The Independence Party of New York State is looking for a new Southampton Town chairman and turning to state Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. to take on the role.
The Sag Harbor resident said that he expects to accept the chairmanship, but will not be meeting with Frank MacKay, the state and Suffolk County chairman of the Independence Party, until Thursday.
"He's an institution in Southampton," MacKay said of Thiele. "We'd love to have him."
Thiele told Patch on Monday, "If I took this, it would be my goal to create a committee and really make the Independence Party play an active role in Southampton Town government — Southampton Town politics."
There is room for a viable third political party in Southampton Town, he said. "It could be much more than it is now."
Thiele also said he wants to ensure that party endorsements adhere to the wishes of locals, and that the East End has more of a say in the politics of the county and beyond.
“There were a number of town nominations in the last couple of years where recommendations made by town committees weren't adhered to, both in Southampton and East Hampton town. ...” Thiele said. “It seems that often, we’ve seen nominations for East End offices dictated by the west.”
Thiele was a long-time Republican until he became a registered member of the Independence Party in 2009. Thiele won re-election in 2010 when the Democrats decided to get behind him. Now in the current election cycle, Suffolk GOP Chairman John Jay LaValle — granting the assemblyman his first unopposed race in a 25-year political career — saying that a challenger to Thiele would be nothing more than a "."
Before switching his registration in 2009, Thiele had the support of the Independence Party dating back to when he first won his Assembly seat in 1995 during a special election. And prior to that, he was elected Southampton Town supervisor as a third-party candidate.
"He's been an independent before there's been an Independence Party," MacKay said.
In 1991, when Thiele was a Republican county legislator, he co-founded a coalition party of Republicans, Democrats and independents and ran for Southampton Town supervisor. He said both major political parties had failed the town of Southampton for a number of years, and a new party was needed.
"I had one line on the ballot," Thiele recalled. "It was row H and it was the Southampton Party."
"If you want a humbling experience, run on row H," he quipped.
He ultimately won by 17 points with 50 percent of the vote, and was re-elected two years later.
The Southampton Party went on to win a majority of Town Board seats, but was dissolved after a few years, Thiele said. He explained that in four or five years the party had accomplished what it set out to do. And, he noted, “The election laws are so stacked againt local independent parties that they’re really tough to maintain."
But while the Southampton Party was active, it inspired other East End towns, Thiele said, and local third-party candidates won town supervisor seats in both Southold and Riverhead.
Thiele said that the Southampton Party's work 20 years ago made the Independence Party's success at securing so many elected positions in Southampton Town today possible.
In addition to Thiele, registered Independence Party members who hold office in Southampton include Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, Town Trustee Bill Pell and Highway Supervisor Alex Gregor. And Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman may live in Montauk, but his district includes Southampton Town.
Steve Lynch, the most recent chairman of the Southampton Independents, stepped down to take a 10-year appointment as a court of claims judge.