For East Hampton voters who have not followed the bumpy and bruising run up to the November town election, the lack of choices will be surprising. Notably, there will be no Republican candidates for supervisor or town board because the county party would not sign off on the local party’s choice of nominees, a requirement since none of them are registered Republicans.
Stirring the already murky waters, the EH Fusion Party, a disgruntled splinter group of mostly former Democrats, was only able to get three candidates on its ballot line — for town justice and two assessors — and each of these incumbents is cross-endorsed by at least one major party. Options for voters not satisfied with the current Democratic town board will have to come from the Independence and Conservative Party lines — a pretty heavy lift in a town with majority Democratic voter registration and, more important, Election Day turnout. All this follows a June primary in which a group calling itself the Reform Democrats tried to overturn the official committee’s choices.
Short of an 11th-hour scandal, nothing appears on the horizon to upset the political status quo in which the incumbents will be all but assured re-election. This may have Democrats already practicing steps for their victory dance, but the absence of meaningful, major party competition hurts East Hampton Town.
No single party or committee can have all the answers, especially when the challenges confronting government leaders are rapidly increasing in complexity — for example, sea level rise, work force housing, an aging population, corporate takeover of waterfront and resort properties, inadequate roads and wastewater infrastructure, and a host of other issues.
A robust debate on how to face these problems head-on would seem essential. Instead, East Hampton residents have been treated to distracting squabbles about expanding the town shellfish hatchery and where an underground power line might run.
As the Republican Party here erodes and the minor parties field less-than-compelling candidates, a governance crisis looms. We agree with the opposition on one thing: One-party rule in Town Hall is a problem. It is a pity that the challengers have been unable to field any candidates who could inspire confidence that they might be able to do something about it.