Opinion: Far More Than Just a Horse Race

We’d just gone to one of the first debates of this local election season as this edition of The Beacon went to press. It was a contentious and nuanced affair, filled with intrigue surrounding the backstories between the candidates, the idiosyncrasies of their positions on intensely local issues and their complex relationships to their political parties.

To tell the full story behind the 2019 races for Southampton Town office, we’d need far more space than we have in this newspaper. 

In the other East End towns, this year’s campaigns are equally complex. 

They range from a disaffected former Democratic Party chairman waging a third party run against an incumbent town supervisor of his own party in East Hampton, while the Republicans sit out the race; to the newly energized Southold Town Democrats, who have come out as bulldogs against a local GOP crew that had long prided itself on consensus and congeniality; to a bevy of new female candidates who could reshape the gender mix among Riverhead’s elected officials.

As we go to press, the local campaign season is just beginning, and it’s looking like a doozy. The East End is at a tipping point in terms of its carrying capacity for the kind of vacation shenanigans for which we’ve become known, and there may not be all that much any politician of any party can do to make tourism less of a burden on the lives of those of us still lucky enough to live here year-round.

Our issues are intensely local, and our candidates are also, for the most part, intensely local. The saga of local politics may not be as well-covered by the media as the mess in Washington, but it’s no less relevant.

Regardless of how you feel about our national political situation, local elections carry with them nuances that can’t be expressed simply by filling in a straight row of circles under an R or a D on your ballot Nov. 5. 

Candidates’ experience matters, their institutional knowledge of their communities matters — even if they haven’t held public office before — and their willingness to embrace new ideas and solutions for our communities matters as well. 

Those of us in the local news business often discuss how far removed our local politicians are from national debates. In order to make informed decisions about voting in these elections, you need to put in the time researching candidates, perhaps meeting them or attending the numerous debates cropping up throughout this month.

Most of these candidates are very approachable, and it’s easy to get a feel for their outlook and capabilities from a candidate forum or a personal conversation.

Our website will be filled throughout the month of October with coverage of these campaigns, and we hope that you will tune in. We promise to make it interesting, but somehow we think that will be an easy task. There are a lot of personalities out there running, and there’s a lot at stake.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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