Earlier this year if you had asked about the upcoming local political season in East Hampton, the response would have been little more than a shrug. Not anymore.
Election 2011 got very interesting when word came down that the Republicans were going to run Steven Gaines, the tell-all author, and Richard Haeg, a former cop, for town board. Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, no surprise, is in it again, seeking valedictory affirmation after a year and a half in office.
The East Hampton Democrats’ pick of Zach Cohen for supervisor, announced this week, came as more of a surprise. But as a by-the-book, straight-ahead numbers guy, he is sort of the anti-Wilkinson, so the choice has a certain logic. The Dems’ selection of Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc for the two open town board seats signals that the party is also looking to score points on land-use issues; both have been fully involved members of the East Hampton Town Planning Board.
The real wrinkle this year comes from the Independence Party, whose leadership has made no secret of its dislike of the current board majority. Its members have tapped Marilyn Behan to run for town board. She is, intriguingly, a Democrat, married to John Behan, who is the town Republican’s vice chairman. The Independents’ other pick was Bill Mott, a town trustee who has run for the seat before.
The Independence Party, amping up the drama, has not released the name of its candidate for supervisor. But it is expected to run someone for highway superintendent, possibly Stephen Lynch, who was in as a Republican four years ago and would face off against Joe Bloecker for the Republicans and, presumably, Scott King for the Democrats. If this pans out it should be a very lively race.
East Hampton seems to be at a crossroads in some ways, almost an xistential turning point between the forces of overdevelopment and private privilege on one side and tradition, care of the environment, and concern for the rights of neighbors on the other. Do long-time residents believe that there has been too much of the former in the last few years and not enough of the latter? That remains to be seen.
It will be an entertaining run to the November polls, to say the least.