Election Day is still weeks away, but no matter how the votes stack up, the East Hampton Town Board majority is guaranteed to shift from Republican to Democratic—and current lawmakers differ drastically, but along party lines, in their views on what the change might mean and how it is shaping the current direction of the board.
Of the three-member GOP majority, only one, Dominick Stanzione, is seeking reelection, as fellow party members, Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Councilwoman Theresa Quigley, have opted not to run again.
In the supervisor’s race, Democrat Larry Cantwell, is a shoo-in for the seat, as he is running unopposed. With two Democratic incumbents, Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc, remaining on board, even if Mr. Stanzione retains his council seat, he will be outnumbered by the Democrats, and, therefore, lose his current swing-vote status.
This lynchpin role has lent his votes a special heft, allowing him to side with the Democrats, for example, this summer to yank Fort Pond House in Montauk from the market, over the wishes of his own party faithful. It allowed him to swing back to the GOP to cast the critical third vote needed to appoint a chief building inspector just last week, over Democratic objections.
In a four-way race for two seats, Mr. Stanzione is seeking a second term, while Fred Overton, the town clerk, is running on the GOP party line for a first term. Should they both win, they would be in the minority to Mr. Cantwell, Ms. Overby and Mr. Van Scoyoc.
So while the majority will undoubtedly be Democratic, the size of the new party will be determined at the polls, as former Councilman Job Potter and newcomer Kathee Burke-Gonzalez challenge for seats on the Democratic line.
In recent interviews, the outgoing Republicans, Mr. Wilkinson and Ms. Quigley have expressed concerns that the Democrats are holding out on certain pieces of legislation, waiting until January, when the new administration comes in and they can claim some accomplishments.
“The way I perceive what’s happening,” Ms. Quigley said last week, “is that there are people on the board who would prefer that we put most everything on hold until the new administration comes on board.” She added, “If there were a Republican candidate running for office, I don’t know that there would be such an inclination to hold off, because there wouldn’t be such certainty.”
Despite a year of work on crafting noise legislation, for example, the board can’t get it to a public hearing, she said, because of the foot dragging. The GOP voted to move forward on light truck legislation recently, but the Democrats voted against it, calling for further studies. Similar hurdles have popped up with lighting legislation, she said.
Mr. Wilkinson, in an interview this week addressing the split-vote appointment of a chief building inspector, took issue with the Democrats’ reasoning for pushing it off until budget talks are done. Rather, he said, they wanted to push it off until Mr. Cantwell came in. “I think they want to push all appointments off until then,” he said.
The Republicans have stressed they will govern until they leave office on December 31.
Ms. Overby and Mr. Van Scoyoc, however, disputed the allegations they are waiting for their party to gain the majority.
“Its not a matter of waiting for the new administration,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said, “but obviously there are things that unless you get three votes, you can’t get done. He named taking Fort Pond House off the market and joining the Peconic Estuary program as two pieces of legislation he was able to get passed.
In terms of light trucks, however, he and Ms. Overby said their desires to hold off on a public hearing had nothing to do with waiting for Mr. Cantwell to come in, but rather, with a need to refine the proposed law.
Mr. Stanzione this week played phone tag with a reporter and was unavailable for comment before deadline.
Mr. Wilkinson last week said he has done what he had set out to do, but said his biggest concern for the incoming administration was that it respect the fiscal responsibilities it has to the taxpayers. Ms. Quigley said she would like to see downtown Montauk secured, also a goal of Mr. Wilkinson, and the scavenger waste facility fixed, her biggest regret about being in office. If it remains shuttered too long, she warned, it would lose its permit and the town could lose its ability to handle its sewage.