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Year in Review: GOP passed on Shepherd, lost control of Town board

This week, the Reporter brings you some of the top stories of 2019.

In early March, the Shelter Island Republican Committee dropped a bomb into Island politics. It announced their slate of candidates for the November election, with a top vote-getting Republican incumbent, Paul Shepherd, absent from the list.

The GOP endorsed Supervisor Gary Gerth to run for a second term and Marcus Kaasik and Julia Romanchuk Weisenberg to compete for Town Board seats.

Mr. Kaasik, who ran as a Republican in 2015 and lost by 10 votes to Councilman Albert Dickson, and Ms. Weisenberg, a newcomer to politics, were up against incumbent Democrat Councilman Jim Colligan, and newcomer, Democrat Michael Bebon. All Republicans lost including Mr. Gerth, who was bidding for a second term, to former supervisor Gerry Siller.

Mr. Shepherd won reelection to a second term in 2015 on the Republican line, garnering the most votes of any candidate for Town Board. But this time around, the GOP passed on endorsing him. A registered Conservative, Mr. Shepherd ran on that line for a third term and was defeated.

Island GOP Chairman Gary Blados, in announcing his party’s candidates and passing on Mr. Shepherd, said he liked the councilman. “And while I may agree or disagree with him on certain issues, I have no doubt he has the Island’s best interests at heart,” he added.

Mr. Shepherd told the Reporter that at first he was a bit “baffled” by the GOP Committee’s decision. “But when you get endorsed by a party, that’s a gift,” he said. “You never presume you’re going to get the gift every time.”

The decision not to endorse him, he speculated, was because the Republicans have “a group of young people and they want a voice.” This was despite, he said, that “I work hard for things that we pretty much share.”

Going younger seems to be part of the GOP’s strategy. As Mr. Blados noted, Mr. Kaasik and Ms. Weisenberg “have young children growing up on Shelter Island and both have made their careers here. They represent a significant demographic that too often feels their voice is not being represented.”

Diverse perspectives were needed, he added, “from people who are willing to listen instead of talk.”

Mr. Blados said one of the Republican candidates’ main objectives was “to bring the Island together.”

Final results in the Island’s 2019 election are:
• Democrat Gerry Siller will take over the supervisor’s office on Jan. 1, netting 863 votes to Republican Gary Gerth’s 606.
• Democrat Mike Bebon won 748 votes to top the list of Town Board candidates.
• Democrat incumbent Jim Colligan will retain his seat for another four years, winning 632 votes
• Republican Mr. Kaasik’s vote count was 573.
• Republican Ms. Romanchuk received 464 votes.
• Councilman Shepherd received 443 votes.