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May 20, 2015 11:30 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Throne-Holst Departure Scrambles Southampton Political Picture

May 20, 2015 11:30 AM

Anna Throne-Holst’s announcement on Tuesday that she will forgo a reelection bid as Southampton Town supervisor in favor of a 2016 run for Congress has suddenly cast a very different light on this fall’s races, raising some new possibilities in the competition for Town Board seats.

Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman is expected to announce on Friday that he will run for office in Southampton Town, although whether it will be for the supervisor’s suite—which he once occupied in East Hampton Town—or a Town Board desk is not known.

Mr. Schneiderman, a former Republican who is registered with the Independence Party, is expected to have Democratic Party backing for whatever post he seeks. With Ms. Throne-Holst being, until this week, the declared candidate for supervisor, the party likely is short on prospects.

Without reliable vote-getter Ms. Throne-Holst, and the robust bankroll she has brought to bear in previous elections, the race for the town’s top seat would instantly appear to be much more in play from the Republican point of view as well.

Early conventional wisdom was that four-year GOP Councilwoman Christine Scalera would not challenge Ms. Throne-Holst this year and would, instead, seek reelection to another term on the Town Board, allowing her to safely run for supervisor in two years, when Ms. Throne-Holst would have been prevented from running again by term limits. But with the supervisor’s early exit, some political prognosticators say Ms. Scalera must be reconsidering—and, if so, that would open up another Town Board seat to a newcomer.

On Tuesday, the councilwoman herself was noncommittal. “Rumors about Anna notwithstanding, this wasn’t something I expected,” she said of the supervisor’s decision. “With our local businesses, residents and town departments gearing up for one of our busiest holiday weekends, right now my focus is on them and doing my job to see to it that things run as smoothly as possible. Political planning will have to wait.”

Late last week, the Republican Party appeared poised to nominate Southampton Village Trustee Richard Yastzremski to challenge Ms. Throne-Holst, with Ms. Scalera and East Quogue attorney Damon Hagen in line to be the GOP choices for the two open council seats.

Mr. Yastrzemski said earlier this week that he was looking forward to the race, even when he thought he’d be facing Ms. Throne-Holst’s campaign juggernaut.

“I’ve enjoyed doing what I’ve done for the village, and I like engaging with people, and making the leap over to the town is not exactly a different universe,” he said. “It’s not a walk in the park, that I know. I know it’s about getting out there and finding the support.”

Mr. Wright said after Ms. Throne-Holst’s confirmation of her plans on Tuesday that the party is sticking to its game plan and expects to hold its nominating convention early next week.

He said that in addition to Mr. Hagen and Ms. Scalera, James Sanford had also screened for consideration as a candidate for Town Board. Mr. Sanford screened with the party to be a supervisor candidate in 2013. He also ran, unsuccessfully, for Sag Harbor School Board this year.

The Southampton Town Democratic Party will hold its own nominating convention on May 27.

Mr. Schneiderman said that he will make an announcement about his decision before Memorial Day, and potentially as early as Friday.

He is prevented by term limits from seeking election to another term on the Suffolk County Legislature, where he has served since 2004. Democratic Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming announced earlier this month that she would forgo another term on the Town Board and intends to seek his seat on the legislature.

Southampton Town Democratic Party Chairman Gordon Herr confirmed on Friday that Mr. Schneiderman had screened with the party for a town post earlier this month, though he did not specify for which office.

Mr. Schneiderman, a longtime Montauk resident and business owner, has been living in Southampton for several years, where his children attend school, and is nearing completion on a new house in Southampton Village. But he had maintained his official residence, and voter registration, at his property in Montauk—until he switched his registration early this month to the address of the house he is currently renting in Hampton Bays while his Southampton house is finished.

If he were to win a seat on the Southampton Town Board, Mr. Schneiderman, who was East Hampton’s supervisor for two terms from January 2000 to December 2003, would be the first person to be elected to public office in both South Fork towns.

Mr. Schneiderman is registered under the Independence Party, as are Ms. Throne-Holst and Councilman Brad Bender, who is in the second year of a four-year term. The Democratic Party has cross-endorsed Ms. Throne-Holst in all four of her previous election bids, and Mr. Schneiderman in his last three county races. Mr. Schneiderman, who served two terms as East Hampton supervisor as a Republican, was elected to the county seat on the GOP ticket, before switching his affiliation to the Independence Party in 2008.

Mr. Herr said that six people screened with the party for Town Board positions in recent weeks. “We had a lot of interest this year,” he said. “We’ve tried to create a fusion team, who appeal to people of all persuasions.”

Julie Lofstad of Hampton Bays said this week that she hopes to be one of the Town Board candidates. “So far, I have not been told anything definitively, but I’m certainJanly hoping to run,” she said on Monday.

At the county level, the race would seem to be a contest between Ms. Fleming and Amos Goodman, an East Hampton resident who was held up as the party’s candidate of choice for the seat in February by Suffolk County Republican Party Chairman John J. LaValle.

Ms. Fleming is sure to get the Democratic nod, but Mr. Goodman’s seemingly early anointment by Mr. LaValle has left many wondering what happened, or will happen, with former Southampton Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi, who ran unsuccessfully for the seat against Mr. Schneiderman two years ago and had been seen as the favorite for the GOP nomination to the post this time around. Whether Mr. Nuzzi will, at some point, enter the race remains a popular topic of speculation among local political watchers.

If Mr. Goodman were to be officially nominated by the party’s county committee, and confirmed by Mr. LaValle, Mr. Nuzzi could force a primary if he were to also submit requisite candidacy petitions.

Mr. Nuzzi, who grew up in East Hampton and served for eight years on the Southampton Town Board, said this week that he has made no specific plans to seek the Republican nomination, or a primary, but made clear he was somewhat taken aback by the decision of party leadership to throw such strong support behind Mr. Goodman so far out ahead of the election.

“I was expecting to, and looking forward to, being the candidate for the legislature,” Mr. Nuzzi said last week. “But the early endorsement by the … party leaders has given me pause.”

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