By Kathryn G. Menu
The Suffolk County and Southampton Conservative parties have announced the formal endorsement of local writer and Southampton Town Planning Board member, Phil Keith, for Southampton supervisor in next week’s primary.
The decision, announced late last week, comes on the heels of a write-in campaign launched by Republican Party candidate Linda Kabot, who filed for a primary race against original Conservative Party candidate Howard Heckman III. His petition has been ruled invalid by the Suffolk County Board of Elections.
Last month, Kabot successfully had Heckman’s petition thrown out by the board of elections, challenging names on his petition, including his own and signatures from family members who had already signed her own Conservative Party petitions. The party declined to give Kabot a formal nod.
“A review of the life and experience of Commander Keith confirms, he is without question, a sterling choice to carry the Conservative Banner,” said the Southampton Town Conservative Party in a statement issued last Thursday. “His dedication to public service, his dedication to our nation, his outstanding education, his exceptional private sector experience and his unwavering life-long close adherence to Conservative Principles make him uniquely qualified to carry the Conservative line and serve with great distinction as our Southampton Town Supervisor.”
Keith served in the Navy following his degree from Harvard University, becoming a Naval Aviator. During three tours in Vietnam, he served with distinction and was awarded, among other decorations, the Air Medal for Gallantry, the Presidential Unit Citation and the Navy Commendation Medal. After his wartime service he rose to the rank of Commander in the Naval Reserves.
On Tuesday, Keith said Conservative Party chairman Jim Malone — a member of the Southampton Town Board — contacted him last month about the endorsement.
“I told Jim I have always tried to be the kind of guy that when my country, or my party, calls on me to help, I do it,” said Keith.
In addition to being a member of the Southampton Town Planning Board, Keith also served for five years as a member of the town’s transportation committee, two as its chairman.
“Local roads and traffic, disaster relief, hurricane relief are near to my heart,” he said.
Keith said that he has enjoyed his work on the planning board, appointed by Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, to fill the term of Bill Berkoski after his death in 2011.
“I enjoy the work,” said Keith.
Should he not win the primary, or the supervisors’ position come November, Keith said he hopes to be reappointed to that board after his term expires in December.
For now, however, his focus is on next week’s primary race.
A total of 712 residents are registered members of the Conservative Party in Southampton Town, according to the Suffolk County Board of Elections.
Neither Keith nor Kabot’s names will be formally listed on the ballot. It is a write-in contest to see whose name will adorn that line come Tuesday, November 5.
Incumbent Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst will hold the Democratic and Independence party lines.
“What goes beyond September 10 is a second milestone,” said Keith on Tuesday. “The reason I have done this is I feel it should be the party that determines a candidate. I think it is the right thing. I am not doing this against anyone. It is not against Linda, it is not against Anna, it is for the right of the Conservative Party to pick its candidate.
In Southampton, also next Tuesday, there will be a primary race on the Working Families Party line to determine who will be the town’s candidate for highway superintendent. While incumbent highway superintendent Alex Gregor, endorsed by the Democratic and Independence party lines, has earned the party’s nomination, Republican challenger David Betts has filed petition with the board of elections to force a primary. Gregor’s name will be listed on the ballot line, but the 100 Working Families Party members listed in Southampton Town can write in any candidate they please.
In East Hampton, registered Republicans can cast write-in ballots next Tuesday, September 10, for a candidate for town supervisor. The party has not endorsed an official candidate.
Larry Cantwell has been endorsed by the Democratic, Independence and Working Families parties, but has said he will deny a Republican nomination in the hopes for a contested race this November.
Former East Hampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman turned down the Republican nomination earlier this year in favor of seeking another term on the Suffolk County Legislature.
The Republican Party failed to petition another candidate by the Suffolk County Board of Elections deadline, opting instead for a write-in candidate.
Polls close in both towns at 9 p.m.