Early bird

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Given the way things have been going for Supervisor McGintee since he barely squeaked by Bill Wilkinson on Election Day, it’s no surprise that his challenger—who came so close in November 2007—has already announced he will give it another try in 2009.

Mr. Wilkinson, for many years a Montauk part-time resident, had never publicly demonstrated an interest in town affairs and never appeared on the political radar before the GOP tapped him about a year ago to run in 2007.

They had nobody else who stood a chance, so why not give the savvy, retired Disney executive, now a full-time resident, a shot at it? He was a respectable candidate and the party had nothing to lose.

During the campaign last fall, it appeared that Mr. Wilkinson believed he was going to win. Everywhere he went, he said, people assured him they didn’t like Mr. McGintee much and that they’d welcome a new, friendlier face in Town Hall.

People generally don’t tell a candidate they will not vote for him or her. It was easy to presume Mr. Wilkinson had based his optimism on a very filtered view of the electorate.

It turns out he was on to something big—an anti-McGintee (if not incumbent) groundswell that probably has gathered even more ?steam since the election, as the public has learned more about ?the town’s deficit and its freewheeling use of the Community Preservation Fund.

Mr. Wilkinson charged during the campaign that the town’s budgeting and accounting practices were a disaster. It looks like he was right. And if Mr. Wilkinson almost won in 2007, right now he’s probably got a very good chance to win big in 2009, no matter whom the Democrats run.

There was one big problem with Mr. Wilkinson as a candidate. It’s one he could correct during the many months he has to prepare for his 2009 campaign for supervisor.

He did not come across as someone who was interested in the nitty-gritty details of town affairs. He spoke only in broad generalities about the issues and seemed unfamiliar with the nuts and bolts.

A town supervisor not only has to have a handle on the details, he has to be able to thrive on a steady diet of them.

If he intends to be the next supervisor, Mr. Wilkinson should ?prove he’s that kind of person. He should regularly attend Town Board meetings—not just for show, and not to be a thorn in the all-Democratic board’s side, but to put in the time it takes to listen and learn firsthand.

It was a major weakness of Mr. Wilkinson’s candidacy last fall that ?he had never been a player on any issue and had attended so few public meetings in all his years in town. By diving in now and learning the ropes, he could prove there is substance to his candidacy.

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