With local politics set to move into high gear, East Hampton Democrats are struggling with campaign support, while the Republicans are deep in the black, having raised more than $90,000 for their top candidates in the first half of 2011 — nearly eight times more than Democrats brought in.
According to July campaign disclosure statements filed with the New York State Board of Elections, the East Hampton Town Republican Committee began the year with a modest opening balance of $6,703 in its campaign account, but that has grown exponentially over the course of the year, bolstered by $89,355 in contributions as of July 11, including $8,000 in corporate donations alone. The Republicans also reported an impressive $40,388 in expenditures, paying more than $13,000 to Data Tech Solutions of Bohemia for campaign mailings as well as $5,000 in consultation fees to Strategic Planning.
Trace Duryea, chairwoman of the East Hampton Town Republican Committee, said that while the constant pressure to raise money for the party is “not her favorite part of the job,” she also finds fund-raising immensely gratifying.
“Obviously we get some very generous and affluent supporters and while all our contributors are important, the ones that are really important are people sending $10 or $25.” While Ms. Duryea supports the Republication agenda, she says that she largely believes that everyone in the community wants the same things, but the parties have different ways of trying to achieve those goals.
“There are some expectations in politics with quid pro quo, but I think there isn’t too much of that here,” Ms. Duryea said. “Members of the town board are not politicians — they want to help the community during a difficult situation. They are making a big financial sacrifice — these are not part-time jobs.”
The most significant contributions made to the Republican campaign in the first half of the year were by the real estate tycoon and former Metropolitan Transit Authority chairman Peter Kalikow, and his wife, Mary, of New York and Montauk, who each donated $5,000 to the G.O.P. The Kalikows were followed by Steven Tuma of Wainscott, who contributed $5,000, and Andy Sabin and David Seeler, both of Amagansett, who each donated $2,500. Charles Durkin Jr. of East Hampton and New York City, Stanley Arkin of Amagansett, Barry Bistrian of East Hampton, and Nancy McCaffrey of Wainscott each donated $2,000 to the campaign.
The Republican Committee received $1,000 donations from Thomas Knobel of Holbrook, a former East Hampton G.O.P. chairman; Michael Myers and Irving Paler of Wainscott; Ed Nash, Mary Ella Moeller, Jane Talmage, Marie Duryea, Alexander Laughlin, Harvey Horowitz, and Joseph Perella of East Hampton; Michael Miglino, Tina Piette, and Kent Miller of Amagansett; Donald G. Schrage of Springs, and David Lee of Sag Harbor.
In terms of significant corporate donations, Montauk Lake Club and Double K Management Corp., both of Montauk, each gave $2,000.
Bill Wilkinson, the Republicans’ candidate for supervisor, reported $750 in contributions for his political committee, Wilkinson for Supervisor, in the first half of this year, $500 of which was donated by Perry Duryea of Montauk. In addition, Richard Haeg, a Republication candidate for town board, raised $2,479 for his political committee, Friends of Richard Haeg, with Michael Meyers of Wainscott giving $1,000, the maximum allowed to a candidate’s committee. Steven Gaines, the other Republican town board candidate, raised $1,010, with $500 coming from Laurence Kirshbaum of New York and Wainscott.
Their Democratic rivals, Zachary Cohen for supervisor, and Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc for town board, had not set up their own campaign committees as of mid-July. “We’re very much a cooperative group — the money gets put in and we use it as we see best,” Mr. Cohen said.
So far, however, the East Hampton Town Democratic Committee and its separate campaign committee, Campaign 2011, do not have much to work with.
The East Hampton Town Democratic Committee began the year with about half the opening balance of the Republicans, approximately $3,500. In the first half of the year, the Democratic Committee and Campaign 2011 raised $11,975. Of that, the Democratic Committee gathered $7,995, while Campaign 2011 brought in $3,980, more than half of which was donated by the committee’s treasurer, David Gruber of East Hampton.
