The East Hampton Republican Committee is throwing their support for town supervisor behind Suffolk County Legis. Jay Schneiderman for the 2013 race, a move that has two-term incumbent supervisor Bill Wilkinson disappointed in his own party.
On Feb. 13, the committee took a formal vote to nominate Schneiderman, a member of the Independence party and a former town supervisor from Montauk, according to Kurt Kappel, the committee chairman. The announcement is not official though, he said, as the committee is waiting to form a full slate first.
A quorum of the 38-member committee was present, Kappel said of the vote. Carole Campolo, the committee secretary, said that she and another member were the only ones to vote against Schneiderman.
Bill Wilkinson, who was first elected to the position in 2008 following financial mishandlings at Town Hall and then again in a close race in 2010, did not screen this time around. Schneiderman was the only person to screen with the Republicans for the position.
Reached on Wednesday morning, Wilkinson said he hasn't been close to the Republican Committee for the last year.
"I’ve known to the last four or five months that I wasn’t intending to run again although my mind wasn’t absolutely made up," Wilkinson said, adding that he told the committee he wasn't going to make a decision until the end of February at the earliest.
"The fact that head of the Republican party, Kurt Kappel, reaches outside the party to ask if Jay Schneiderman were interested in running before getting my answer is unbelieveable," Wilkinson said. "The fact that a two-term town supervisor with the record that we have in place was given nothing but an email notice that screenings were taking place is also extraordinary behavior on the part of the Republican chair. I’m disappointed in Kurt Kappel, I’m disappointed in in the Republican party, but I’m mostly disappointed for the people of East Hampton who believe that this behavior is unacceptable."
Kappel disputed those charges. "I personally reached out to Bill and other people on the committee reached out to him to try and discuss his plans," he said, adding the committee offered to screen him on whatever date worked for him. "I offered to meet in person to discuss the party and he just didn't respond," he said. "He refused to communicate with the committee."
Kappel also said that Schneiderman mentioned earlier in the year if that Wilkinson had no interest in running that he was considering a run. "We didn't seek out Jay — it wasn't like that. I heard he was interested, we had lunch."
Kappel insisted the committee's vote for Schneiderman did not mean Republicans have grown unhappy with Wilkinson in the last year and a half.
"The Republican party is extremely happy with the way Bill Wilkinson, Theresa Quigley, and Dominick Stanzione handled the finances and brought the Town of East Hampton back from a financial mess," Kappel said. Wilkinson, he said, "did a great job with the financial downfalls of East Hampton."
But, Kappel said the committee was simply under the impression Wilkinson was not interested in running for a fourth time (He also ran and lost to incumbent Bill McGintee in 2006).
Kappel, who took over the leadership of the party in 2012, said that the committee contacted Wilkinson in early January, and Wilkinson said he wanted to wait until March or April. "The last election was so close that we didn't feel we can wait," Kappel said referring to the 15-vote margin Wilkinson had over Democratic candidate Zachary Cohen. "I just want it to be known that, personally, I wanted to speak with him and he never made a point to talk."
Kappel's wife is Town Justice Lisa R. Rana, a Republican who won re-election to the bench two years ago.
In 2011, Wilkinson screened with the Republicans for a third time before getting the nod to run for re-election. The East Hampton Independence Party nominated Wilkinson's opponent, but it was not upheld by the New York State Independence Party after State and Suffolk County Party Chairman Frank MacKay signed a document known as the Wilson Pakula for Wilkinson.
Reached on Wednesday, Quigley said she was also disappointed in the committee. She said Wilkinson, who ran with Quigley and Stanzione, were elected on the platforms of bringing a business discipline to Town Hall, while also working toward a smaller government and reduced taxes.
"I think the Republican party is in disarray," she said. "What is the Republican platform? I don't believe they have one. From my experience is, and I'm being completely honest, it's to be nice and you'll get elected."
Quigley said it was one of the reasons why she decided not to run. While she said her daughter's accident last summer was the major reason, she said, "In addition, it's frustrating because the lack of support. This," she said of the committee's decision, "typifies the lack of support."
The committee will meet again in one week to screen more candidates for trustees, town justice, and assessor. Kappel plans to make a formal announcement by March 6, if not sooner.
Last weekend, formal votes to nominate incumbents for other positions were also taken, including for Highway Superintendent Stephen Lynch — the only person to screen — and the five incumbent trustee positions; Diane McNally, Nathaniel Miller, Timothy Bock, Stephanie Talmage-Forsberg, and Joe McCaffrey, Kappel said. Lynn Mendelman is not seeking re-election to the town trustees, he said.
Joseph Bloecker, a current town trustee, screened for town assessor nomination instead.
There are two seats up for grabs on the town board. Current Deputy Supervisor Theresa Quigley announced last month that she would not seek re-election, but Dominick Stanzione is exploring a second run, and he screened with the Republicans for town board.
Fred Overton, the current town clerk who said he was retiring from the position at the end of the year, also screened to run for the board. Carole Brennan, the current deputy town clerk, screened with the Republicans for Overton's position.
There are a total of nine trustee seats. The Republicans have four left to fill with nominations. Deborah Klughers, an incumbent Democrat, screened for the Republican nomination, Kappel said. Mike Bottini, Tom Cooper, and Dennis Curls, also screened for seats on the town trustees, he said.
Former East Hampton town attorney Carl Irace and Robert Kouffman, who practices in East Hampton and Bridgehampton, both screened for the nomination for East Hampton Town Justice (Democratic incumbent Catherine A. Cahill is up for re-election).
Schneiderman was out of the country on Wednesday and unavailable to comment.
Correction: Although the chairman reported two people had abstained, the secretary said she and another person had actually voted against Schneiderman.