Burke-Gonzalez, Bragman Top Cohen in Democratic Primary

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Jeffrey Bragman and Kathee Burke-Gonzalez defeated Zachary Cohen, on right at a debate in East Hampton earlier this month, in a Democratic primary on Tuesday. Michael Heller photo

By Stephen J. Kotz

Incumbent East Hampton Town Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez rolled to an easy victory in a Democratic primary on Tuesday to win one of two spots on the party’s ballot for the November election.

The Democratic Committee’s other nominee, East Hampton attorney Jeffrey Bragman, apparently held off the challenge of Zachary Cohen for the second spot, although absentee ballots remained to be counted. Turnout was strong for a primary.

Ms. Burke-Gonzalez, who is seeking her second, four-year term on the board, bested the trio of candidates with 1,193 votes. Mr. Bragman, an East Hampton attorney who specializes in planning and zoning issues, received 810 votes, while Mr. Cohen, who has served on a number of town committees and who narrowly lost a race for supervisor against then incumbent Bill Wilkinson in 2011, received 662 votes.

According to the Suffolk County Board of Elections, there were 355 absentee ballots sent out to voters and 162 had been returned by Monday. Ballots postmarked by midnight September 11 will be counted with that tally tentatively scheduled for September 25.

It is possible that Mr. Cohen could make up the difference separating him from Mr. Bragman, but typically absentee ballots follow the trend recorded at the polls.

“I am so grateful for the strong support of voters in the Democratic primary and look forward to the general election in November,” said Ms. Burke-Gonzalez on Wednesday morning. She added the Democratic candidates “will continue to work hard engaging folks on the issues that concern all of us — protecting our water quality, providing affordable housing, and serving our children, our seniors and our hard-working families.”

Mr. Bragman said he wanted to reach out to Mr. Cohen’s supporters to find common ground. “We are basically fighting for the same issues,” he said. “We want to protect the real community that is here. That is the overriding message.”

Mr. Cohen said he had run his campaign to give those outside the Democratic Committee a say in local issues. Although he said he would throw his support behind the party’s winners, he added, “We can’t let the issues we raised disappear and be swept under the carpet.”

He cited real progress on affordable housing, better integrating the Latino and African-American communities into town initiatives and working to assure that working-class families can continue to stay in town as examples.

The Democratic nominees along with Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc, who is seeking to replace retiring Supervisor Larry Cantwell, will now face off against the Republican nominees, Manny Vilar, who is running for supervisor, and Jerry Larsen and Paul Giardina, who are seeking town board seats.

Neither Ms. Burke-Gonzalez nor Mr. Bragman who received the Democratic Committee’s nomination were out Tuesday night to publicly watch the returns.

But a handful of Mr. Cohen’s supporters gathered at Michael’s restaurant for an election post-mortem.

Mr. Cohen said he was disappointed by the results and told a group of about 20 supporters that he believed “people can have different opinions and still be good Democrats.”

“The Democratic Party owes you a real sense of gratitude for trying to have them live up to what their name is,” said Larry Smith. “The purpose of a primary is to allow the outsider, whoever he is, to come in and have a shot at it and the party not being run by the party bosses.

“Zach, you gave us a choice and for that I’m grateful,” he concluded to a round of applause.

In a separate, Independence Party primary, Julie Evans, who has been cross-endorsed by the Republicans, knocked Democrat Rona Klopman off the ballot for Trustee. She will join Joe Bloecker, Susan Vorpahl, Diane McNally, Lindsey Hayes,

Gary Cobb, Bill Taylor, Rick Drew and John Aldred on the Independence line.

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