Hardy Plumbing
April 27, 2011

Indies Select Own Slate



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Monday night the East Hampton Independence Party voted to run its own town board ticket for the first time in over a decade, a move predicted in this newspaper last week. Following open interviews in Scoville Hall in Amagansett, the six person screening committee voted to support Bill Mott and Marilyn Behan for town board. The committee broke with tradition and decided to wait before naming their pick for town supervisor.

And that's quite a break.

Indies have been ardent supporters of the Republican standard bearer, incumbent Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, since his first unsuccessful bid in 2007. However, several Wilky measures, in particular the recent layoff of two town employees and the controversial music festival, have angered the group, which advocates passionately for locals and town workers.

During the screening Monday night, the committee questioned both Wilkinson and his challenger Zach Cohen cordially. Late Monday night party chair Elaine Jones said the group decided to hold back on naming a favorite for the seat because, "We have concerns about the leadership in both parties." According to some insiders, the Indies may decide to offer either candidate their line.

Jones was unwilling to expand on the apparent rift with the Republicans, but it could hurt the GOP, which has come to count on endorsements from the party. (In 2009 Councilman Dominick Stanzione secured his victory thanks to votes from Independence Party members.) While Indies have endorsed some Dems in the past, it generally leans towards Republican candidates.

This go-round, however, all that may change.

The candidate for town highway superintendent could play a key part in decision-making. On Monday night, the screening committee selected Steve Lynch to run for the position. Lynch ran unsuccessfully on the GOP ticket for highway supe in 2007.

So far Montauk resident and town trustee Joe Bloecker has been mentioned as the Republican Committee's favorite, and news that the Democrats may nominate current highway honcho Scott King for the job could be behind Jones's statement about leadership concerns.

King was embroiled in a scandal exposed by The Independent last year. Employees charged he referred to them using racial epithets and was an abusive manager, sometimes even physically. The town undertook an investigation into the matter, but citing confidentiality requirements, never revealed its outcome. Should King be named designee, the scandal, as well as additional information that was withheld last year, may become a focus of the campaign, not to mention ammunition for the GOP.

Monday night, the party also endorsed incumbent Lisa Rana for Town Justice (She's challenged by perennial Democratic candidate Steve Grossman), and incumbents Jill Massa (R) and Jeanne Nielsen (D) for town assessors. Information about the trustee slate was not immediately available.

The last time the Independence Party ran its own ticket was the mid-90s. Jones explained that the committee's decision this election season was aided by weeks of speaking with community members about potential candidates. "This isn't just our decision," she emphasized, "It's what the people we've talked to want."

"I'm thrilled with these candidates," Jones effused. "We love Bill and Marilyn is a delight – down to earth, smart and personable. Both have long histories of community service in East Hampton Town."

A lifelong resident of East Hampton, Mott is a long time town trustee. Behan was executive director of the Montauk Chamber of Commerce for a number of years, but the registered Democrat is perhaps best known as wife of one time GOP chair, and former state assemblyman John Behan of Montauk.

kmerrill@indyeastend.com

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