Rowdy Hall, the East Hampton restaurant that served as Democratic headquarters on Tuesday night, was crowded and lively. Larry Cantwell, who ran unopposed for town supervisor, stepped comfortably into his role as political leader, serving as M.C. and announcing results as they became available.
The numbers slowly showed victories for Steven Tekulsky, the Democratic justice candidate, for Eugene DePasquale, an incumbent assessor, and for Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, a novice politician who pulled out what apparently was the number-two slot in the race for the town board. Several of the Democratic candidates for town trustee also won their races.
As the night went on the tallies reversed a widely held assumption that Job Potter, one of two Democratic town board candidates and a former two-term councilman, would handily retake a seat. Debra Foster, a former town councilwoman and Democratic supporter, said at first that the numbers were breaking as anticipated, based on polls. But Mr. Potter’s numbers never took him above third among the four candidates for two town board seats.
Ms. Burke-Gonzalez looked alternately relieved and anxious as people congratulated her and wished her luck with the outcome. She said that regardless of whether she won or lost, she would be happy.
Later, at the end of the night when it was clear that she was victorious, Ms. Burke-Gonzales said, “This has been a bit surreal for me. It was grueling at times. . . .” She thanked her husband, Joe Gonzalez, for his support. Mr. Gonzalez is a bartender at Rowdy Hall and had returned to his familiar post at the end of the bar. She also thanked her two children.
Ms. Burke-Gonzalez’s 13-year-old daughter, Nina, held up a phone to record her mother’s speech. She looked proud but rolled her eyes in a little embarrassment when her mother, in describing the rigors of the campaign, mentioned that while she was busy campaigning in August, her daughter had suffered a severe concussion. “I promise you that I will start cooking again,” she told her family. “That I will start doing laundry on a regular basis.”
Her 15-year-old son, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said, egged her on during the campaign by providing a football metaphor, urging her to bring her all to the field.
“There have been so many heavy lifters,” the soon-to-be councilwoman said. She spoke about “girl power,” addressing her daughter and the other young girls at hand. “When you have a dream and there’s something you really want to do, you work hard, and you can have it.”
Mr. Gonzalez looked happy about his wife’s success.
The numbers had come in slowly during the night. Upstairs in an office above the restaurant, Chris Kelley, the chairman of the East Hampton Town Democratic Committee’s campaign committee, and others counted election district results, going over them carefully and relaying them to those downstairs.
As Mr. Cantwell looked over the first results, he added them up slowly, keeping the crowd on edge and prompting some friendly jeers. “You’re killing us, Larry,” someone called out. A few minutes earlier Mr. Cantwell had gotten a slew of results from polling places in Montauk, East Hampton, and Sag Harbor, giving Mr. Tekulsky a slight lead over his Republican opponent, Carl Irace.
At that point, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez was leading with 1,391 votes, and Fred Overton, the ultimately victorious Republican town board candidate, was second with 1,353, Mr. Potter had 1,212, and Dominick Stanzione, a Republican incumbent, was trailing with 1,028.
Mr. Potter spoke to the crowd at the end of the evening after it had been confirmed that he had come in third. Looking around the room, he said it was “great to see so many friends and people I’ve campaigned with, starting in 1992, on and off, people who are devoted to this town and to good principles.”
“I think it’s going to be a great board,” he said. “Congratulations to Kathee, who so deserves to win. Congratulations to Fred Overton.” He added, “I’m not going anywhere. You’ll see me helping out with the campaign in two years.”
Mr. Potter, who plays the guitar, accepted a hug from Inda Eaton, one of the local musicians with whom he often performs. “I was honored to serve on the town board for eight years,” he said. “I’m glad I had a chance to run again.”
It had been noted earlier that 594 absentee ballots had been sent to registered Democrats, which were yet to be counted. “Kathee may well end up being the top vote-getter,” Mr. Cantwell told the crowd. A few minutes earlier, with results in from a half dozen districts, Mr. Cantwell said he felt safe calling the races for Mr. Tekulsky and Mr. DePasquale.
“You’re good, you’re good,” he called out to Mr. Tekulsky, who was sitting at a nearby table with former East Hampton Town Justice Roger Walker. “You won easily,” he told Mr. DePasquale, seeing that he had handily beaten his Republican challenger, Joe Bloecker, in Montauk’s Election District 10, which was expected to be one of the closest districts in that race. “I could not be happier,” Mr. DePasquale said after the final results verified his win.
At 10:20, Mr. Cantwell said, “I’ll go from the top. “Larry Cantwell for supervisor.” Mr. Overton, he said, got the most votes, at 3,216, “followed very closely by Kathee Burke-Gonzalez,” who got 3,125 votes. Mr. Potter got 2,764 votes, he announced, and Mr. Stanzione, 2,293.
Mr. Tekulsky also spoke to the crowd, thanking his family. “I’m not the easiest guy to live with and a campaign does not make it any easier,” he said, joking. “The only good thing about it is I was out of the house more. Larry Cantwell . . . supported me throughout,” and kept him calm throughout Election Day, he said. He also thanked the Democratic committee members.
“Everybody who voted for me . . . they’re going to get the fairest and the best judge they’ve ever seen — except for Roger Walker,” Mr. Tekulsky said.
“I know as a public official how important it is to listen to people’s concerns . . . about where we need to go in the future,” Mr. Cantwell told the crowd. “Work hard for what you want and treat everyone the way you want to be treated, and that’s the type of government we want to bring to the Town of East Hampton for everyone in East Hampton starting in January.”
“This is an important win for the Democratic Party,” he said.
As the room emptied, Andy Harris, a new and active member of the Town Democratic Committee from Montauk, wondered aloud about Mr. Potter’s loss, preparing, it seemed, to deconstruct the campaign strategy for lessons to be learned. Mr. Potter, he said, had been the most experienced, knowledgeable, and forward-thinking candidate.
With reporting by Carissa Katz