July found the Democratic Committee $4,318 in debt, due to $15,738 in expenditures. Of those, $3,333 went to the Suffolk County Democratic Committee in Bohemia for consulting, having spent $15,738 in the first half of the year, according to the July campaign finance report filed with the New York State Board of Elections. Of that, $3,333 went to the Suffolk County Democratic Committee in Bohemia for consulting and $3,081 was spent on campaign literature. Campaign 2011 reported a balance of $2,041 as of mid-July, after spending $1,939 in the first half of the year, $1,460 of that on a campaign mailing.
Zachary Cohen, the Democratic candidate for town supervisor, explained that at this point fund-raising is not the focal point of his campaign or the Democratic Party in general. In the early part of the election year, Mr. Cohen concentrated instead on face-to-face meetings, working to garner support and future funding through fostering of personal relationships.
“I’ve never run before,” Mr. Cohen said. “I don’t have that sort of group of standard contributors that you would normally call up. I haven’t avoided fund-raising, it’s part of my responsibility, but often it’s just about meeting with groups of one or four or eight — people who are very issue-oriented — and setting the stage for them to possibly donate.”
The most significant direct supporters of the Democratic Committee, other than Mr. Gruber, were Richard G. Davis of Amagansett and Charles A. Ehren of East Hampton, who both gave $250. The remaining contributions ranged from $10 to $200.
Mr. Cohen said that he wasn’t happy with the direction that the town has taken under the current supervisor and Republican majority, especially what he called a growing nonchalance toward environmental issues and the preservation of open space.
Supporting the pursuit of these policies as well are the East Hampton Conservators, a political action committee that has thrown its financial backing behind Democratic candidates in the past several elections. The Conservators raised nearly $60,000 between Jan. 15 and mid July.
The PAC's biggest contributor was its founder, Alec Baldwin, who gave $6,000 in the first six months of the year. Charline Spektor of Amagansett was close behind Mr. Baldwin, donating $5,000. William Rockford of Scottsdale, Az., and East Hampton, Robert Rifkind of Wainscott and New York City, and Peter Morton, who gave a Los Angeles address, all contributed $2,500. William Ford of Detroit donated $2,000. Giving $1,000 were Peter Handal of East Hampton, Melville Strauss, Stuart Match Suna, Katherine Rayner, Joseph Rice, Carol Leibenson of East Hampton and New York, Ken Landis of Wainscott and New York, Elizabeth De Cuevas of Amagansett and New York, Ann Mallouk of Greenport, and Madeline Pachella, Sophie Pachella, and Bruce Bozzi, all of whom gave New York City addresses.
Corporate contributions came from Marders of Bridgehampton, which donated $2,500, and the Daniel and Joanna Rose Fund of New York City, which gave $1,000.
Of the total $34,155 expenditures the East Hampton Conservators reported as of July, more than $20,000 of it was spent with public relations firm, Mullen and McCaffrey of Springs, to raise public awareness of the PAC’s causes.
Both Ms. Duryea and Mr. Cohen said they expected upcoming events to significantly bolster their campaign funds. Ms. Duryea says that while the Republican Party isn’t directly targeting a younger demographic than previous years, she believes that younger voters are just beginning to really “get it.”
“The level of concern has intensified,” she said. “Now it’s really affecting their lives, because for the most part they are middle class and it’s harder and harder for them to exist here.” The Republicans’ Sept. 9 party at East Hampton Point should appeal to this younger contingency of voters, Ms. Duryea said.
The Democrats are throwing their own big fund-raiser on Sept. 2 at Linda James’s house on Hook Pond Lane in East Hampton — one of several upcoming events that Mr. Cohen believes will bring in “five figures” in contributions to the party and help to dramatically shift the playing field.
While the Democrats are decidedly the underdogs in fund-raising this year, Mr. Cohen is optimistic the situation will improve. “I think the standard is that the incumbent takes the lead and then the challenger will catch up and then hopefully, takes the lead instead.”