A Democratic Sweep in Race for Town Board

Party now has 7-to-2 majority on trustees, too
“The campaign has ended; it’s time for the champagne,” Peter Van Scoyoc, who had just won his race for East Hampton Town supervisor, declared on Tuesday night, with Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, an incumbent councilwoman who was also victorious, by his side. Durell Godfrey

Democrats in East Hampton Town swept the races for town supervisor and town board, with Peter Van Scoyoc winning a decisive victory over his opponent, Manny Vilar, in the race for supervisor, and his running mates, incumbent Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez and Jeff Bragman, an attorney, handily winning their bids for two seats on the town board. 

While Republicans may have fared better in some election districts, the Dem­ocrats had the lead from the moment the Suffolk County Board of Elections began to post the first results, and they held on to it throughout the night, also winning an apparent 7-to-2 majority on the East Hampton Town Trustees. 

Mr. Van Scoyoc, who has been the deputy town supervisor under Larry Cantwell, is serving his second four-year term as a town councilman. His win on Tuesday means his seat will become vacant as of January, when all four members of the new town board will be Dem­ocrats. The board could operate with just four people — Mr. Van Scoyoc, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez, Mr. Bragman, and Sylvia Overby — until a special election next November; however, the supervisor-elect said late last month that he would want to appoint a replacement to serve until then. The winning candidate in a special election would serve the final year of Mr. Van Scoyoc’s term. 

Mr. Van Scoyoc got more than 60 percent of the vote, according to the board of elections website, and Ms. Burke-Gonzalez was the top vote-getter in the town board race, with a nearly 15-point lead over her nearest Republican challenger, Paul Giardina, a nuclear engineer who retired last year from a post at the Environmental Protection Agency. Gerard Larsen, who officially retired in July as East Hampton Village police chief, was at the bottom of the pack in that race, but vowed on Tuesday to run again in two years.

Republicans also had a poor showing in the contest for nine seats on the East Hampton Town Trustees, the board that oversees most of the town’s bottomlands, beaches, and waterways on behalf of the public. Among the G.O.P.’s unsuccessful candidates was Diane McNally, a trustee for 27 years who had been the board’s clerk, or presiding officer, for many years. The Republicans Jim Grimes, an incumbent, and Susan Vorpahl won spots on the board. The apparent winners on the Democratic ticket were Francis Bock, at the top, Rick Drew, Dell Cullum, John Aldred, Bill Taylor, Brian Byrnes, and Susan McGraw Keber.

As the polls closed at 9 p.m., the Democratic candidates and a small group of party faithful headed from East Hampton’s Rowdy Hall, where a buffet of snacks was set up for supporters, to the nearby law office of Christopher Kelley, chairman of the Democrats’ campaign committee, where they expected phone calls from poll watchers with the vote tallies from different election districts.

Fifteen minutes later, nothing. The group sat quietly around the conference table, checking election coverage on their phones. “There’s a sale on bumper stickers,” joked Mr. Kelley, who had a stack of them with candidates’ names on his desk.

What the group had expected to be a swift ride to final election results began to seem a bit more complicated when Mr. Kelley received a phone call from a poll watcher in Montauk who had been denied a look at the tally sheets. After a phone call to the board of elections, the poll watcher’s right to see the numbers before they were officially submitted was verified. But in two districts, the tallies had already been taken off to be officially registered, so information about the vote in those districts would have to wait. The first results hinted at some close races, but that was soon to change.

“Three districts are in, and everybody’s up,” Mr. Kelley said close to 10 p.m. Frustrated with waiting for calls with results, Ilissa Loewenstein Meyer, a co-chairwoman of the East Hampton Democratic Committee, decamped to Rowdy Hall for the TV coverage. 

Watching the numbers, Mr. Cantwell declared early on, “This race is over,” and predicted a victory for Mr. Van Scoyoc. 

“How do you figure that?” asked Mr. Van Scoyoc’s wife, Marilyn. The Republican candidates were falling short in Montauk districts, Mr. Cantwell explained, where experience has shown that they would need to win the vote by large margins to ultimately succeed townwide. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in every election district in town, save for one in Montauk. 

