Councilman David Lys scored a landslide victory in the East Hampton Democratic primary on Thursday, September 13, easily deflecting David Gruber’s bid to take the Democratic nomination away from him to run for Town Board in November.
Mr. Gruber and his Reform Democrats also soundly lost their effort to unseat a majority of East Hampton Democratic committee members, who had backed the Lys nomination. The Reform group won seven out of 38 committee seats in the September 13 voting compared to 31 for the so-called establishment Democrats, which appears unchanged from the current balance.
The vote for Town Board nominee was 1,489 for Mr. Lys, or 62 percent, to 884 or 37 percent for Mr. Gruber, according to unofficial results that did not include absentee ballots.
Turnout was extremely high for a primary, with 32 percent of the town’s 7,336 registered Democrats casting ballots. In June, turnout was considered unusually high at 14.1 percent when Democrats across the East End voted in a primary to choose Perry Gershon from among five candidates to run for Congress in November against incumbent Republican Lee Zeldin.
“I stayed consistent to my values, consistent to my platform, my agenda; didn’t have to go negative,” Mr. Lys said, “and I think the majority of the Town of East Hamptons wants that, and I look forward to moving forward to November,” when he will face Republican Manny Vilar in the race to complete the four-year council term of Peter Van Scoyoc, who was elected supervisor last year.
The Democratically controlled Town Board appointed Mr. Lys, a local businessman with a long record of community service, to fill the seat in January, by a vote of 4-1. Newly elected Councilman Jeffrey Bragman, now seen as an ally of Mr. Gruber’s Reform group, voted no. Mr. Lys changed in registration from Republican to Democrat earlier this year.
Of Mr. Gruber’s campaign, which included personal attacks on Mr. Lys’s credibility and fitness for office, Mr. Lys commented, “I think his campaign ran too many parallels with national politics and I think our home town out here is way over that right now.”
Reached for comment last Friday, Mr. Gruber said, “Political change takes a lot of time and effort unless there’s a catastrophic” event that captures the public’s attention. But he saw his campaign as part of a process meant “to start a conversation” and, in that, sense, he said, it was successful.
“The fact is the turnout was enormous for a primary election, which could be a personal repudiation of me — if so, so be it.” But he did win a seat on the Democratic Committee in District 7 (Wainscott) in Tuesday’s voting, which he said “certainly will be helpful” in pressing for change. “But the most important thing is to continue the public discussion,” he said. Mr. Gruber is a former committeeman who for years ran the party’s strategy and campaign messaging.
“We certainly achieved some things for the town just by running the campaign,” he said, asserting it was the reason the Town Board came to recognize the critical need for improving the town’s emergency services communications infrastructure.
He also argued the campaign had convinced Deepwater Wind to drop its “con” that it required quick approval of its plan to land the cable from its proposed offshore wind farm at Beach Lane in Wainscott, which the Town Trustees have yet to approve, before it could proceed with its application for approval to the New York State Public Service Commission.
“I do believe this election campaign has already started moving the needle in a better direction and that’s what it’s all about,” he added.
According to a tabulation provided by a Democratic party source, the Reform winners were: in District 1 (East Hampton), where incumbent Barbara Layton retained a seat; in District 2 (Sag Harbor), where Andy Malone was reelected; District 4 (Springs), where Loring Bolder and Zach Cohen won reelection; District 7 (Wainscott), where David Gruber won a seat; and District 11 (part of East Hampton village), where Andrew Strong was reelected; and District 17 (Springs), where Pam Bicket was reelected.
Committee members allied against Mr. Gruber who won reelection were: Jeanne Frankl, District 1 (East Hampton); Suzanne McNear, District 2 (Sag Harbor); Arthur Schiff and David Hillman, District 3 (Amagansett); Jim Lubetkin and Ira Barocas, District 5 (East Hampton); Larry Smith and Sharon McCob, District 6 (Montauk); Susan McGraw Keber, District 7 (Wainscott); Jerry Mulligan and Mary Busch in District 8 (East Hampton); Francis Bock and Annemarie McCoy, District 9 (Springs); Sally Richardson and Andrew Harris, District 10 (Montauk); Vicky Blatt, District 11 (East Hampton); Betty Mazur and Anna Skrenta, District 12 (Amagansett); Joan McGivern and Ben Dolanger, District 13 (East Hampton); J.B. Dos Santos and Viral Patel, District 14 (East Hampton); Cate Rogers, party chair, and Christopher Kelley, chair emeritus, District 15 (Springs); Marilyn Van Scoyoc and Tim Garneau, District 16 (East Hampton); Bette Smith, District 17 (Springs); Edna Steck and Laura Michaels, District 18 (Montauk) and Connie and Lou Cortese, District 19 (Montauk).