Bragman Seeking Primary Bout With Van Scoyoc, East Hampton Republicans Enter The Fray

Jeffrey Bragman

The East Hampton Town Republican Party presented its slate of candidates for the 2021 town elections this week — posting three political newcomers as candidates for the three Town Board seats on the ballot.

Though the party has not held a nominating convention, party chairman Manny Vilar said that Ken Walles, a former Montauk hotel owner, will be the party’s nominee for town supervisor and will be joined on the ballot by council candidates George Aman, a former president of the East Hampton Board of Education, and Joseph Karpinski of Amagansett.

The Republicans will also cross-endorse three Democrats — Tax Assessor Eugene Pasquale, Town Justice Steven Tekulsky and Highway Superintendent Steve Lynch — and unaffiliated Town Clerk Carole Brennan.

The party will also field three Republican candidates for Trustees, incumbent Trustee James Grimes and Willy Wolter and Lona Rubenstein. Mr. Vilar said other Trustees candidates will be identified later.

The Republican slate will face a still undetermined slate of Democrats that will not be finalized until after a June primary that will see contests for all three of the Town Board seats on the ballot.

Councilman Jeff Bragman confirmed this week that he is circulating petitions of support for him to challenge Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc for the town’s top post in a Democratic primary. And town Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman John Whelan confirmed that he is gathering signatures in favor of his own bid to grab one of the two Town Council seats away from the party’s designees, party chairwoman Cate Rogers and incumbent Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez.

Mr. Bragman, who has butted heads with his other four board members for nearly all of his three years on the Town Board, was passed over for nomination to a second term by the Democratic Party Committee last month and has chosen to mount a challenge to his frequent sparring partner, Mr. Van Scoyoc, rather than seek a second four-year term as a councilman.

Designating petitions for each candidate must be submitted by March 25 and the Suffolk County leaders of each party have until April 2 to finalize their slates. Each candidate must gather signatures from at least 1.5 percent of registered party voters in the town to get their name on the ballot.

“Primaries are a part of democracy,” Ms. Rogers said this week, “and, as we know, we are very lucky to have the democracy that we have.”

Ms. Rogers has said she will not step down from the party chairmanship unless she is elected to the Town Board in the fall.

The Republican challengers to the Democratic stranglehold on town office face an uphill battle. The party has just three elected officials in town government currently: Mr. Grimes, who was cross-endorsed by the Democrats in 2019 and has been endorsed by them again this year; Tax Assessor Jill Massa, who is traditionally not challenged by the Democrats; and Town Justice Lisa Rana, who narrowly won reelection over a young political newcomer endorsed by the Democrats in 2019.

The Democrats hold a more than two-to-one advantage in voter registrations in the town and a candidate on the Republican line has not won a Town Board seat since the 2013 election, when Fred Overton, the longtime former Town Clerk and one-time Democrat who was officially not registered with any political party at the time, won a seat the year the Democrats took over a super-majority on the board that they have not relinquished since.