The Thrill of G.O.P. Victory, the Agony of Dem’s Defeat

(11/05/2009) The mood was celebratory early on Tuesday night at Indian Wells Tavern in Amagansett, where East Hampton Town’s Republican Party

The party’s top candidate, Bill Wilkinson, had been close to a win for town supervisor in the last election, and now, after the last term of a single-party Democratic town board headed by Bill McGintee, who resigned last month in the face of a disastrous financial situation and a district attorney’s investigation, was considered to be a virtual shoo-in, along with the members of his team.

At Democratic headquarters on Main Street in East Hampton, the mood spiraled downward as the night wore on and polling results ruled out a victory for Ben Zwirn, the supervisor candidate, as well as for John Whelan and Patti Leber, his running mates for town board, and began to indicate an almost clean sweep for the Republicans.

John Behan, the co-chairman of the local Republican Party, was in the center of the crowd at Indian Wells. Bill Sagal, a computer expert who is a fixture at Republican election night headquarters, sat in the corner with Bob Pease, the head of the information technology department for East Hampton Town, and Tina Piette, a Republican activist. Trace Duryea, the other party co-chair, was nearby.

As district polling place results arrived, they were entered in the computer and appeared on a large screen mounted on the wall.

As results began to trickle in, Darlene Smith, who works for the town Human Services Department, sat at the bar wearing a Civil Service Employees Association button. The secretary of the union’s executive board, she noted that the union had declined to endorse a supervisor candidate. But, she said. “Bill Wilkinson is my guy.”

Excitement rippled through the crowd when the numbers from the first polling district reporting went up, showing Mr. Wilkinson ahead. Theresa Quigley and Dominick Stanzione also took an early lead, at 200 and 183 votes, to 123 for the Democratic candidate Ms. Leber and 138 for Mr. Whelan.

Mr. Stanzione arrived at the Amagansett tavern around 9:30 p.m., from his house nearby. His mother, who is in her 80s, is staying with him, he said, and, on his way out told him that no matter the results of the election, she would still love him.

At 9:50 p.m., with four districts reporting, the numbers showed Mr. Wilkinson’s lead over Mr. Zwirn widening, with 794 votes for the Republican, versus 399 for Mr. Zwirn. The town board race looked close, with Ms. Quigley at 424 votes and Mr. Stanzione at 384, against 400 votes for Ms. Leber and 268 for Mr. Whelan.

Moments later, on the large TV screen in the center of the bar, News 12 declared Mr. Wilkinson the winner. “He won! They just said it on the television,” screamed Julie Strong, a supporter, jumping up and down. Don Cirillo, the Republican Committee treasurer, who had been out at polling sites, arrived at the bar just after 10 p.m. and was told at the door that Mr. Zwirn conceded. “He should; he got his ass kicked,” he said.

Mr. Wilkinson moved into place under the lights with a reporter from the TV station and prepared to go live with a statement, standing with his hands clasped in front of his blue blazer, with Mr. Stanzione by his side.

Paul Tavernier, an Amagansett business owner, edged by and gave Mr. Stanzione a hug, tears in his eyes. “It’s definitely looking good for the party,” he said. As Mr. Wilkinson began speaking, the crowd began to cheer.

When the television cut to a live interview of Mr. Zwirn, conceding, some people booed. The town board candidates huddled with Mr. Wilkinson, who reached out and gave Mr. Stanzione’s cheek a playful tweak. “This is just great for the town of East Hampton,” Mr. Stanzione said. “It’s a great night for a great town.”

Results were still not final for the town board race, though Ms. Quigley and Mr. Stanzione were far in the lead. Outside, a driver on Main Street gave the car’s horn a celebratory honk.

In front of the East Hampton law office of Twomey, Latham, Shea, Kelley, Dubin and Quartararo, where the

Democrats tally results, Bob Schaeffer, an active party supporter, met a reporter on the way in. “There are a lot of sad faces in there,” he said.

Even the party’s winners, Scott King, the incumbent highway superintendent, Cathy Cahill, an incumbent town justice, and Eugene de Pasquale, who ran unopposed for assessor, were muted.

“It was a rout,” Debra Foster, a former town councilwoman, said.

Ms. Leber, looking on the bright side, noted the support of her children. Her daughter came home for the weekend just before the final days of the campaign, and her son sent her flowers on Election Day. Job Potter, a former town councilman whose efforts to support this year’s Democratic campaign included hosting a candidates’ get-together, got a hug from Mr. Whelan. “Well, we gave it our best,” Mr. Whelan said to him.

Chris Kelley, a Democratic Committee member, Ms. Foster, and others tallied results at the conference table. Standing around its edge, several longtime faithful members of the Democratic Party chatted glumly. “You couldn’t have done one iota more,” said one to another.

Ms. Foster, her head on one hand, stretched her other hand across the table to pat Mr. Kelley, who was focused on his phone. They traded comments about strategy. “If we would have. . . .” Mr. Kelley started to say. Unopened bottles of champagne sat in a plastic bin on the floor.

By 10:30, the office and nearby Rowdy Hall, where the Democrats had hoped to hoist a celebratory drink, were virtually empty. The candidates had left for Amagansett to congratulate their victorious opponents. Mr. King walked down the sidewalk toward the bar with just two companions.

Over at Republican headquarters, as the impact of the Republican town board sweep took hold, Mr. Wilkinson stood with his hands on Mr. Behan’s shoulders, and Elaine Jones, an active supporter, was hugging people and high-fiving. “Oh, thank God,” she said.

Ms. Quigley hugged her daughters. Asked if he’d called his mother to tell her the news, Mr. Stanzione said he had. “She said, ‘Your father would be proud,’ ” he reported. His father died not long ago, during the campaign.

Andy Hammer, who ran for justice against the victorious Democratic incumbent, Cathy Cahill, talked about what a positive experience running for office had been.

It was around 11:30 p.m. when Mr. Wilkinson gave his victory speech after calling his wife to his side. He thanked all of his supporters, many by name, and said the achievement belonged to the entire team of candidates.

Neither Ms. Quigley nor Mr. Stan-zione was asked to speak. But, speaking live by phone to the radio station WLNG, Mr. Stanzione pulled an index card with some prepared words out of his jacket pocket, and was happy to repeat his short speech for a reporter.

“In our little corner of the world, our own revolution against the tyranny of political machines and the velvet oppression of municipal malpractice is over. Ladies and gentlemen, the change has come, and we’re going to come from the darkness into the light.” He said he looked forward to working with people from “both political parties and all elements of town.”

Heading away from the spotlight at the end of the evening, Mr. Wilkinson said quietly to his wife, “Now we can go.”