Town: Dem primary debate tape doesn’t belong on Channel 22

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Jennifer Maertz (left) and Bridget Fleming are squaring off in a Democratic primary for the opportunity to oppose Senator Ken LaValle.

Although the Town Board will discuss the question Tuesday, for the moment Southold is sticking with its policy against running political programs on Channel 22, Cablevision’s local government channel.

Unless the board reverses its earlier decision, the tape of a Southampton debate between Democratic State Senate hopefuls Jennifer Maertz of Rocky Point and Bridget Fleming, a Southampton Town councilwoman from Sag Harbor, will not be aired in Southold prior to Thursday’s Democratic primary. The winner will take on State Senator Kenneth LaValle of Port Jefferson, a Republican who has held the seat since 1977.

The request for Southold to rebroadcast the Aug. 29 League of Women Voters debate came from Melanie Norden of Greenport, a Maertz campaign volunteer. She said she can’t understand the town’s denial.

“Can understand if the tape focused on one candidate, but it’s of two candidates, both vying for a New York State senatorial seat,” Ms. Norden said. “How can this be construed as partisan?”

She said Southampton Town broadcast the debate in its entirety on its local government station.

Mr. Russell said he polled other members of the Town Board on Friday and all, including lone Democrat Al Krupski, opposed airing the tape on the government channel.

“We’re trying to keep it non-political, even if it means a lot of dead air there,” the supervisor said. “This is not government, this is politics.”

Mr. Russell added that the town has also refused to broadcast a variety of tapes provided by Mr. LaValle.

The board’s discussion will come during its Tuesday morning work session. If the board decides to approve the broadcast, the tape could run much of Tuesday and throughout Wednesday and Thursday, said Mr. Russell.

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