In East Hampton, the race for Town Trustee, typically a subdued affair, got injected with a dose of political venom this year.
It began when incumbent Town Trustees were led to believe by Independence Party Chairwoman Elaine Jones that they were to receive an across-the-board endorsement by her party, which held its screening on a night the Trustees were meeting. So when Deb Klughers, one of two Democrats on the board, skipped the party’s open screening session to attend her board’s meeting, she was stunned to learn she didn’t get the endorsement. “I’m appalled at the total lack of process there,” Ms. Klughers said last week, saying she was told not to go to the screening.
Last week, the Democrats took a measure of revenge when the committee left Independence Party member Brian Byrnes, a former Democrat who had expected to receive the party’s nod, in limbo, telling him that he would not receive the endorsement. They nominated a placeholder candidate instead of Mr. Byrnes at the party’s nominating convention last week.
Jeanne Frankl, the chairwoman of the East Hampton Town Democratic Committee, said her party was ”really angry” at first when Ms. Klughers was snubbed by the Independence Party, but then later decided “not to bear a grudge” by withholding Mr. Byrnes’s endorsement.
“We were absolutely shocked that the Independence Party did not endorse Deb Klughers,” said Ms. Frankl. “So we were mad for a while. What can I tell you?”
Last week, Democratic committee member Chris Kelley, who also manages campaigns for the party, called Mr. Byrnes to apologize. Mr. Byrnes was offered the nomination again.
“I felt that he had gotten a raw deal from us,” Mr. Kelley recounted. “We had acted unfairly toward him.”
Ms. Jones was livid when she first learned Mr. Byrnes’s nomination was getting withdrawn. “This is dirty politics at its worst,” Ms. Jones said last week.
Meanwhile, Ms. Jones has said she accepts responsibility for giving the impression that the party would endorse each Trustee incumbent, since she said it was her idea. Her party did not support her recommendation for Ms. Klughers as she had expected, she said.
Overall, Ms. Jones said she’s glad things worked out. “I would like to say that I’m just very happy in the end they did the right thing,” Ms. Jones said.
Ms. Jones said members of the Democratic Party asked Mr. Byrnes at one point to withdraw from the race entirely. Ms. Frankl said she had no comment on that statement. “That, I’m not aware of,” Mr. Kelley said.
Mr. Byrnes echoed those sentiments. He said he didn’t want to comment on what was in the past.
“I’m glad I’m back on,” Mr. Byrnes said. “And I’m looking forward to being a Trustee.”