Two Primaries Tuesday

Dems vie for town board; Indies vote for trustee
From Left, Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, Zachary Cohen, Jeffrey Bragman Durell Godfrey

On Tuesday, registered Democrats can vote in a primary election to select the party’s two candidates for a seat on the East Hampton Town Board, and members of the town’s Independence Party can select its 9 candidates for town trustee from a field of 10. 

In the Democratic primary, voters will choose between Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, an incumbent councilwoman, Jeffrey Bragman, an attorney, and Zachary Cohen, former candidate for supervisor who serves on a number of town and county committees. 

Ms. Burke-Gonzalez and Mr. Bragman received the East Hampton Town Democratic Committee’s endorsement. Mr. Cohen, who has also run for town trustee in the past, sought but did not receive the party’s endorsement, but forced a primary by filing a petition with well over the required number of signatures. The top two vote getters on Tuesday will win a spot on the Democratic ballot.

Mr. Bragman has represented the town’s architectural review board, zoning board of appeals, and planning board, as well as private applicants before various appointed boards. He was counsel to the North Haven Village Zoning Board of Appeals and served as that village’s attorney. He is a member of the Community Preservation Fund Advisory Opinions Bureau. East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell and Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. have endorsed his candidacy, he told the audience at an Aug. 28 Democratic primary debate at the East Hampton Library.

“For more than 30 years I’ve been a working dad here,” he said at the debate. “I’m running because East Hampton is my home, and I want to protect it. We all are entitled to have a future for our kids here. . . . My work requires me to listen to local residents, and increasingly I notice that many folks are uneasy about the power of money and the fact that it may drive us out of our small-town life.” The workings of government and “the honest rule of law” are the best tools to preserve the community, he said.

In materials distributed to the audience at the debate, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez, who prior to serving on the town board was a nine-year member of the Springs School Board, wrote that she is proud of “how I have worked with my colleagues on the town board to return civility, dignity, and respect to the business of the board.” 

Confidence in the town government has been restored, she wrote, citing the town’s recent budgets, which she said were both balanced and socially responsible. As a reflection of priorities, the budget demonstrates the community’s values, she wrote, pointing to funding for Meals on Wheels, mental health services for youth, the Eleanor Whitmore Early Childhood Center, and Project Most, an after-school program that operates in the East Hampton and Springs Schools. “As a working mother myself, I am fiercely committed to addressing the pressing needs of our children, seniors, and hard-working families,” she wrote.

“My service over last the four years on the town board and nine years on the school board has proven my dedication to this community and understanding of this community,” she said at the debate.

Mr. Cohen chairs the town’s nature preserve committee. “Most of my volunteer work has centered upon preserving and protecting our land and water,” he said at the debate. “It’s time to set our sights on preserving our community and the people and traditions that have shaped it.”

In the materials distributed at the debate, he said that he “will not allow shortsighted planning or inadequate science [to] lead to flawed outcomes.” If elected, “I will continue to fight to reduce our housing imbalance, and use my management skills to close gaps in our human services.”

Turning to the Independence Party primary for town trustee, like Mr. Cohen, Julie Evans was also passed over by her party, but gathered enough signatures to force a primary. 

The Independence Party endorsed the Republican candidates Diane McNally, an incumbent and the trustees’ former clerk, Joe Bloecker, a former trustee, and Susan Vorpahl, Lyndsey Hayes, and Gary Cobb, each making their first bid. The Independence Party also endorsed the Democrats Rick Drew and Bill Taylor, both incumbents and the trustees’ two deputy clerks, as well as Rona Klopman, a former candidate for trustee, and John Aldred, a new candidate who had been the director of the East Hampton Town Shellfish Hatchery. 

“It’s confusing to me,” Ms. Evans said on Monday. “I don’t know if it was clear to them,” she added, referring to Independence Party officers, “that I was an Independent.” Ms. Evans is a licensed captain who ran a charter fishing business with her late husband, and is a founding member of the Fisherman’s Emergency Fund, a nonprofit “dedicated to providing a safety net to the local fishing community in times of devastating loss,” according to a release she sent out last week. “If elected, it would be an honor to serve as trustee in the town that is my home for the past 32 years and put my degree in environmental science to good use.”

Elaine Jones, chairwoman of the East Hampton Independence Party, said on Monday that, “We chose those we believed have really taken interest. It’s quite an interesting slate.” 

Jerry Larsen, the former chief of the East Hampton Village Police Department and a registered member of the Independence Party, also attempted to force a primary for the Independence nomination, but the Democrats successfully challenged his petition and it was thrown out. He is seeking a seat on the town board and will appear on the Republican Party ticket. 

Only voters registered with the Democratic or Independence Parties can vote in the respective primaries on Tuesday. They can do so at their regular polling places between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.

The general election will be held on Nov. 7.