In 2015, Southold Town Justice Brian Hughes ran for office and was elected with the endorsement of the Democratic party.
But this year, in his bid for re-election, Judge Hughes has screened with both the Republican and Democratic committees.
Kathryn Casey Quigley, the chair of the Southold Democratic committee, said Mr. Hughes told the Democrats during the screening process that he was offered the Republican line with the assurances that he would also get the Conservative and Independence lines on the ballot. She said Mr. Hughes would be given those party lines on “handshake promises” so long as he didn’t run with the Democrats.
However, Mr. Hughes said in an interview that he’s only screened to date with the Republicans and Democrats. He said he has not met with anyone from the Conservative or Independence parties. But, he added, “So far, all the options would be on the table.”
Ms. Quigley said Mr. Hughes suggested the Democrats not run a candidate.
“I’d be very surprised if he didn’t get those lines,” she said, adding “We fully intend to run a candidate.”
Mr. Hughes might as well run on the Republican line now, because the Democrats have no intention of supporting him, Ms. Quigley said. “The point of an election is to give voters a choice”, she said. “I’m not opposed to candidates seeking other party’s endorsements, but parties should select their candidates on a candidate’s records and values and positions.”
Mr. Hughes said he sought the Republican line because he is what the Board of Elections calls a “blank,” meaning he is not registered with any party.
As a registered blank, it helps to get as many lines as possible on the ballot, he said.
“Last time, in 2015, I screened with the Republicans, Democrats and Conservatives and the time before that, in 2011, I screened with the Democrats and Conservatives,” he said. “Being independent, I can speak to anyone.”
Running with Democratic backing, Mr. Hughes lost in 2011 by a 60-40 margin, but won in 2015 by a close margin.
Peter McGreevy, the chair of the Southold Republican committee, said that Mr. Hughes screened with the Republicans and that he approached them about doing so.
“I was clear with Brian,” Mr. McGreevy said. “I told him he could either run as a Republican or he could run as a Democratic but he couldn’t do both.”
Mr. Hughes acknowledged that he was told this by the Republicans and he said he understood the politics of them not wanting to cross endorse him.
Mr. McGreevy said a deal has not yet been made with the Conservatives or the Independence party to cross endorse Mr. Hughes.
Both the Republicans and the Democrats are planning their nominating conventions in late February, due to the fact that the state moved primary day from September to June.
The Democrats have tentatively scheduled their convention for Feb. 27, and the Republicans have not picked a date. Mr. McGreevy said incumbent Supervisor Scott Russell and incumbent council members Bill Ruland and Jill Doherty have screened for reelection.
According to the Suffolk County Board of Elections, Southold Town had 6,033 registered Republicans and 5,051 registered Democrats as of Nov. 1, 2018.
It also had 905 registered Independence party members, 419 registered Conservatives and 4,356 voters who are blanks.
The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 5