The East Hampton Independence Party announced its support for a slate of candidates this week, including Jeff Bragman for town supervisor. This is an important set of endorsements because it instantly injected a hearty dose of democracy back into the race.
By the numbers, Democratic town board candidates now can nearly count on winning; this is why the party committee’s backing is almost akin to victory, unless challenges like this emerge. In recent years, Democratic Party registration has swelled, while the Republican Party’s has stayed steady and, in some places, fallen. This meant that when the East Hampton Town Democratic Committee backed the incumbent Peter Van Scoyoc, for a moment it seemed as if the election outcome had been set, despite the fact that it was from a committee vote of fewer than 40 members. Forty votes in a town of more than 20,000 residents is not what anyone would call democracy, and it brings to mind leadership committees in several of the United States’ rival nations that operate in this way, albeit at vast scale.
Mr. Bragman, a one-term town councilman whom the Democratic committee did not endorse this time but did four years ago, successfully circulated a petition to force a party primary on June 22. Also to be on the primary ballot will be John Whelan, who hopes to run for town board, and Rick Drew, an East Hampton Town trustee also rejected by the central, uh, party committee. So, regardless of the outcome of the primary there will be a choice for Democratically minded voters in November.
Whether this apparent schism between people who might vote for Mr. Van Scoyoc and those inclined toward Mr. Bragman could open a path for the Republican supervisor candidate, Ken Walles, remains to be seen. Also a wildcard is if Mr. Whelan’s support could siphon off votes for Councilwoman Kathee Burke Gonzalez or Cate Rogers for town board, which could benefit George Aman and Joseph Karpinski, the G.O.P. nominees. What is clear right now, though, is that we have a real race on our hands, and that is good for East Hampton — and good democracy.