Underscoring the mantra “every vote counts,” last week incumbent East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson narrowly won re-election 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 177 votes. Cohen had closed the gap between himself and Wilkinson as absentee votes were counted. 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 close race is a marked difference from Wilkinson’s first win in 2009. Running on the platform that he would right the sinking financial ship of East Hampton Town, which had amassed a $27 million deficit under the previous Democratic Party led administration, Wilkinson secured 67 percent of the vote against his Democratic challenger Ben Zwirn.
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 on Wednesday morning and certified their results that day. Staff at the board of elections have been working 12 hours a day, almost seven days a week since election day, said one staffer in Katz’s office.
According to the final results, Wilkinson earned 2,600 Republican votes, 321 Conservative votes and 482 votes from residents voting on the Independence Party line. Cohen secured 2,999 votes from Democrats and 389 votes from residents voting under the Working Families Party line.
According to Frankl, Cohen called Wilkinson just before noon on Wednesday to congratulate him on his victory and concede the race.
“We hope that Zach’s success, his continued involvement in public affairs, and the leadership of our newly elected council persons will impel those on the current board to rethink their ‘mandate’ and, working closely with the newly elected councilpersons, be more responsive to all in the community,” said Frankl on Wednesday in a formal statement issued to the press.
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. 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.
Wilkinson’s re-election secures Republican Party control over the five-member board for at least the next two years.
On Wednesday, Cohen thanked his supporters and running mates on the Democratic Party line, as well as community members who walked the streets for him, posted support on social media sites like Facebook and most importantly, turned out to vote.
“They are our community,” he said.
Supervisor Wilkinson did not return calls for comment.