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Candidates chosen for special election to replace Bender in Southampton

12/11/2015 1:00 PM |

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The Southampton Town Board seat left vacant after the sudden arrest and resignation of Bradley Bender last month will come down to a pair of familiar faces for a replacement. 

Democrat Julie Lofstad, who unsuccessfully ran for a council seat in the November election, will face off against Republican Richard Yastrzemski, who lost the town supervisor race.

The special election is scheduled for Jan. 26.

Ms. Lofstad was nominated Sunday by the Southampton Town Democratic Party and Mr. Yastrzemski received the nomination from his party on Tuesday. Both candidates said the opportunity to run for Town Board so soon after their previous campaigns was an easy decision and they described the second chance as something that rarely comes along in life.

“It’s a grind to have just finished nine months of it the first time around and basically get a four-week hiatus and say here we go again,” said Mr. Yastrzemski, who’s currently the deputy mayor of Southampton Village. “It’s very unfortunate for Mr. Bender and the community, but it’s very fortuitous for me. The opportunity to get a second crack at it is great.”

Ms. Lofstad said she hopes she can turn a negative into a positive.

“If I can get in and do good for my town that’s what I’d like to do,” she said.

Ms. Lofstad, who lives in Hampton Bays with her husband and 15-year-old daughter, said she plans to take a slightly different approach on some issues and trust her gut more.

As an example, Ms. Lofstad, 53, pointed to housing issues in Southampton Town and how she realized they vary across the different hamlets.

“It’s going at it from a slightly different angle,” said Ms. Lofstad, who works with her husband in their commercial fishing business.

Mr. Bender, of Northampton, pled guilty Nov. 24 to conspiracy to illegally distribute oxycodone as part of a $1.8 million scheme involving a Riverhead physician assistant who had previously been arrested by federal agents. Mr. Bender said he became addicted to pain pills he was overprescribed following back surgery and had no knowledge of a larger conspiracy.

The news came as a shock to both candidates now vying for his vacated seat.

“In the wings, which I grew to know a lot better during my first campaign, is a community in need of leadership,” said Mr. Yastrzemski, 49, who is married with children.

Ms. Lofstad added: “It’s a terrible thing when a public official betrays the trust of his or her community. But I really think that we have so many issues that we have to talk about to make our town a better place, that’s what we should be focusing on.”

Mr. Bender, who was elected to the Town Board in 2013, is due back in court in April for sentencing.

Photo Caption: Southampton Town Board candidates Richard Yastrzemski and Julie Lofstad. (Credit: Tim Gannon, left, and courtesy photo)

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