A Republican ballot sprinkled liberally with Democrats was carefully designed months ago to take advantage of some infighting at East Hampton’s ruling party’s headquarters.
For the local GOP party, perennial losers on Election Day, it was at least a chance to get back in the game. Instead, it turned into what one insider said was “a disaster,” and East Hampton Democrats, who hold all five seats on the town board, seemed poised to keep the three (town supervisor and two councilman seats) up for grabs this time around.
David Gruber, the Independence Party candidate for supervisor and a leader of the dissident faction of the Democratic Party, was supposed to sit atop the East Hampton Republican ticket, and perhaps one of two minor tickets. When the smoke cleared, though, Gruber was off the GOP ticket, and the top line left blank.
Bonnie Brady, a Democrat, and Betsy Bambrick, who is unaffiliated with a party, were going to be Gruber’s running mates, seeking the two vacant town board seats. That never happened, either.
All three needed waivers from newly-minted Suffolk County GOP boss Jesse Garcia, who apparently decided against signing at the last minute — or at least that is the company line. Some, like Gruber, suggested there might have been back-room maneuvering at play, perhaps between the two political parties.
The waivers, known as a Wilson-Pakula, are required for a candidate who is not a member of a party to run on its ballot.
Kyle Ballou, the Republican committee’s secretary, said on April 16 that “everything was issued but there was not enough time” and that Garcia never had a valid waiver application. Afterwards he implied Garcia simply didn’t pull the trigger. Others questioned if the East Hampton Town Democrats were involved,
Elaine Jones, the Independence Party head, is one conspiracy theorist. “I am livid,” she said. “I’m going to the district attorney.” Jones said there might have been worries within the Republican Party that Gruber would not back Linda Kabot, who is running for county legislator against Democrat Bridget Fleming. Others wanted to protect Congressman Lee Zeldin, the Republican incumbent who ran a tense race against Perry Gershon, an East Hampton Democrat.
Kabot, perhaps not coincidentally, filed an “Opportunity to Ballot” on March 16, which allows her to run as a write-in in an Independence Party primary against Fleming.
Ballou said the GOP would support Brady, Bambrick, and Gruber, all of whom are running on the Independence Party line.