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East Hampton Democrats Fend Off Reform Dems' Challenge

Tue, 06/25/2019 - 22:59
Andrew Strong, center, is the Democrats' candidate for East Hampton Town justice. Celebrating with him were the winning trustee candidates, Frances Bock, left, Tim Garneau, second from left, and Susan McGraw-Keber, second from right, as well as Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, Councilman David Lys, and Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc.
Christopher Walsh

Democratic voters pushed back against East Hampton Reform Democrats' efforts to upend the East Hampton Town Democratic Committee's picks for town justice and town trustee in Tuesday's primary.

Andrew Strong, the Democratic Committee's nominee for town justice, appeared to be headed to victory in the Democratic primary Tuesday, bucking a challenge to his nomination from East Hampton Town Justice Lisa R. Rana, a Republican who had successfully petitioned to force a primary on the Democratic line. 

Ms. Rana was endorsed by the Reform Democrats, a faction that split from the party's establishment last year. 

Lisa R. Rana watched results with Reform Democrats at the Clubhouse. Christine Sampson Photo

Ms. Rana, who was re-elected as Sag Harbor Village justice last week, said Tuesday’s primary defeat was not a setback. She will appear on the ballot in November on the Republican, Conservative, Independence, and possibly the EH Fusion and Libertarian Party lines. 

“I know I have a lot of local support, Democratic voices in this community. It was an unusual time to vote, a June primary, and I thank all of the individuals who supported me in this election and ask that they continue that support through the general election in November.”

In other results from the unusual Democratic Party primary, the party's nine candidates for town trustee all got the nod from voters. Twelve candidates were running for the nomination. The three endorsed by the Reform Democrats were the low vote-getters on Tuesday. 

The Democratic committee endorsed the incumbent Democratic trustees Francis Bock, Bill Taylor, Susan McGraw-Keber, John Aldred, and Rick Drew, and Jim Grimes, a Republican incumbent, as well as the first-time candidates Mike Martinsen, Tim Garneau, and Ben Dollinger. All were winners in Tuesday's primary. 

Mr. Bock is the body's clerk. Mr. Taylor and Jim Grimes are deputy clerks. 

The Reform Democrats backed Dell Cullum, an incumbent trustee who was elected as a Democrat in 2017; Stephen Lester, a former Democratic trustee, and Rona Klopman, a longtime member of the Democratic Committee. 

Ms. Rana will appear on the Republican, Conservative, and Independence Party lines in the Nov. 5 general election. She had interviewed with the Democratic committee for its endorsement. When it declined to endorse her, choosing Mr. Strong instead, she gathered petition signatures sufficient to force a primary election. Trevor Darrell, an East Hampton lawyer, also screened for the position. 

Mr. Strong is the general counsel to Organizacion Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island, a nonprofit commonly known as OLA, that promotes social economic, cultural, and educational development for the region's Latino communities.

While Democrats presently hold a 7-2 majority on the trustee board, last year's split in the party pit its "establishment" candidates and committee members against the Reform Democrats faction. The latter's candidates for townwide office are endorsed by the East Hampton Independence Party. They hope to be grouped on a new ticket, the EH Fusion Party, on the Nov. 5 ballot, though that is in question because of an oversight: its candidates neglected to file timely acceptance certificates for their nomination. Its candidates' effort to appear on the Republican Party line was also unsuccessful. 

The rupture among the town's Democrats came into view last year when committee members accused the party's then-chairwoman of manipulating the vote to choose her successor. Ms. Klopman filed an Article 78 proceeding to prevent that election. It was dismissed in State Supreme Court, and the Democrats elected Cate Rogers to succeed Ms. Frankl. Ms. Klopman and David Gruber, the Reform Democrats' candidate for supervisor this year, were among those who comprise the "caucus within the Democratic Party," as Mr. Gruber referred to the group. He will appear on the Independence Party line and, possibly, the EH Fusion Party line in the Nov. 5 election. 

With Reporting by Christine Sampson