It’s been almost 20 years since David Gruber narrowly lost an election for East Hampton Town supervisor.
But the Democratic Party stalwart has remained active behind the scene, and seemed content to remain there, until a tumultuous turn of events within his beloved party led to an unexpected announcement: He’s throwing his hat back into the ring, this time for a town board seat.
What precipitated the move — and what has resulted in a rare look at the inner-party workings — is a split in the party that has created two warring factions (see article elsewhere in this section).
Gruber favors longtime party loyalist Rona Klopman, who wanted to succeed the party chairman, Jeanne Frankl, who is retiring. Frankl and others wanted Cate Rogers. Another thing that rankled Gruber: The board, comprised entirely of Democrats, chose David Lys, a Republican, to fill an open seat on the board.
“That’s pretty illogical,” Gruber said. “The voters wanted a Democrat.” Lys was appointed, he surmised, because the Democrats wanted someone they could control on the board by giving the “illusion” he was independent, thus satiating calls from the media and public to have at least one non-Democrat on the board.
Gruber decided to challenge Lys in a primary battle.
Recently, at a town board meeting, Gruber made an impassioned speech about Deepwater Wind, which wants to use Wainscott as a landing spot for its power cable. It’s the first time in memory he’s broken with the official party line.
In his speech, he said Deepwater “is indifferent to local concerns” and said the current town board “has no idea what it is getting into.” The board recently voted to allow Deepwater an easement for its offshore wind farm project by a 3-2 vote.
Gruber is running because, “the board needs people who have depth and experience.” Towards that end, Gruber, a former party head himself, has formed the East Hampton Reform Democrats, and intends to challenge every committee seat in all 19 districts. Primary Day for state and local elections is September 13.