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Mar 24, 2009 5:34 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

GOP may not back Schneiderman

Mar 24, 2009 5:34 PM

Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, who defected from the Republican Party last summer, has announced that he will seek a fourth two-year term as the South Fork’s representative on the Suffolk County Legislature.

While Mr. Schneiderman retains the support of the East Hampton Town Republican Committee, his future among Southampton Town Republicans is murky.

Mr. Schneiderman, who collected 70 percent of the vote against Neil Tiger, a former Democratic Suffolk Board of Elections commissioner who did not run an active campaign in 2007, said that he hopes his name recognition and the backing of his hometown GOP committee will help him carry the rest of the 2nd Legislative District—which includes all of East Hampton and Southampton and two districts in East Moriches in Brookhaven Town.

But the Southampton Town Republicans are screening at least two other candidates for the seat, and Mr. Schneiderman said that they were not receptive to his run when he attended a screening last week.

“They were very hard on me, but it doesn’t hurt to ask,” he said. “In Southampton, they seemed to think that I was disloyal.”

Southampton Town GOP Chairman Marcus Stinchi shared that assessment.

“He requested to screen with us. It wasn’t a warm welcome,” he said. “People have worked very hard for him in our organization to get him elected. I didn’t hear the answer about why he made the change. He claims he still has Republican values at heart, but it didn’t sit too well with the committee.”

Mr. Stinchi added that the Southampton Republicans have screened one other candidate for Mr. Schneiderman’s seat and plan to screen another candidate next month. They will announce their decision after a nominating convention in May.

He said that former Republican Southampton Town Supervisor Patrick Heaney, whom East Hampton GOP Chairman John Behan had suggested last year would be a likely candidate for Mr. Schneiderman’s seat, has not asked to screen with the Southampton Republicans.

Mr. Schneiderman said that he may screen with the Southampton Town Democrats in the upcoming weeks.

“We’ve known Jay for a long time. Jay and I have been in contact over the past couple of months,” said Southampton Town Democratic Chairman Gordon Herr. “I personally don’t have any concerns about him screening.”

Last summer, Mr. Schneiderman held a press conference in which he dropped a new voter registration card in a mailbox in Montauk, proclaiming that he was now officially a member of the Independence Party. He cited the social and foreign policy blunders of the Bush administration as his primary concerns for leaving the Republican ranks.

At the time the move was a symbolic one, but now that election season has come again, the practical consequences of Mr. Schneiderman’s decision may be revealed.

“Regardless, I’m planning on being on the ballot. I’m planning on being on the Independence line,” said Mr. Schneiderman. “I now have six years in the legislature. Every one of those years I’ve delivered a tax cut or held the line on property taxes. I have a long track record on environmental preservation, public health and safety.”

Mr. Schneiderman said that the county is now facing $100 million in budget shortfalls, primarily due to a decrease in sales tax revenue. He said he plans to spend this year helping to balance the budget.

“I am somebody who is skilled in budgeting and in math in general,” said the legislator, who is a former math, science and music teacher. Mr. Schneiderman said that he also hopes to push for a county bus that runs on Sundays.

Suffolk County GOP Chairman Harry Withers said this week that it’s up to the towns to decide if they want Mr. Schneiderman on the Republican ballot, after which their decision will be ratified by the county party at a convention in late May. He said that the individual towns do not have the authority to officially cross-endorse Mr. Schneiderman on the ballot.

Brookhaven GOP Chairman Jesse Garcia, whose committee may cast the deciding vote as to whether Mr. Schneiderman is cross-endorsed, could not be reached for comment.

“I will follow the mandate of my various towns,” said Mr. Withers.

Much could hinge, though, on how Southampton Town, which is the most populous area in the 2nd Legislative District, votes in May.

“If the county and Southampton Town have no intention of supporting him, our endorsement wouldn’t mean much,” said John Behan, of the East Hampton Town Republican Committee.

“If he wants to run for reelection, even though he’s not a Republican, we would endorse him,” said Mr. Behan. “We haven’t sought any other candidates. The Town of Southampton supposedly has other candidates, but I haven’t been contacted by them. We always supported Jay. We’re all confused and disappointed why he decided to enroll in the Independence Party. He looks like, votes like and sounds like a Republican and he’s never done anything wrong for the district.”

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It seems that the only complaint anyone has against Jay Schneiderman is his recent change of party affiliation. Since that was done because of differences over national policy, it's irrelevant to this County race. All the local party leaders, Republican and Democratic, are taking a common-sense approach to the issue, with the sole exception of the Southampton Republicans, who seem badly miffed that Schneiderman won't wear their tee-shirt any more. Get over it, guys.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Mar 25, 09 10:12 AM
We should applaud Mr Schneiderman's courage to stand up for his principals. I for one can guarantee he'll get my vote.
By Soundview (89), Hampton bays on Mar 25, 09 5:29 PM
I am glad that Mr. Schneiderman has withdrawn from the Southampton Republican machine. The leaders of that party have dominated Southampton Town Hall for too many years and I bet that they are not to happy with those who do not toe their party line. The leaders of the SH Republican Party do not represent the SH Republicans that I know. Here here Jay!!
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Mar 26, 09 4:28 PM
Jay looks out for the East End. He may be a little wishy washy sometimes, but he does have a good heart.
By gordie howe (55), hockeytown usa on Mar 26, 09 7:24 PM
I met Jay at a recent civic meeting. I like his flexability and the way he demonstrated that no posture is invincible. I will support him if he is looking for help
By fazool (22), Southampton on Mar 28, 09 8:29 PM
Wishy washy...do you call someone wishy washy if on a major bill that will support local families in which he stated to me "I'll sit on the fence"...is that OK for You Gordie Howe!!! NOT FOR ME!!!!! He deserves NO VOTE!!!! How many of you Commenting ACTUALLY went to even One Suffolk Legistlature Meeting!!!!
GET YOUR FACTS BEFORE SUPPORTING A CANDIDATE!!!!!
ps He may be great fun at the Scanlon party playing bongos, but he is not a leader for our communities!!!!
By UNITED states CITIZEN (207), SOUTHAMPTON on Mar 29, 09 5:41 PM