East Hampton Republican Committee Chairman Tom Knobel is seeking the GOP line to unseat Supervisor Larry Cantwell in November.
It would not be the first time Mr. Knobel has run for the supervisor position: He lost to Cathy Lester in 1997. But he is no stranger to town government, having sat on the Town Board from 1994 to 1997. He also served twice as an East Hampton Town Trustee from 1990 to 1993, and again from 2000 to 2005.
Mr. Knobel, 59, a purchasing agent at the Suffolk County Board of Elections, was screened by the East Hampton Independence Party on May 5 and was expected to screen before his own committee this week. He said East Hampton Town needs better leadership.
“They are dealing with things without forethought. There have been public hearings that were held on laws that were not ready for prime time,” he said of the current Town Board, referring to a hearing held in March on a proposal to restrict operations at the East Hampton Airport as a way to mitigate noise. “They don’t have a process to get things done, and the Town Board deserves better.”
Mr. Knobel added that the current Town Board has done little to solve East Hampton’s problems. “We are being progressively divided into groups,” he said, referring to a proposal to implement legislation on work trucks parked at residents’ homes overnight. “It is being done in a manner that divides instead of unifies. We actually need to think ahead and develop a plan to deal with our problems, instead of setting one person against another.”
Citing the high cost of living in East Hampton Town, Mr. Knobel said: “There are no provisions for housing for any of the working-class—anybody who is seeking a house under $600,000.”
Mr. Knobel, who lives in Springs and worked as a bayman and commercial fisherman from 1976 to 2000, has a second home in Holbrook, but says he spends much of his time in East Hampton. “During the week, it’s handy to be able to be 10 to 15 minutes away from work, as opposed to commuting an hour and a quarter each way,” he said of his Yaphank office at the Board of Elections.
East Hampton Republican Committee Vice Chairman Reggie Cornelia has already thrown his support behind Mr. Knobel.
“I think it’s great,” Mr. Cornelia said last week. “We’ve been looking for a good candidate out here. He knows a lot of stuff. He’s straight up and honest.”
Mr. Knobel has accused the current administration of not being straightforward with residents. He said he warned the Town Board against the Downtown Montauk Emergency Stabilization Project, telling them that the project was finalized without proper planning. “They were not prepared,” he said. “This has not been addressed. They don’t have a process to get things done. They’re winging it.”
In response, Mr. Cantwell said last week: “The only thing I can say is that I’ve been working hard to bring a balance and a respectful process to the tough issues that we face as a community.”
Some other issues Mr. Knobel said he would like to discuss during the campaign if chosen to run are the preservation of private property, and what he thinks is a misguided proposal for a town manager, something many town Democrats have been supporting.
“I think the nomination of the chair of the party bespeaks the difficulty of mounting a challenge,” said East Hampton Town Democratic Committee Chairwoman Jeanne Frankl. “I think they don’t have a strong case to make and they don’t have people with relevant experience. With Republicans, there’s a lot of bickering on issues.”
Ms. Frankl defended the current Democrat-controlled Town Board, saying, “When push comes to shove, they put service and fairness before ideology and partisanship. Face it, we’ve had really good government here. From my experience, it’s a model on the national level. I’d like Congress to come to a few of our town meetings.”
East Hampton Independence Party Chairwoman Elaine Jones said Mr. Cantwell screened before her committee the day after Mr. Knobel appeared, and was the only other person who screened for the position of supervisor.
“We haven’t voted yet and decided who we’re going to endorse. We’ll be making a decision in the next week or so,” Ms. Jones said.
Several others who screened for the Independence Party endorsement last week for two open Town Board positions include current council members Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc, Planning Board Vice Chair Nancy Keeshan of Montauk, and Lona Rubenstein of East Hampton. Ms. Overby and Mr. Van Scoyoc are Democrats seeking reelection, and Ms. Keeshan and Ms. Rubenstein hope to also secure the Republican line, according to Ms. Jones.
East Hampton Town Democrats have chosen Mr. Cantwell, Ms. Overby and Mr. Van Scoyoc to run for reelection. They have also endorsed Steve Lynch for highway superintendent, Lisa Rana for town justice, and Jeannie Nielsen and Jill Massa for assessor.
For Trustee, the Democratic Committee endorsed William Taylor, Francis Bock, Bryan Byrnes, Pat Mansir, Deb Klughers, Rona Klopman, Zachary Cohen, Tyler Armstrong and Rick Drew.
East Hampton Republicans were expected to hold another screening on Wednesday night.