Hardy Plumbing
April 13, 2011

Indies Screening

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The East Hampton Independence Party will host a candidate screening in Scoville Hall later this month. Candidates for all town offices will have a chance to make their cases, but this year, according to party chair Elaine Jones, there could be some surprises.

Traditionally, the Independence Party has leaned towards Republicans when endorsing candidates. There have been endorsements of Democrats by the third party, most notably Councilman Pete Hammerle, who's garnered Indy support each time he's run. (Hammerle is said to be eyeing his fourth run for a four-year town board.)

This year, however, thanks to a growing number of Independence registrants the party may put together its own slate for town board and other seats. Last Friday night during the launch of Supervisor Bill Wilkinson's re-election campaign, Republican Party co-chair Rich Haeg (who is also a town board hopeful) said the committee wants to pick registered party members to run. Although no formal decision has been made, Wilkinson announced both Haeg and author Steven Gaines as potential town board candidates during his fundraiser.

Given the "party members only" policy, a third town board hopeful, Bill Mott, may run on the Independence line sans endorsement from a major party . . . unless the Dems, who have a less stringent policy, select him.

Mott, a longtime town trustee was passed over during the nominations for town board in 2007. Republicans picked one time party chair Bill Gardiner and Brian Gilbride (who went on to become Sag Harbor Village mayor) to run for town board. Mott prepped for a primary, but his petitions were invalidated after Gilbride challenged them. Mott subsequently registered with the Independence Party.

Jones this week derided the GOP's decision to stick with their own party members. "We've endorsed their candidates, I don't see why they can't endorse an Independence Party member," she said.

In recent years, party registration has rarely been a deal breaker. Town Clerk Fred Overton, a Republican, ditched the GOP and ran on the Democratic line several years ago after the Republicans failed to endorse Pat Mansir for town board. She won her re-election bid as a member of the Democratic ticket.

State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, County Legislator Jay Schneiderman and Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst are notable local Independence Party members. Throne-Holst has run with Democratic endorsements. Thiele lost the support of the GOP after he switched his registration. He went on to trounce his last opponent, running as a Democrat and Indie.

Although observers predicted Schneiderman's party switch was tantamount to political suicide, he garnered a three way cross endorsement during his last re-election bid. It's unlikely he'll enjoy the same unanimity this go round, with former Southampton Town Supervisor Skip Heaney looking to be the choice of both the GOP and Conservative Party.

The Independence Party of New York is the largest statewide third party political organization in the nation. As of 2010, it boasted 413,855 members. In East Hampton, there are about 800 registered Independence Party members. Those who wish to screen with the party should contact Jones at 631-267-8820.


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