According to East Hampton Independence Party Chairwoman Elaine Jones, her party’s county chairman Frank MacKay has endorsed incumbent Republican Supervisor Bill Wilkinson as the Independence Party candidate this November. This comes despite the fact that local party officials had already voted to support Zachary Cohen, who is running on the Democratic and Working Families party lines this fall.
“It’s a shock,” said Jones on Tuesday morning.
According to Jones, on Monday McKay filed paperwork with the Suffolk County Board of Elections that authorizes Wilkinson, not Cohen, the right to run on the Independence Party line. The East Hampton Independence Party voted to support Cohen in May.
What enabled MacKay to do so was that neither Cohen nor Wilkinson is a member of the Independence Party. Because of that, MacKay needed to file formal authorization with the county board of elections, known as a Wilson-Pakula, for either candidate to appear on the Independence Party line.
MacKay had the ability, noted Jones, to give both candidates authorization to run, which would have forced a primary race between Cohen and Wilkinson.
“I obviously would have preferred a primary to this,” said Jones.
On Tuesday, Jones said she was only made aware of MacKay’s decision after he filed the paperwork, and said she had yet to talk to him as of late Tuesday morning. However, she added, the county party chairman gave her no indications early on that he would overrule the local party.
“As a matter of fact, the chairman said at the very beginning of all of this that I should ‘take a stand,’” said Jones in their decision not to endorse Wilkinson for a second term. “I assumed we had his backing.”
While Jones said the change, she believes, was likely the result of a “back room deal” between MacKay and Republican Party leaders, she said the local Independence Party remains undeterred in its support of Cohen, as well as town board candidates Marilyn Behan and William Mott — both whom will appear on the party’s line in November with Wilkinson.
“We are getting ready for our campaign,” said Jones. “I am working for Zach and he has our support, regardless. The bright spot is I believe Zachary Cohen has been endorsed by the Working Families party and that is where I will vote for him because he is the candidate who cares about the working people of East Hampton.”