There may be nine months to go before Election Day, but already in East Hampton Town, Republicans are close to firming up their slate and Democrats are gearing up for serious deliberations over who will get the top spots on their ticket.
Incumbents will step down from some key positions at Town Hall at the end of the year, opening the field to new faces or familiar ones in different roles.
County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, who was twice elected town supervisor under the Republican banner, is considering a Town Hall comeback, again with Republican support. As of this week, he was the only one the East Hampton Town Republican Committee had interviewed for that position, according to the committee’s chairman, Kurt Kappel. Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, who has not yet said whether he is considering another run, “knew there was a screening and he didn’t show up,” Mr. Kappel said Tuesday. “Screening is a very important part of the process.”
“Jay wants to be supervisor of East Hampton, and he said, ‘I will set the standard of how to campaign,’ ” Mr. Kappel said. “He was there before. He knows the job.”
As a legislator, “it’s been a good run,” said Mr. Schneiderman, who is in his fifth term with the county and can run for one final term. He has accomplished a lot of what he set out to do at the county level, including widening County Road 39, getting the county buses to run on Sundays, and getting his district its fair share of county sales tax, he said, but “there are a lot of things on the local level I feel I could play a helpful role in solving.” The town needs “somebody who can pull the community together, be bipartisan, and look out for the community’s broader interest.”
“I’m still waiting to hear what Supervisor Wilkinson is doing,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “I’m assuming he’s not going to run for re-election because he hasn’t indicated that he is. I want to see what his intentions are.” In the meantime, Mr. Schneiderman said he is keeping his options open as he weighs whether to run to keep his seat or to take back his old job, and even, perhaps, to look at Albany or Washington.
Although he would love to run at some point for higher office, he said he likes working on the local level because “you can really have an impact on people’s lives. . . . With each step up is also a step further away from home, from the people you know, from friends and community. As a supervisor you really get to interact with people in a very close way, a very direct way.”
Democrats screen hopeful candidates and announce their slate later than East Hampton’s G.O.P. However, Larry Cantwell, the soon-to-retire East Hampton Village administrator and a former town councilman, is the name that comes up most often as the Democrats’ likely choice for supervisor. Zachary Cohen, who lost to Mr. Wilkinson by just 15 votes in 2011, and Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc are also in the mix for the supervisor slot.
Mr. Cantwell said yesterday that he hasn’t made a final decision on whether to run, but added, “I think it would be good for East Hampton to have a serious debate about the issues. East Hampton is facing some serious issues. Coastal erosion, nitrogen loading into the groundwater, the airport — these are serious issues that are going to affect the future of East Hampton for a long time.”
The G.O.P. screened potential candidates for supervisor, highway superintendent, and town trustee on Jan. 29 and will screen for town board, justice, town clerk, assessor, and additional trustees on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the American Legion in Amagansett. Democrats have put out the call for interested candidates but will not begin the interview process until later this month, said Betty Mazur, chairwoman of the East Hampton Town Democrats’ screening committee.
Republican Councilwoman Theresa Quigley said several weeks ago that she would not seek re-election to a second term. And Fred Overton, the town clerk, will not run to keep that job, but is instead lining up for a town councilman candidacy alongside the incumbent Republican Councilman Dominick Stanzione. Although Mr. Stanzione had come under heavy fire last year from some members of the Republican Committee, he seems to be in favor now with the committee as a whole. Mr. Overton has told the G.O.P. he’s interested in running for councilman, Mr. Kappel said, and Carol Brennan, the deputy town clerk for many years, has approached the Republicans about running to take Mr. Overton’s spot.
“I think there’s support for Dominick . . . and Fred, and we’re going to see who’s going to screen,” Mr. Kappel said.
Highway Superintendent Steve Lynch has paved a smooth road back to the Republican ticket this fall and has strong support for a second term. Most of the Republicans’ incumbent town trustees want to keep their seats and have been interviewed already, the chairman said. Lynn Mendelman will not run again. Deborah Klughers, elected as a Democrat, asked to be interviewed by the Republicans, according to the chairman.
Likewise, Mr. Schneiderman, who is a member of the Independence Party, expressed interest in being interviewed by the Democrats as well, Ms. Mazur said. Mr. Kappel said Mr. Cohen had approached Republicans to be interviewed, but had not followed through.
The full Republican Committee interviews potential candidates and then votes as a body on the final selection. East Hampton Democrats follow a different process, with a smaller screening committee first meeting with interested candidates, and that group’s recommendations going to the full Democratic Committee for a vote.
“We set up appointments and screen each person individually,” Ms. Mazur explained. “It’s a deliberate process. It’s not speedy, but it’s thorough.”