Wilkinson Will Run Again (2008)

(4/3/2008) Bill Wilkinson, who ran for East Hampton Town supervisor on the Republican, Working Families, Independence, and Conservative Party lines in 2007, has confirmed this week what many have suspected since the election. With the blessing of the Republican Committee, which is all but assured, he will run again in 2009.

“Nothing has changed since I ran,” Mr. Wilkinson said yesterday. The same issues he campaigned on — fiscal management, business processes, responsible budgeting — are as critical as ever, he said. And now they are getting far broader attention with the release of the 2006 audit earlier this year, the state’s decision to conduct a full audit of the town’s finances, and the Suffolk County district attorney’s subpoenas of town budget records relating to the use of community preservation funds.

“I remember asking [Supervisor Bill McGintee] in one debate, ‘What is the surplus?’ And he said he didn’t know,” Mr. Wilkinson said. The 2006 audit showed that there was a $3.3 million deficit at the end of that year and that, at that point, the town had overspent its budget by $2 million.

Mr. McGintee won re-election to a third term by just over 100 votes, an extremely narrow margin considering Mr. Wilkinson was a political unknown at the start of his campaign. Since the election, Mr. Wilkinson said, he has “met more people and found more support. People are starting to understand what I was speaking about and they’re frustrated that it was denied.”

During a campaign, he said, it is hard to convince people that the points you’re raising are “an honest review of the facts” and not “a politicized statement.” The poor state of the town’s finances was obvious to those campaigning on the Republican ticket but “difficult to communicate to voters,” he said. Now, that is something many people are talking about.

Mr. McGintee “has gone from a January inauguration address where he said the town was in great financial shape to a statement in Newsday saying we’re in dismal shape,” Mr. Wilkinson said.

He thinks a Republican team, organized under the party’s new chairman, John Behan, would be in an excellent spot to do well in the next election. “The party is meeting with regularity and setting some goals,” he said, praising Mr. Behan’s leadership. “He is a very wise and astute politician.”