It’s the biggest card game in town, and the East Hampton Independence Party doesn’t have a seat at the table.
East Hampton is one of the few local municipalities with a town board seat up for grabs — one to be exact, currently being filled by David Lys, who was appointed after his predecessor Peter Van Scoyoc was elected town supervisor.
David Gruber, a longtime activist in the local Democratic Party, emerged as the Independence Party candidate for Lys’s seat, a move that did not sit well with some Independence Party members. Gruber was the choice of Indy party chairwoman Elaine Jones and her executive committee, who went about the business of gathering petitions to have Gruber placed on the ballot.
Republican Party chairman Amos Goodman and Gerard “Jerry” Larsen, a former East Hampton Village police chief and town board candidate, challenged the petitions, alleging forgery and distributed copies of the petitions publicly. Many, in fact, did appear to be questionable. Goodman challenged on behalf of Manny Vilar, the Republican candidate.
Last week the Board of Elections also noted improprieties in some signatures and the matter moved on to court to decide. On Friday, August 24, State Supreme Court Justice Carol Mackenzie dropped the other shoe: There were a sufficient number of bogus signatures to invalidate the attempt to get Gruber on the ballot.
Lisa Larsen, an Independence Party member, who is married to Jerry Larsen, had ostensibly wanted the spot on the ballot. But Jones said Larsen’s candidacy was a ploy to have her eventually replaced with Vilar. Jerry Larsen, an Independence Party member, said his wife had to back out of consideration because of an illness in the family. He joined Goodman and the GOP in the challenge to have Gruber removed.
Seeking the spot on the ballot at all was a reach for Gruber, a longtime Democratic committeeman and one-time candidate for supervisor. But his presence on the Democratic ticket was blocked by Lys, who was chosen by the Democrats to finish the last year on Van Scoyoc’s term, despite the fact he was a registered Republican and is legally barred from switching parties until after the election.
“I am of course disappointed to lose the Independence party line in November,” Gruber said. “I hope that Independence Party members will come out to vote in November and have the opportunity to vote for me on the Democratic party line,” Gruber said. He had nothing to do with gathering the petitions, he added.
Many of the signatures questioned by the judge were submitted by Independence Party member and former East Hampton Town Councilwoman Pat Mansir, who was reportedly lambasted by Justice Mackenzie on several occasions in court. The Justice insinuated there might be grounds for a charge of fraud but did not suggest she would take any other steps beyond invalidating the petitions. Goodman said he considered the matter closed.
Gruber and Lys face off in the Democratic Primary on September 13.
As it stands now, Vilar will face the winner, though earlier this week Lys threw another curve. He’s attempting to get another line on the ballot validated before the election to guarantee himself a place on the November ballot even if he loses the Democratic primary.
“I can confirm that we filed a perfunctory general objection to Lys’s petitions to preserve our rights to challenge,” Goodman said. “I’m not interested in wasting anyone’s time with a frivolous challenge, but if it’s dodgy, yes we will challenge. Such a challenge would hopefully just be an administrative challenge at the Board of Elections.”
Jones said she thinks Goodman submitted irregular petitions, but since no formal objection was filed within the allotted time frame the matter is moot.