East Hampton Democrats Will Not Endorse Bragman For Re-Election

East Hampton Town Councilman Jeff Bragman, left, will not be endorsed by the town's Democratic Party for a second term in office.

East Hampton Town Councilman Jeffrey Bragman said on Wednesday that he will not be endorsed by the East Hampton Town Democratic Committee to be a candidate for re-election to a second term on the Town Board.

The town Democrats were scheduled hold their nominating convention on Wednesday night, February 17, to select its slate of candidates, and Mr. Bragman said that it has been made clear to him that the committee will not support him in seeking a second four-year term on the board.

“I do not have the support of the Democratic Committee,” Mr. Bragman said in a message on Wednesday. “This is sometimes the price we have to pay for speaking out.”

The committee is expected to endorse Councilwoman Kathee-Burke Gonzalez for a third term on the Town Board and another candidate — most likely the party’s chairwoman, Cate Rogers, or longtime Zoning Board of Appeals member John Whelan, both of whom have screened with the committee to be candidates in the past. Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc is a shoe-in to head up the party’s ticket for a third two-year term in the town’s executive suite.

Mr. Bragman has had a rocky tenure on the Town Board. He has had an at times openly hostile relationship with Mr. Van Scoyoc, and as been at odds with other board members almost from the first days he sat on the board. In one of the first major votes after he joined the board, Mr. Bragman was a lone vote of opposition to the appointment of David Lys to fill the council seat vacated by Mr. Van Scoyoc when he was elected supervisor, saying that he been left uncomfortable with some of Mr. Lys’s answers to questions during interviews prior to his appointment.

Since then, he has repeatedly been a resounding voice of dissent on a number of matters that the other four members of the board have more or less marched in lock-step on — most notably the South Fork Wind Farm cable landing proposal, now-shelved plans for a new shellfish hatchery on Three Mile Harbor and the leasing of town lands to Stony Brook Southampton Hospital for a new emergency facility — often taking the stance that the board was proceeding too quickly on initiatives that he felt needed a more deliberative consideration. Mr. Bragman, a land-use attorney who has specialized in opposing development applications, often raised the requirements of the State Environmental Quality Review Act as the basis for his objections to what he saw as hasty treatment by the board.

If Mr. Bragman is in fact dumped by the committee on Wednesday night as suspected, he could still choose to force a primary to allow Democratic voters to choose who the two candidates for the town council seats will be, in hope of wresting a spot on the party ticket away from whoever the committee nominates.

In 2015, after Mr. Bragman and Ms. Burke-Gonzalez were endorsed by the party committee, Zachary Cohen forced a primary but lost out to the party’s choices.

Ms. Burke-Gonzalez has been the top vote-getter in every election she has been on a ballot. Mr. Van Scoyoc, who is seeking a third term as supervisor, received more than 71 percent of the vote in the 2019 election, in which he was opposed only by another Democrat, David Gruber, running on the Independence Party line.

East Hampton Town Republican Party Chairman Manny Vilar said that he expects his party will announce its endorsement for the town races as soon as this weekend. Mr. Vilar said that the party has screened several candidates for the three Town Board seats on the ballot this year — the supervisor’s post and two town council seats — and said he expects the party to field a full slate of candidates.

In 2019, the Republican Party had just eight names on its ballot line, with 16 seats up for grabs, and had no Town Board or supervisor candidates at all after the GOP’s Suffolk County leadership declined to endorse the “fusion” slate of registered Democrats, Independents and Republicans that the local committee had proposed. Currently, just three registered Republicans hold elected seats in the town — Town Justice Lisa Rana, Trustee James Grimes and Tax Receiver Jill Massa — and the party has not won a Town Board seat since 2013.

There are 13 town offices on this fall’s ballot in addition to the three Town Board seats: nine town trustees, the town clerk, highway superintendent, tax assessor and town justice. The Democrats hold all but one of the seats on the ballot and are expected to endorse most of the incumbents for new terms — though there may be some new names in the mix for the Trustee seats.

The Democratic convention will be held on Zoom at 7 p.m. on Wednesday night, February 17.