2011 Election Season Looks Hot Already

Dems’ top picks; Independence Party surprises
East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, right, spoke to an Independence Party screening committee Monday in Amagansett. Matthew Taylor

    The November ballots for the East Hampton Town Democratic, Republican, and Independence Parties are taking shape this week, and for some top spots it looks as if there will be three-way races.
    The Democrats announced on Monday that their screening committee has backed Zachary Cohen of Springs for town supervisor and Sylvia Overby of Amagansett and Peter Van Scoyoc of East Hampton for town board. Republicans, who have already endorsed incumbent Supervisor Bill Wilkinson for a second run, seem likely to choose Steven Gaines of Wainscott and Richard Haeg of East Hampton, vice chairman of the G.O.P., to join him at the top of the ballot.
    The Independence Party endorsed Bill Mott of East Hampton, a former Republican who joined the Independence Party three years ago, and Marilyn Behan of Montauk, a Democrat, for town board. Although the party did not name a candidate for supervisor at the conclusion of its screening on Monday even­ing, its chairwoman, Elaine Jones, had high praise for Mr. Cohen. In the 2009 election, the party endorsed Mr. Wilkinson for supervisor.
    “Being an independent and endorsed by at least one party, I’m going to represent everybody. I’m not a partisan person,” Mr. Cohen said yesterday. “I look at the best policies for everyone.”
    An investor and manager of residential and commercial real estate holdings who served on the town’s budget and finance advisory committee, Mr. Cohen has been particularly outspoken on town budget issues over the past two years. He is the chairman of the town’s nature preserve committee and is a member of the nonpartisan Group for Good Government.
    A 1971 graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, he also holds an M.B.A. with honors in analytic finance, economics, and management from the University of Chicago.
    Mr. Cohen is an unaffiliated voter, according to a release from the Democratic Committee, and told the Independence Party on Monday that he was asked to become a Democrat when offered that party’s endorsement, but refused.
    “I believe because of my independence I can appeal to all voters who are concerned that East Hampton is headed in the wrong direction,” he said in the Democrats’ release. “While there the Democrats’ release. “While there has been some progress on the financial front, much more remains to be done. There is no excuse for the fact that the community preservation fund has still not been repaid. Giving tax cuts in lieu of debt reduction is simply not prudent.”
    Ms. Overby, a former chairwoman of the town planning board and the Amagansett Citizens Advisory Committee, ran unsuccessfully for town board in 2001. She was a co-founder of the East Hampton Conservators, a political action committee that has supported Democratic candidates. She hold a bachelor’s degree from Emory University and did graduate work at Georgia State.
    In recent months, Ms. Overby has been particularly vocal on the subject of respect for public workers. In her statement accompanying the Democrats’ announcement this week, she said, “I appreciate the work of our town employees and respect their professional expertise.”
    Mr. Van Scoyoc has been on the town planning board since 2006, and served for five years on the zoning board of appeals before that, one of them as its chairman. He owns a residential construction company and runs Montauk Fishing Safaris, a sportfishing charter boat company that operates out of Montauk and Sag Harbor.
    Reached by phone yesterday, he said protecting public access to local beaches and other common resources was a major concern.
    The Democratic nominating convention on May 16 will finalize that party’s choices.
    As for the Independence Party’s town board candidates, Ms. Behan, for one, sees herself as preserving Councilwoman Julia Prince’s legacy. “I like the work Julia Prince was doing,” she said yesterday. “Unfortunately, she’s stepping down. I didn’t want all of her work to go to waste. I happen to respect her very much, her style, her research. I think I can continue that.” Ms. Behan, the wife of John Behan, a former Republican Committee chairman, worked for 12 years as executive director of the Montauk Chamber of Commerce, did economic development work for New York State under the Pataki administration, and more recently has kept the books for Uihlein’s Marina in Montauk.
     A town trustee elected on the Republican line, Mr. Mott has served in that post for six terms, with a one-term break following a failed attempt to force a primary for the Republican nomination for town board. This time, he is ready to make a go of it on a different party line.
    “I feel as though I can take the next step, if you will,” Mr. Mott said yesterday. “I do have some idea of the on-goings in the town.” A Vietnam veteran, Mr. Mott has served as a volunteer fireman for just shy of 30 years.
    The Independence Party endorsed Lisa R. Rana for town justice, Stephen Lynch, a one-time Republican nominee, for highway superintendent, and Jeanne Nielsen and Jill Massa, both incumbents, for town assessor.
    The Republicans were still in the midst of making their announcements formal as of press time. Democrats had not yet named their candidates for town assessor, trustee, justice, or highway superintendent.