switch parties and, presumably, garner the Democratic endorsement again in 2013, both parties likely would field full Trustee tickets, which would mean as many as five new challengers on the ballot, and put all of the incumbents’ seats at risk. For a board that has rarely seen more than one or two serious challengers to incumbents in an election, the prospect is foreign territory.

“Politics has really come into the heart of the Trustees now, and it’s a shame,” said incumbent Trustee Ed Warner Jr. “I don’t know what the thought process behind it was, but this was undoubtedly the most political Trustees election I’ve ever seen, even back to my father being a Trustee for three decades—and the next one looks to be the same thing.”

The tide of Trustees politics began to change when Bill Pell, a registered Independent endorsed by the Democratic Party, won election to the board on his third try in 2009. In the run-up to the 2011 campaign, the town’s Republican Committee refused to cross-endorse Mr. Pell, despite support by the Republican incumbents on the board. Instead, the party put up a challenger, Scott Horowitz, seeking to regain the fifth seat on the board for the GOP—but at the same time increasing the possibility that one of the Republican incumbents could be bounced from the board.

That is where the vote counting began. Mr. Shultz, the Board of Trustees president, running for his eighth term on the board, did not receive the endorsement of either the Conservative Party or the Independence Party, both reliable supporters of the incumbent Trustees through many elections. The loss of Conservative Party support, typically an automatic endorsement for a Republican, was, according to party officials, rooted in a series of Trustees lawsuits against residents of West Hampton Dunes, including the tiny village’s mayor, Gary Vegliante, over land the residents claim they should be able to build on but the Trustees say is publicly owned.

Without the two additional lines and the more than 1,000 votes that could be expected to come with them, Mr. Shultz found himself at a substantial disadvantage to Mr. Pell and Republican challenger Scott Horowitz. When the Democratic Party offered to cross-endorse two of the Trustees to fill out their ticket, he accepted, effectively assuring himself reelection.

But the additional security for Mr. Shultz pushed Mr. Havemeyer into an uncertain realm. Having turned down the Working Families Party line, he now felt he was at a disadvantage.

“That left me and [incumbent Trustee Ed Warner Jr.] and Scott [Horowitz] running for two seats,” Mr. Havemeyer recalled, excepting Trustee Jon Semlear, who had the Working Families endorsement and the 300-plus votes it brings with it. “Warner is a Warner, and Horowitz had $45,000 in his campaign chest, so that leaves me the low guy on the pole. I’d lost my safety cushion—and out of nowhere comes this endorsement from the Democrats. They threw me a life ring, so I took it.”

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Party affiliation has become irrelevant in this town. The democrats back Independence party candidates (not to be confused with indepenDENT) and then convince republicans to run as democrats, but where are the real democrats? The progressive candidates who do not change their party to suit the public mood? It is all a sham.
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Nov 30, 11 3:23 PM
1 member liked this comment
I have never quite figured out how the voting for the Trustees pans out in Southampton Town. It seems like Fred Havemeyer is always the lead "vote getter". Why? He is a nice guy. He does work very hard as a Trustee. That being said...how many people that vote for the trustees, ever have any dealings with them? How many actually know how hard Fred, Jon, and Ed work for this town? I do think there should be term limits.

By c'mon now (46), southampton on Nov 30, 11 7:49 PM
Term limits is a very good idea.
By fix-it-now (216), sag harbor on Nov 30, 11 8:56 PM
I imagine the voices of these civil servants to sound much like the teacher on Charlie Brown.
By Frissel (5), East Hampton on Dec 1, 11 8:23 AM
So Mayor Gary Vegliante's campaign to eliminate the Trustees who are preventing him from developing the washover bore fruit! Thank god that it was ultimately unsuccessful.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Dec 1, 11 1:03 PM
1 member liked this comment
I nearly threw up after reading this drivel written by Michael Wright. When is this guy going to get the facts straight. A reporter is supposed to investigate a story and talk to everyone involved. Where did he get the figure for the community chest of Mr. Horowitz? Why didn't he state that the money Mr. Horowitz raised was used for radio ads and signs backing himself, Mr. Warner and Mr. Semlear. They didn't raise a dime for the "team". When they finally brought in some donations, it went ...more
By bobalooey (45), East Quogue on Dec 4, 11 12:26 AM
It's good that we have calm, detached, nonpartisan commenters like bobalooey to lend an air of reasoned discourse to the site. It's also good to be able to rely on bobalooey for accurate data like Ed Walsh being head of the Independence Party. Get a grip, lad.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Dec 5, 11 2:06 PM
It's time for you to relax, Bobalooey, or you'll develop an ulcer. The campaign's over.

Highhatsize has it exactly right. Kudos!
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Dec 4, 11 2:04 AM
c'mon now was first to mention term limits.

Sure the campaigns are over but the dealing goes on and on and on.
By fix-it-now (216), sag harbor on Dec 4, 11 7:43 PM
Don't forget that this whole deal is about someone or several someones in the GOP crowd making money off the West Hampton Dunes real estate scam and pulling the knife on Eric Schultz and any other Trustees who have the nerve to stand in the way of that scam. Remember when Cornelius Kelly wanted to run for Trustee instead of County Legislator, and said he was running specifically against Eric Schultz. Mayor Veg the Despoiler and his buddies have some potent allies in the local Republican organization ...more
By clam pie (161), Westhampton on Dec 19, 11 1:54 PM