Top Job’s Outcome Awaits Absentee Vote

1,050 ballots sent, counting to start next week
Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson as he surprised his wife
East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson as he surprised his wife, Pat, with a dozen white roses toward the end of Tuesday night’s post-election party. Morgan McGivern

    Election night in East Hampton delivered clear victories to Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc, the Democratic candidates for town board, as well as the Republican challenger for highway superintendent, the incumbent Republican town justice, and most of the G.O.P.’s trustee candidates. The race for town supervisor, however, was a nailbiter; the results may not be known until late next week at the earliest.
    The Republican incumbent, Bill Wilkinson, who was elected by a landslide in 2009 on promises to “right the town’s financial ship,” held a tenuous lead of just 177 over the Democrats’ Zachary Cohen as of yesterday, with absentee ballots still uncounted. The results were strangely reminiscent of Mr. Wilkinson’s first bid for town supervisor in 2007, in which he lost by a mere 104 votes to the now much-maligned Democratic incumbent, Bill McGintee.
    “I was really disappointed. I’m not disappointed from a leader’s point of view so much as I’m really disappointed in the community in which I live,” Trace Duryea, the Republican Committee chairwoman, said yesterday. “Here’s a man that brought this community back from the brink of bankruptcy. It’s incomprehensible to me that people could make this type of judgment.”
    In this election, not counting absentee ballots, Mr. Wilkinson got 3,066 votes to Mr. Cohen’s 2,899.
    According to Mr. Cohen and Christopher Kelley, a Democratic committeeman, the Board of Elections sent out 1,050 absentee ballots — 542 to Democrats, 288 to Republicans, 7 to Conservatives, 37 to Independence Party members, 175 to unaffiliated voters, and 1 to a Working Families Party member. As of Tuesday, the Board of Elections had received back 766 of those ballots — 399 from Democrats, 213 from Republicans, 5 from Conservatives, 127 from unaffiliated voters, 21 from Independence Party members, and 1 from the Working Families Party voter.
    Those ballots had not yet been opened or tallied. Absentee ballots had to be postmarked or dropped off in person at the Board of Elections no later than Nov. 7. Some of the 284 ballots that remain outstanding may still trickle in over the next few days and will be counted, provided they are postmarked appropriately and arrive at the Board of Elections by Tuesday.
    That said, neither candidate for supervisor was declaring victory. Asked yesterday whether he believed he would hold on to his lead, Mr. Wilkinson said only, “I anxiously await as you anxiously await” the final results. “It is what it is now, and we’ll see what happens.”
    Although the numbers of absentee ballots sent to Democrats versus Republicans would seem to tip things in Mr. Cohen’s favor, the Democratic candidate said yesterday that the results could still go either way. Armed Tuesday night with all the numbers, Mr. Cohen said he went home to study them and determine possible outcomes.
    “I can’t do precise statistics on it, but I can do scenario analysis,” he said. “What I come up with, because I want to be positive, I come up with more scenarios where I lose than scenarios where I win,” he said. “If I lose, it’s going to be probably by under 75 votes, and if I win, it will be by probably under 30 votes.”
    “I’m taking it more optimistic, but sober,” he said. “I’m too good a mathematician, it keeps me sober.” While Democrats requested and returned more absentee ballots than Republicans, Mr. Cohen said people who are calling the race in his favor are failing to take into account the 220 ballots sent to unaffiliated and third-party voters, 154 of which had been received by the Board of Elections. As well, he said, some Democrats may not have voted for him.
    Starting on Monday, the Board of Elections will begin its standard audit of 3 percent of the voting machines, and by midweek, election workers will begin to open and count the paper ballots.
    “In 2009, there was a 79 to 80-percent return rate,” Mr. Kelley said yesterday. On 1,050 ballots, that equals roughly 833. “To win, he’ll have to get 60 percent of the absentee ballots,” Mr. Kelley said of Mr. Cohen’s chances.
    In the town board races, there was no question about the winners. Mr. Van Scoyoc was the top vote-getter with 2,689 votes; Ms. Overby had 2,457. They were trailed by the Republican candidates Richard Haeg, with 1,738, and Steven Gaines, with 1,702, and the Independence candidates Bill Mott (1,610) and Marilyn Behan (1,331).
    “The slate did marvelously and I’m sure the reason they succeeded so well is that people know they’re going to get good government with this slate,” said Jeanne Frankl, the Democratic Committee chairwoman. “I’m very optimistic that Zachary will be elected supervisor. It really was a wonderful outcome.”
    Stephen Lynch gave the East Hampton Republicans something to celebrate Tuesday night. The challenger walked away with the vote for highway superintendent, winning 3,567 votes to the two-term incumbent Scott King’s 2,387. Mr. Lynch lost to Mr. King in 2007.
    Lisa R. Rana, the incumbent Republican town justice, easily won re-election over Stephen A. Grossman with almost 63 percent of the vote, and seven of nine Republican trustees were elected, including the incumbents Stephanie Talmage-Forsberg with 3,686 votes, Tim Bock, Diane McNally, Joe Bloecker, and Lynn Mendelman, and the newcomers Sean McCaffrey and Nat Miller.
    From the Democratic ticket, Stephen Lester won a spot on the trustees and Deborah Klughers appears to have won as well, although unofficial results gave her just 44 votes more than her running mate Ray Hartjen.
    Jeanne Nielson, a Democrat, and Jill Massa, a Republican, both incumbent town assessors and both running unopposed, got 4,509 and 4,047 votes respectively.
    In county races, Legislator Jay Schneiderman of Montauk handily beat his challenger, Cornelius Kelly, winning nearly 66 percent of the vote. The Democrat Steve Bellone, the Babylon Town supervisor, won the county executive seat, beating Angie Carpenter, the county treasurer, with 130,607 to 100,119.


I find the bitter, partisan politics in this Town to be appalling. This mood is often compounded by some single issue of personal import, such as the Airport, that causes a voter to ignore all else solely to make some personal pet peeve with their vote. And, how is it that fully one sixth of the votes cast will come from absentees? Aren't these ballots really from non-residents for whom dabbling in EH politics is just a game? Yet, now they will get to decide who our leader is. That the incumbent Supervisor, not a politician but a businessman who came out of his retirement to straighten out the fiscal mess we were in, succeeded, and is now rewarded with a potential loss is simply disgraceful. How does one reject the proven problem solver (or devil) you know for the one you don't know? However this election ends, let's all vow now to end this internicine partisan bickering and work together for the overall common good of the Town and all its residents. Before the outcome is known, join me now with a pledge to stop the insanity. Our Town has to few residents and too few real issues to turn on eachother like this.
I totally agree with you, YesSirGrace! The shocking bad manners and citified incivility -- the flaming tone of the rhetoric -- has gotten wa-a-y out of control. IMHO, it would help if we started by not insulting others' viewpoints and votes with incendiary language (as in "disgraceful").
It seems that this is just one more area that proves how divided we as a nation are. It used to be that the deal was set way before the absentee ballots were counted but now in many elections, we have to wait as we are generally split right down the middle.


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