Steven Gaines, who is running for East Hampton Town Board on the Republican line, announced the creation of a new local political party this week called the Opportunity Party.
The New York State Board of Elections okayed the new party after receiving 782 signatures on a petition. Mr. Gaines said the month-long process of gathering the signatures gave him a good chance to exchange ideas and concerns.
“You walk up and down the streets, you stand in front of the post office, and you meet your local voters to find out what the concerns are of the people here,” he said. “It created a sense of discourse. I got to hear what a lot of people were thinking. If I got 782 signatures, then I definitely spoke to about 1,500 people.”
Mr. Gaines described himself as a lifelong Democrat who aligns with the party on a national level. On a local level, however, he said the Democratic party was in disarray, and that he had jumped at the chance to run on the Republican ticket.
“When I was asked to run with Bill Wilkinson, I said, ‘I’m not running because he’s a Republican or not. I’m running because I watched this town almost destroyed financially.’ I’m part of a large group that Bill has put together. I didn’t have any trepidation running under the Republican ticket because I am who I am. And believe me, no one has ever tried to influence my opinions or thoughts. No one wants me to hew to a certain philosophy.”
Mr. Gaines said many of his supporters were disconcerted to find him on the G.O.P. ticket. The Opportunity Party, he hopes, will woo back Democratic and independent voters.
“They wanted to vote for me, but not on the Republican ticket,” he explained. “I realized there was a way of getting my constituents who really cared about getting me elected, but who couldn’t bear to pull the Republican lever, to vote for me as a person. There are a lot of independent voters and thinkers who were sick and tired of the polarization of the parties.”
Mr. Gaines said the Opportunity Party was not for him alone, or for this particular election, or for any particular party, but an opportunity for voters to make a more open-ended choice, one they believed in as opposed to feeling obligated by.
“When you go into the voting booth, somewhere in that morass you’ll see the Opportunity Party,” he said with a laugh. “I’m hoping it will stay alive out here and we’ll nurture it.”