As Election Day nears, endorsement announcements in the East Hampton Town race are beginning to trickle in, with the big news of this week being State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle’s and Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele’s support of the incumbent supervisor Bill Wilkinson, a Republican.
Mr. Thiele, an Independence Party member, is also endorsing Bill Mott, an Independence Party candidate, for town board.
Also this week, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Democrats of Suffolk County weighed in on the local race, endorsing the Democratic slate, Zach Cohen for supervisor and Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc for town board, as well as Scott King for highway superintendent, and Sima Freierman, Stephen Lester, Samuel Kramer, Rona Klopman, Nanci LaGarenne, Loretta Sears, and Deborah Klughers for town trustees.
In an interview yesterday, Mr. Thiele said that typically, state politicians do not get involved on such a local level, but “given the depth of the crisis in East Hampton,” he and Mr. LaValle, a Republican, decided it was necessary. They have found Mr. Wilkinson a “good partner” in tackling the town’s fiscal troubles. Mr. Thiele says Mr. Wilkinson’s competence in working to reduce the $27 million deficit he inherited is the crux of the reason he chose to support him for a second term. Mr. Thiele and Mr. LaValle also endorsed Mr. Wilkinson in 2009.
“Our decision really had to do with the work I’ve done with Wilkinson in regards to town’s finances,” he said. The state lawmakers worked with Mr. Wilkinson on two pieces of legislation — a deficit financing bill and another giving the town athority to finance a voluntary employee separation incentive bill — and have seen him produce “two balanced budgets. Finances, fiscal policies, and budgeting from the federal level to the state on down is going to continue to be the big issue for the next two years.”
Mr. Thiele said that both he and Senator LaValle believe Mr. Wilkinson deserves to finish the good work he has done on straightening out the town’s finances.
Steve Henaghan, chairman of Gay and Lesbian Democrats, explained that his group’s endorsements were based on candidates’ responses to a questionnaire addressing issues that directly affect the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community from marriage equality and the civil rights of transgender individuals to abortion and hate crime legislation.
Mr. Henaghan explained in an interview yesterday that although the candidates running for these particular offices would not likely have to address these issues directly, it was of utmost importance to understand the candidates’ individual stances on these controversial topics.
“Obviously we were concerned about marriage equality,” he said. “We wanted to know if the [candidates] personally support this law and would they speak out against those who want to weaken or overturn it. We also wanted to make sure they were supportive of transgender issues. Would they personally support a bill called the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, which will grant the basic civil rights the everyone else has. These folks were very supportive of all of these issues.”