After East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson spent his first term in office attempting to restore financial accountability in a town that at the end of the last administration was looking down the barrel of a $27 million deficit, his re-election to a second term almost seemed like a foregone conclusion.
However, nothing could have been further from the truth.
Underscoring the mantra “every vote counts,” Wilkinson narrowly won re-election this fall by just 15 votes, according to official results tallied by the Suffolk County Board of Elections.
More than three weeks after 43-percent of registered voters in East Hampton turned out to cast ballots on Election Day, the Suffolk County Board of Elections finished tallying 840 absentee and affidavit ballots, which ultimately decided the race for town supervisor.
Wilkinson, a Republican who also ran on the Conservative and Independence party lines, earned 3,403 votes. His challenger, Zach Cohen, who is not affiliated with any political party, but was supported by the Democratic and Working Families party lines, earned 3,388.
After election night, Wilkinson led the race by just 177 votes with hundreds of absentee ballots still unopened. Once the board of elections began opening ballots, under the careful watch of East Hampton Town political party leadership, Cohen quickly closed the cap. According to East Hampton Democratic Committee Chairwoman Jeanne Frankl, Cohen would have won the race if he had earned just one vote in each of the 19 election districts in East Hampton.
The Suffolk County Board of Elections finished counting most of the absentee and affidavit ballots on Tuesday, November 22. Board commissioners Anita Katz and Wayne Rogers ruled on a remaining 11 ballots the following morning and certified their results that day. Staff at the board of elections had been working 12 hours a day, almost seven days a week since Election Day, said one staffer in Katz’s office.
Cohen’s running mates — Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc — were elected to the town board by wide margins and will join Wilkinson, as well as Republican town board members Theresa Quigley and Dominick Stanzione in the new year. Overby and Van Scoyoc will fill the seats of Democrats Julia Prince and Pete Hammerle, both who chose not to seek re-election this year.
Overby and Van Scoyoc easily bested Republican candidates, author Steven Gaines and former Suffolk County Police Department detective and veteran Richard Haeg – both handpicked by Wilkinson. Independence Party candidates Marilyn Behan and Bill Mott also sought seats on the town board.
Wilkinson’s re-election secures Republican Party control over the five-member board for at least the next two years, when the full Republican slate of town board members will be up for re-election.