The Suffolk County Conservative Party had backed Republican Richard Yastrzemski in his fall bid for Southampton Town supervisor—but for the January special election for an empty seat on the Town Board, they switched camps this week and endorsed his opponent, Democrat Julie Lofstad.
Southampton Town Conservative Party Leader Jeremy Brandt said this week that Ms. Lofstad set herself apart based on her background working for her community. But he also said the party took the unusual step of endorsing a Democrat because of Mr. Yastrzemski’s performance during the latest screening process, and a reevaluation of his track record as the deputy mayor of Southampton Village—specifically, increases to the village budget and the Police Department budgets.
“He screened very poorly. I was shocked at how poorly he did,” Mr. Brandt said this week.
He went on: “Through more research, we realized that Mr. Yastrzemski’s budget as Southampton Village deputy mayor and police commissioner were outrageous. When he took office, it was at $18 million, and their budget today stands at $27 million. The village is 6.8 square miles and had more police overtime than the whole Town of Southampton. That is stunning, if you ask me.”
Although a Democrat endorsed by the Conservative Party is a case of strange political bedfellows, Mr. Brandt predicted that once Ms. Lofstad gains her footing on the Town Board, she will do an excellent job wading through red tape to get things done for the town. “What drew us to Julie is that she is a local lady,” he said. “As a homeowner in Hampton Bays, I do believe that it is very underserved on the town level, and that Julie would definitely help alleviate that.”
The special election is to replace Brad Bender, who was forced to resign last month after being arrested on felony charges of distributing oxycodone. The special election has been scheduled for Tuesday, January 26.
This week, Ms. Lofstad said she was pleasantly surprised to receive the endorsement, noting that she did not have it for her run for Town Board in November. She said her ability to look past party lines and fight for what is right on issues is what sets her apart.
“I feel that when you are from, at least as a political outsider, when you are from a party, you don’t have every single view that every other person in that party has. You have views from other parties, perhaps—most people do,” she said. “Whatever they saw in me, I guess they liked, and I am honored to represent their party well.”
This week, Mr. Yastrzemski said he was surprised about the decision, saying that nothing had changed between his endorsement for supervisor six months ago and last week’s decision not to endorse him for councilman. Mr. Yastrzemski suggested that some members of the Conservative Party’s local committee do not like his hesitancy to outright oppose The Hills at East Quogue development proposal, and said that he feels the party’s decision not to endorse him is part of larger county political issue, though he wouldn’t elaborate.
“I had all of the same qualifications and issues six months ago for supervisor, so whatever concern or issue they had wasn’t enough then,” he said. “I don’t know what changed now for them, if that is their answer—but, whatever.”
According to Mr. Brandt, the party is very happy with its decision, which was finalized on Monday. He called Ms. Lofstad a “breath of fresh air.”
“We are really excited for her and what she can do,” he said. “We are really excited for her, and we think she will do a really good job.”