The East Hampton Town Republican Committee made its 2011 nominee selections official this week, with Richard Haeg of East Hampton and Steven Gaines of Wainscott locking hands with Supervisor Bill Wilkinson at the top of the ballot. In an unexpected move, the Republicans also endorsed Stephen Lynch of East Hampton, the Independence Party nominee for highway superintendent. He will face off against Scott King, who is the incumbent and garnered criticism for his allegedly contentious relationship with town employees.
Mr. King, who came to the highway superintendent position after serving as deputy to his predecessor, Chris Russo, for three years, ran as a Republican for the position before Mr. Russo asked him to join the department. He owned his own business, Maidstone Driveways, before entering public service.
Mr. Haeg, a private detective, Vietnam veteran, and holder of a United States Coast Guard master’s license, said his background in investigative work would be an asset.
“I’m a firm believer in the people of this town. I want it to be a great town. I’ve got a good amount of insight on what the board is doing on a daily basis. I think that I bring a good, rounded investigative background which will help the board to look deeper into situations that we have in town.”
Mr. Haeg said that the town’s finances and overcrowding in Springs would be his top priorities.
Mr. Gaines, a best-selling author and magazine journalist, went into greater detail on his vision of a more cooperative town government, and expressed concern about the lack of “big-picture” budget thinking by some members of the community.
“People are worried about leaf pick-up when the town is $27 million in debt,” he said. “People aren’t worried about the next generation, about our bond rating, about affordable housing, about the future of this community. These are major things going on, and people are getting sidetracked by the ankle-biters.”
Mr. Gaines called land use, “as it’s always been out here,” the greatest issue at stake, and praised Mr. Wilkinson’s tenure as supervisor.
“I just think he’s doing a fantastic job. I’m very excited about being part of that team. He’s formed a team of the best and the brightest. Each contributes something else to the equation,” Mr. Gaines said of the G.O.P. ticket.
Mr. Lynch, reached by phone Tuesday, said his challenge to Mr. King will rest primarily on questions of leadership and management style.
“The morale of the department is way down. The men get no respect at all. Everything is micromanaged, and you can’t run anything by micromanaging. I’ve been in business 30 years, and and if I micromanaged, I wouldn’t be,” Mr. Lynch said.
As the owner of a contracting company that bears his name, Mr. Lynch said, he is experienced at excavation, trucking, drainage, driveway installation, and swimming pool construction.
His opponent, Mr. King, when asked yesterday whether he intended to seek another term, took the unusual step of deferring to the Democratic Committee, indicating that if they nominate him at their convention on Monday, he will run. Joe Bloecker of Montauk, a Republican town trustee, has also been through the Democrats’ screening process for highway superintendent.
Mr. Gaines and Mr. Haeg will compete for town board seats with two Democrats, Sylvia Overby of Amagansett and Peter Van Scoyoc of East Hampton, as well as Bill Mott of East Hampton and Marilyn Behan of Montauk, the Independence Party nominees.
Because Mr. Gaines and Mr. Haeg have been effusive in their praise of Mr. Wilkinson’s year-and-a-half tenure, their candidacies will be closely linked to his electoral fate as he squares off against the Democratic nominee for town supervisor, Zach Cohen of Springs.
The new candidates do not shy away from the association.
“I’m very impressed with what they’ve done in a year and a half,” Mr. Haeg said of the current board and the supervisor at its helm. “I don’t think you can go anywhere in the county and find a supervisor who has actually acheived almost every campaign promise in a year and a half time. He’s not only righted the ship, he’s sailing it through a minefield, and I’m honored to be part of his team.”