It was raining Dems.
An unprecedented number of East Hampton Democrats turned out September 13 to decide whether the old guard or a new reform group would take the reins of the party moving forward, and the old guard prevailed.
That means David Lys, a current member of the East Hampton Town Board who was appointed by the Democratic committee, will run on Election Day to keep his seat for another year, when the term ends.
David Gruber had sought to wrest the party nomination from Lys and was the leader of the reform movement. Lys, though a Republican, was chosen to fill the seat vacated by Peter Van Scoyoc when the latter was elected town supervisor last November. The selection of Lys rankled some of the Democratic committee membership, though he vowed to register as a Democrat in the future.
The turnout was extraordinary for what was, in essence, an inner party squabble. There were 1489 votes, 884 nays, and an additional 350 mail-in ballots.
“It was incredible, a massive turnout,” noted Lys, who said the voter turnout was 32 percent higher than the previous primary. “I like to take some credit. Maybe I drew my generation.”
There was also infighting between Rona Klopman and Jeanne Frankl, who was stepping down as Democratic Party Chair. Klopman wanted the position. Instead, Cate Rogers was chosen, with the support of longtime party boss Chris Kelley. Klopman filed suit with the support of Gruber, another inner-party power player. The court vacated the selection of Rogers,thus setting up the special election.
Not only did Lys prevail, but Klopman lost her seat on the committee. Rogers will now undoubtedly ascend to the position of chairwoman.
Gruber reiterated after the election that he didn’t want to personally run.
“If they continue to achieve little or nothing on the most important issues of the day, the public will remember what was said in the course of this election campaign,” Gruber said. “Things that had to be said were said. My only regret is that I could not find a better messenger than myself. The work will continue.”
Frankl hopes the party heals from within. “The committee has always been open for hard work, respectful discourse, and serious new ideas,” Frankl said. “I know Cate Rogers’s leadership will continue and improve on that agenda. We’ll see if good will and a sense of common purpose prevail among the disappointed as well as the successful.”
Nevertheless, Gruber ran a spirited campaign, although his camp was accused of a couple dirty tricks, as has become the norm in local elections. “I got used to it,” Lys said. “I told the truth and they didn’t and they got caught.”
Waiting in the wings is Manny Vilar, a Republican who will challenge Lys for his town board seat. No matter what, the seat will be up for grabs in a year because that’s when Van Scoyoc’s original town board term would have ended.
Vilar said he is looking forward to taking on Lys. “It comes down to which Republican you would rather have. It’s hard to conjure up an image of being Independent when you have the Democratic Party head running your campaign.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo easily defeated political neophyte Cynthia Nixon of “Sex And The City” fame in the Democratic Party with nearly 66 percent of the vote, but Cuomo did nothing to improve his image as a possible presidential candidate in 2020.
For one thing, Nixon’s steady rise in the polls forced Cuomo to spend — and spend — to the tune of over $30 million, 10 times more than his opponent. Cuomo ally Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul prevailed over New York City council member Jumaane Williams by a 53-47 margin, though the race was a bit tighter than expected. Letitia James, the New York City public advocate who had Cuomo’s support, edged out Sean Maloney, Leecia Eve, and Zephyr Teachout for the Dem nod.
Nixon is part of a national Progressive Movement that did win six of eight other local races in the state that pitted them against candidates Cuomo backed.