East End Beacon

A Primary for East Hampton Democrats

East Hampton Town Hall
East Hampton Town Hall | file photo

Democratic voters in East Hampton Town will head to the polls Sept. 12 for a primary for the party’s backing in this fall’s town board race.

The town Democratic Party has officially nominated incumbent Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez and attorney Jeffrey Bragman, but Zachary Cohen, who had previously come just eight votes shy of unseating former Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson in 2011, has forced a primary, after collecting 835 signatures, far more than the required 353, on a petition he filed with the Suffolk County Board of Elections July 11.

Mr. Cohen, an active member of the town’s Nature Preserve Committee and Vice Chair of the Springs Citizens Advisory Committee, has worked as a restaurateur and real estate investor.

“Collecting signatures over the past month required building a new organization of committed volunteers, but our supporters have been amazing,” said Mr. Cohen in the announcement of his candidacy. “My wife Pamela and I are in awe of the people who put in hundreds of hours to achieve this first step towards victory in September. The feedback from our volunteers was also invaluable and has helped us to further understand the concerns of our Democratic Party electorate.”

Mr. Cohen had screened before the East Hampton Democratic Committee, but Ms. Burke-Gonzalez and Mr. Bragman were unanimously nominated to run for the positions. Incumbent Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc is running for town supervisor, as the current supervisor, Larry Cantwell, is not seeking another term.

East Hampton Republicans are backing Manny Vilar of Springs, a State Parks Police Sergeant and vice president of the New York Park Police Sergeants Association, as their candidate for town supervisor and former EPA Radiation and Indoor Air New York Branch Chief Paul Giardina and former East Hampton Village Police Chief Jerry Larsen, a registered Independence Party member, will be the GOP candidates for town board.

Democratic Town Board candidate Jeffrey Bragman, an attorney in private practice, is a familiar face at town and village board meetings, often arguing against development on the grounds of inadequacies in developers’ plans according to State Environmental Quality Review Act standards.

At the town party’s mid-May nominating convention, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said East Hampton is “an extraordinary place to live, work and raise a family.  And I, like all of you, want to see it preserved and protected.” 

“I love solving problems and finding solutions to the challenges we face, where members of the community participate, collaborate, and assist in problem solving – because that leads us to more informed decision making,” she added.

Mr. Cohen said signers of his petition include several former Democratic town council members, the current Clerk of the Town Trustees, established leaders of the African-American community, and young leaders from the Latino community, along with noted environmentalists in Springs and Montauk were also prevalent signers.

“Ultimately the Democratic Primary will allow all 7,000 registered Democrats to choose their candidates, and the two strongest will be well positioned to defeat their Republican opponents in November,” he said.


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