East Hampton voters on Tuesday had an easy task in choosing among the leading candidates for the town board. With more than 1,000 absentee ballots still to be counted, we expect that the margins between Fred Overton and Kathee Burke-Gonzalez will shift, but that the winners’ column will not. Much as we are sorry not to see Job Potter take a victory lap as the board’s elder statesman, the leadership equation of the group that will be sworn in come January is solid. And necessarily so — the way ahead will be full of challenges, some immediate, some long-term.
Larry Cantwell, who ran unopposed for supervisor, Mr. Overton, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez, and the incumbents, Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc, have much work to do. Dealing with quality-of-life issues and managing growth come first, then must come dealing with sea level rise, helping to provide new affordable housing, improving human services, and protecting the environment — all within a budget limited, at least in theory, by a 2-percent tax-increase cap. The list is long, but these five are up to the task.
Tuesday’s most dramatic loss, that of Councilman Dominick Stanzione, who placed last among the four town board candidates, is significant. In the campaign’s final days, Mr. Stanzione took to effusively praising Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, after having bucked him in recent months in what was perhaps a last-ditch effort to motivate turnout among the Republican base. This presumed strategy was bound to fail, as even before the election it was apparent voters from all parties strongly supported Mr. Overton’s more traditional brand of East Hampton Republicanism.
In the two months before the new board takes over, Mr. Stanzione, Mr. Wilkinson, and Councilwoman Theresa Quigley may well be tempted to squeeze out the last drops of their majority on the board to press their agenda and reward supporters and friends. The best thing they could do instead is make a dignified exit, stop their petty squabbling, and mind the helm calmly until January.
The voters have made it clear which direction they want East Hampton to go.