Democrats Take Town Board Election in East Hampton While Supervisor’s Race Remains Uncertain

Posted on 09 November 2011

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There were no concession speeches offered in the race for East Hampton Town Supervisor on Tuesday night, with a small margin of votes separating the incumbent Republican supervisor and the Democratic Party challenger.

According to the Suffolk County Board of Election’s (BOE) unofficial results, Republican Supervisor Bill Wilkinson has narrowly defeated Democratic Party candidate Zach Cohen by just 177 votes.

However, with at least 700 absentee ballots yet to be counted by the BOE, Cohen has not conceded defeat, on Wednesday saying it would likely be a week, if not two, before a final victor is named in the contest.

As of early Wednesday morning, unofficial results out of the BOE showed Wilkinson earning 3,066 votes, about 51 percent of the vote with Cohen trailing, carrying 48 percent of the vote with 2,889 ballots cast in his favor.

“To tell you the truth, I am a little disappointed because of the amount of work we have accomplished in a short 22 months,” said Wilkinson on Wednesday morning. “To see the race this tight means that the priorities of the community are different than just providing straight tax reductions, cutting the budget, trying to save the middle class and other things.”

Wilkinson said at the same time, he will be “reflective” about how close the race is and what kind of changes he will need to make at the helm if he is re-elected.

“You have to ask yourself why it was so close,” he said. “Improvement has to be made as a result of that.”

“I remain very positive,” said Cohen on Wednesday morning, although he said in every analysis he has completed on how the absentee ballots could fall, it really is anyone’s race for the supervisor’s seat.

According to Cohen, East Hampton Town residents had applied for 1,050 absentee ballots. A total of 766 had been handed in as of Monday, including close to 400 from Democratic Party members, 213 from Republican Party members, and the remainder split between third and unlisted party members.

“It is not so far fetched an idea that I could come out the winner,” said Cohen. “My odds are better than the New York State Lottery.”

What was certain by 10 p.m. on Tuesday night was that Democratic candidates for town board — Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc — comfortably won the two open seats on the East Hampton Town Board. Independence Party candidates Marilyn Behan and Bill Mott offered their concessions on Tuesday night, along with Republican town board hopefuls Steven Gaines and Richard Haeg.

According to the BOE, Van Scoyoc was the top vote getter, earning 2,689 or 23 percent of the vote. He was followed by Overby, who had 21 percent of the vote with 2,475 ballots cast in her favor. Haeg earned 1,738 votes, followed by Gaines who brought in 1,702 votes, with Independence Party candidates Mott and Behan earning 1,610 and 1,331, respectively.

On Wednesday, Van Scoyoc said support for the Democratic candidates, he believed, came from their platform on addressing quality of life issues in the town, and preserving the very reasons so many residents love to call East Hampton home.

“People want us to be careful with planning and proceed in government in a way that preserves all that we have,” said Van Scoyoc.

He added that he hopes to work with Republican members of the town board in a bi-partisan effort to do what is best for East Hampton.

“I will be looking for ways to bring people together and deal with issues in an open and effective manner,” he said.

“I really think our message was about the quality of life people have enjoyed and expected in living out here,” agreed Overby. “And it has really gone off the rails, which is why I think we saw things turn around so quickly.”

Overby said she plans to focus on ensuring the Community Preservation Fund continues to operate, and that she would like to look into chain store legislation in East Hampton that could protect the community character of downtown areas. Aiding farmers and creating legislation to allow that industry to thrive is another top priority, as is pushing the town board to use the professional expertise found within the town’s planning department — a department she feels has been overlooked in the last two years.

Where Republicans did rally was in the town highway superintendent, town justice and town trustee races where Democratic candidates were handily defeated.

In the highway superintendent race, Republican Party candidate Stephen Lynch routed incumbent Democratic Scott King, earning 3,567 votes to King’s 2,387. Lynch was one of the first winners declared on Tuesday night at Indian Wells Tavern in Amagansett — the Republican Party headquarters for the evening.

Similarly, incumbent Republican town justice, and acting Sag Harbor Village Justice, Lisa Rana was re-elected to her seat, earning 3,701 or 63-percent of the vote, over her Democratic challenger Stephen Grossman, who brought in 2,178 votes.

In the town trustee race, Republicans Stephanie Talmage-Forsberg, Timothy Bock, Diane McNally, Sean McCaffery Joseph Bloecker, Lynn Mendelman and Nathaniel Miller were elected to that board, along with Democrats Stephen Lester and Deborah Klughers.

Unopposed in their elections, the town’s assessors — Jeanne Nielsen and Jill Massa also kept their positions within the town.

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