As 10 p.m. drew near, with five districts reporting, the Democratic town board candidates were doing well. 

“I liked the old days,” said Mr. Kelley, reminiscing about election nights past when runners from each district would arrive in the office, results in hand, and people would huddle together as someone recorded and added up the votes. “It’s gotten too sterile,” he said, as everyone stared at their phones, or moved toward his computer to look at information on the screen.

“Can I relax yet?” Betty Mazur, chairwoman of the Democrats’ nominating committee, asked just after 10, when results from 10 election districts were in. 

The moment it became clear the election was won in a Democratic sweep was quietly jubilant. “Welcome to the mayhem,” Ms. Overby, the veteran councilwoman, said to Mr. Bragman. 

She turned to the supervisor-elect. “No one does that,” she said, looking at the percentage of the vote he had won. 

Back at Rowdy Hall, the crowd cheered the victors. 

“We are so excited about this, and it’s really due to so many people’s hard work,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said, addressing the group and thanking supporters. Looking forward, he said, “We have a lot of work to do . . . continuing many of the efforts we’ve undertaken — making sure our drinking water is clean, making sure that our bays, harbors, and creeks are productive and clean. We’re going to honor our history and our traditions and our diversity. We’re going to expand opportunities for people in this town as best we can. I think we’re in a very optimistic kind of a place right now.”

“So the campaign has ended,” he said, flanked by his present and future board colleagues. “It’s time for the champagne.” He, however, did not opt for the bubbly. With so many things running through his mind in the lead-up to the election, he said, he had been waking in the wee hours of the night and then giving up sleep in the morning to go out fishing instead. 

At night’s end, Mr. Vilar and Reg Cornelia, the Republican Committee chairman, stopped in to Rowdy Hall to give their regards to the winners. Yesterday, Mr. Vilar was gracious in defeat. 

“I love my community,” he said, “and am happy to help in whatever capacity, however the community sees fit.” A first sergeant in the New York State Parks Police and founding president of the Police Benevolent Association of New York State, he said that he would be back in Albany on Monday, “doing what I do best, labor relations and contract negotiations with the governor’s office. Life continues.”

Mr. Van Scoyoc was on the town planning board for six years before becoming a councilman, and served on the zoning board of appeals for five years before that, all while running a residential construction company and a charter fishing business.

Ms. Burke-Gonzalez was elected to her first term on the town board in 2013, and before that served nine years on the Springs School Board, two of them as its president.

Mr. Bragman has represented such groups as Save Sag Harbor and the Village Preservation Society and headed the Cedar Street Committee, which worked to stop an East Hampton School District bus depot on that street. He is a first-time candidate but is no stranger to the halls of local government, having been an assistant town attorney in East Hampton years ago and North Haven Village attorney. He has represented private clients before boards in East Hampton Town and Village, Sag Harbor, and Southampton Town, and served on the Community Preservation Fund Advisory Opinions Bureau.

Unofficial results tallied Tuesday gave Mr. Van Scoyoc 3,652 votes to Mr. Vilar’s 2,301. Ms. Burke-Gonzalez and Mr. Bragman had 3,889 and 3,114 votes, respectively, while Mr. Giardina had 2,212 and Mr. Larsen 2,160. 

In the race for town assessor, Eugene De Paquale had 3,838 votes, while his opponent, Tina Silverman, trailed with 1,728. Carole Brennan, the town clerk, Stephen Lynch, the highway superintendent, and Steven Tekulsky, a town justice, ran unopposed. 

According to Mr. Kelley, the board of elections had mailed out 1,087 absentee ballots and received 746 of them as of yesterday. Those votes were not yet included in Tuesday’s count.

East Hampton Democrats were gleeful at Rowdy Hall on Tuesday night after learning their candidates had swept the election, with virtually every one of them successful. Durell Godfrey
Among the Democrats' seven successful trustee candidates, if absentee ballots don't change the outcome, were, from left, John Aldred, Dell Cullum, and Susan McGraw KeeberDurell Godfrey
Jeff Bragman will begin his first term on the East Hampton Town Board in January.Durell Godfrey