Dems Cheer Two Wins

Overby and Van Scoyoc in, Cohen race in question
Sylvia Overby celebrates her success
Sylvia Overby celebrated her success in gaining a seat on the East Hampton Town board. Morgan McGivern

    On Election night at the Main Street, East Hampton, law offices of Twomey, Latham, Shea, Kelley, Dubin, and Quartararo, Chris Kelley, a longtime Democratic party member, presided over the hopeful vigil for Zachary Cohen, the Democrats’ town supervisor candidate, and the party’s candidates for town board, trustees, justice, and highway superintendent.
    Job Potter, a former town councilman who bowed out of politics several years ago to pursue other interests but was drawn back to a more active role supporting the Democrats’ efforts this year, sat at the table entering the results into a spreadsheet on his laptop.
    About a dozen people stood by at first. The crowd grew as the night wore on, with some coming up to the office from the less formal Democratic headquarters at Rowdy Hall nearby.
    Starting at just before 9:30 p.m., results rolled in from various election districts, and the tallies quickly showed that the Democrats’ two town board candidates, Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc, were top vote-getters.
    With 183 votes from District 17, in Springs, Ms. Overby got almost twice that of the least successful candidate in that district, Marilyn Behan, and Mr. Van Scoyoc garnered 194, compared to the closest competitor, Bill Mott, with 119.
    Jeanne Frankl, the chairwoman of the town Democratic Committee, read out the vote totals from paper ballots.
    “Your home territory,” she said, looking up at Ms. Overby, when Amagansett numbers came in. Ms. Frankl grimaced when reading off the numbers in the highway superintendent race, where the Democratic incumbent, Scott King, was ousted by a Republican, Stephen Lynch.
    “I’m nervous,” said Ms. Overby, who experienced a disappointing election night in 2001, when she failed to win a town board seat. “I forgot what this is like.”
    It was 9:45 p.m., and things were already looking good for her. Eileen Catalano, a town planning board member, stepped over to give her an excited hug.
    More results came in, and a hopeful current ran through the room. Looking excited, Mr. Van Scoyoc took a few snapshots to record the scene.
    “We’re going to stop here,” Mr. Kelley said at three minutes before 10 p.m. “Here’s what it looks like, everybody. We won the two council seats, and the supervisor’s race is looking very good — it’s too close to call right now.”
    With votes in 10 of the 19 election districts tallied, Mr. Cohen had 1,698 votes, and Mr. Wilkinson, 1,634. 
    Refreshments were broken out to celebrate the town board wins.
    Tallies in the supervisor race were consistently close, except in at least one Montauk district, where Mr. Wilkinson received 332 votes, versus Mr. Cohen’s 148, and a Sag Harbor district where Mr. Cohen’s tally, almost double that of his competitor, elicited some applause.
    “I’m so proud of you,” Ms. Frankl said quietly to Mr. Cohen at one point in the night.
    After results from all districts had been called in, the unofficial count showed Mr. Wilkinson ahead by 121 votes, a smaller margin than what official results eventually indicated.
    At 10:30 p.m., Mr. Kelley told the group gathered around the conference table that, according to calculations based on past results and other data, he expected that outstanding absentee ballots would put Mr. Cohen ahead. “The supervisor race is not over tonight. It’s just looking very good for us.”
    “This is an example of why we put in such an effort to get the absentee ballots out,” Mr. Kelley said.
    Through it all, Mr. Cohen remained placid. His wife, Pamela Bickett, looked nervously over the shoulders of those compiling results numbers from time to time, but he remained mostly at the outskirts of the action.
    Instead of worrying about the election outcome, Mr. Cohen was thinking about the proposed 2012 town budget, on which the town board is to hold a hearing tonight. He believes changes need to be made before its adoption.
    “I was nervous at the debates,” Mr. Cohen said, faced with the need to communicate well with potential voters. But the outcome was out of his hands at this point, he explained.
    “If it was up to me, I would have gone to bed,” he told a reporter. “I would have woken up at 3 a.m. and written the e-mails I needed to write” — in the case of a win, he said, one calling a meeting of the Democratic team at 9 a.m.
    However, he said, he wanted to be on hand to thank everyone who had helped with his campaign.
    That he did, in a short speech, at close to 11 p.m., just before the group was to head down to Rowdy Hall for celebratory drinks. “My father actually ran for four elections, and he never lost,” Mr. Cohen said. “But he had two advantages over me: one, he never talked.”
    And, he said, “He owned a restaurant. He would put out tons of food, and get up and say, ‘Hi, thank you for supporting me. Now go enjoy yourself.’ ”
    The supervisor candidate took the time to thank a number of people, including Representative Tim Bishop, who helped with strategy, and Betty Mazur, a Democratic committeewoman.
    Ms. Frankl “gave me the greatest counsel, and was so supportive.” She also, he said, was “an intellect” to hash things over with. “Which I think is going to be one of the big changes,” at Town Hall, he said, with a win for the Democrats. “We’ll actually discuss policy and ideas.”
    Mr. Cohen also thanked outgoing Democratic Town Councilwoman Julia Prince. “If she hadn’t helped me out for years and years,” he said, “I wouldn’t be here today.” The East Hampton Civil Service Employees Association “really came through,” and helped get out the vote, he added. “That one endorsement probably countered every other endorsement I didn’t get.”
    Although an initial endorsement by the Independence Party was challenged and eventually withdrawn, with the party’s regional leadership awarding its endorsement to Mr. Wilkinson, “The local party stuck behind me,” Mr. Cohen said.
    In speaking to the group, all three of the Democratic town board candidates stressed their affinity for one another. To applause, Mr. Cohen described the “total sense of ease between the three of us . . . total respect for one another.”
    “Sylvia finally said, ‘Well, you know, Zach, you’re a nerd with a heart,’ ” Mr. Cohen told those assembled, with a laugh. All three, Mr. Cohen said, have an abiding care for the people of East Hampton, and a commitment to intellectual discussion of the issues.
    “If I do squeak through — and I do believe in probability; tonight I’m going to be home working the numbers,” said Mr. Cohen, who is a mathematician. “You’re going to see a fabulous group.”
    “We owe this election to all of your support,” Ms. Overby said when it was her turn to speak. “Our message was clear. We will represent all the people of the town. Not just those who voted for us, but everybody,” she said, to applause.
    “I’m looking forward to doing a good job for East Hampton,” said Mr. Van Scoyoc. “The place means so much to me, the people mean so much.”