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Rebuffed Democrats Have Enough Signatures for Primary

Thu, 04/01/2021 - 11:49
John Whelan, left, Jeff Bragman, center, and Rick Drew

Nominating petitions for three Democrats who hope to force a primary election in June were delivered to the Suffolk County Board of Elections last week, and the would-be candidates, two of them incumbents, were upbeat this week about their prospects. 

East Hampton Town Councilman Jeff Bragman, who is seeking a primary challenge to Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc; Rick Drew, an incumbent town trustee, and John Whelan, who seeks to run for town board, needed 147 registered voters' signatures for a primary election to be held on June 22. They got around 325, Mr. Whelan said this week.

"I fully expect to get on the primary ballot," Mr. Whelan, chairman of the town's zoning board of appeals, said, "and then the campaign work gets into full gear: I start working on getting my name out there more and more, meeting people, doing some door-to-door stuff." 

Mr. Whelan screened for a seat on the town board but finished far behind Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, whose second term expires this year, and Cate Rogers in the East Hampton Democratic Committee's nominating convention in February. Ms. Rogers is the committee's chairwoman. 

The zoning board's chairman since 2014, Mr. Whelan was considered for an appointment to the town board to complete Mr. Van Scoyoc's term after his 2017 election to supervisor. He previously told The Star that he felt that the committee's newer members may not know him as well as the other candidates who participated in the screening, and "I don't feel like leaving my political career up to committee members who don't know my background, what I'd like to bring to the board." 

Mr. Drew, a three-term trustee whom the committee did not endorse, instead voting for the political newcomer David Cataletto, said this week that he was "blown away by the support that we got" for a primary election. "It was nice to see support, that there were people that wanted to see a primary happen and have the constituency decide the slate."

The Democratic Committee did not endorse Mr. Bragman for re-election, voting instead for Ms. Rogers. "Petitioning is obviously not the election," he said on Tuesday, "but it's nice to have support." 

Mr. Drew said that he and the other candidates "are also looking at" other political parties on whose ballot lines they could run in the general election. "Nothing has been finalized," he said. Mr. Bragman declined to discuss his plans should he not prevail in a primary election. 

The Democratic Committee had no interest in challenging the three Democrats' nominating petitions, said Ms. Rogers. "We welcome primaries as part of our democracy," she said on Tuesday. "I and my colleagues look forward to getting out and campaigning." 


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