Independence Team Feels the Chill of Defeat

Marilyn Behan and Bill Mott, town board candidates running on the Independence Party Line, discussed their pending fate Wednesday night at Astro’s Pizza in Amagansett. Morgan McGivern

    At Astro’s Pizza around 8:15 on Election night, Marilyn Behan, an East Hampton Independence Party candidate for town board, was “holding down the fort,” flanked by her family, steaming plates of deep-dish pizza, and a barren board waiting for results.
    The room was rife with an anticipatory tension and quiet enough that one could hear her granddaughter, Samantha’s, crayons scratching across the backside of menus while the wall-mounted TV set to News 12 murmured above their heads. Bill Mott, her running mate, had yet to arrive.
    Ms. Behan said she knew the night would be anxiety inducing so she was “low-key today,” dividing her time between fishing and tidying the house. “I don’t think I’ve properly cleaned in eight weeks,” she laughed. “You could have written, ‘Vote for Marilyn’ on my furniture.”
    Her optimism about Election Day revolved closely around the warm weather and the generally high spirits that often accompany a sunny afternoon. “I think everyone will be very surprised at how many people came out to vote,” she said. “It was such a beautiful day; you didn’t need a coat, a hat, or gloves. If people had any errands to do — the grocery store, the post office — you can bet they went and voted, too.”
    Looking back on the campaign experience, Ms. Behan talked about the friendship that had developed between her and Mr. Mott, explaining that a virtual stranger became a focal element of her daily life. “I didn’t know him all that well and now I know him very well,” she said. “We see one another almost seven days a week and talk about four times a day.”
    Mr. Mott burst into the room around 8:45, bringing with him a wave of excitement and frenetic energy. “Hey! I thought we were going to be on the other side of the room and where is the computer?” he asked. He glanced furtively around the room, looking satisfied at the still-blank board, but a little dismayed that there was no laptop  to help tally live results.
    “It’s been a long summer and it all comes down to tonight,” he said with a smile. He apologized for being late to the party, but explained that following a full day of work, he had a town trustee meeting followed by another meeting at the Bridgehampton Fire Department.
    “I gave them till 8 o’clock, came home, splashed some water on my face, ruffled up a little bit, and came down here.” He greeted his son, Brian, and his daughter, Kathleen, with a big hug and headed to the bar for a cocktail and a little mingling.
    Not long after 9 p.m., runners from three election districts — two in Amagansett and one in Montauk — had brought the Independence Party results. The tallying efforts were hampered by both a lack of technology and what Elaine Jones, chairwoman of the Independence Party, called “misinformation.”
    “We didn’t know they were going to be announcing results at the polls,” she said. “Otherwise we would have had runners for each district. The Board of Elections so screwed us up.”
    The Independence supporters were also unable to get wireless Internet access and thus remained about an hour and a half behind in actual numbers, as News 12 was largely covering the bigger races.
    Mr. Mott’s spirits almost immediately started to slump as he surveyed the felt-tip-markered figures slowly growing on the board, which revealed 248 votes for himself and 247 for Ms. Behan, from the three districts combined.
    “I was doing pretty good until I started to see the numbers,” he sighed. Ms. Behan echoed Mr. Mott’s concerns, saying she could really use a drink and a cigarette.
    Mr. Mott could be heard lamenting the fact that both he and his running mate work full time and were at a serious disadvantage throughout the campaigning process. His wife, Mary, told him not to get discouraged. “I’ve been channeling positive energy all night,” he insisted.
    Ms. Jones however, was already a little defeated, but held her head high explaining what a positive experience working with Ms. Behan and Mr. Mott had been. “This is the most fun I’ve ever had in a campaign,” she said. “It was almost impossible to win and they knew that, but it’s a chance they took. If they had been endorsed on the Republican line they both would have won — the Republicans really shot themselves in the foot by not endorsing them. They’ll both be serious contenders in two years.”
    Finally, around 10:30 p.m., Stephanie Talmage-Forsberg, an East Hampton Town trustee endorsed by the Independence Party and also on the Republican ticket, rushed into Astro’s, laptop in hand and her parents in tow. Everyone began gathering around the glowing screen, which revealed Peter Van Scoyoc and Sylvia Overby, the Democratic town board candidates, far in the lead, although only 6 of the 19 districts had been tallied.
    Ms. Talmage-Forsberg, the leading trustee candidate, was brimming with excitement and showed solidarity with the Independence Party; although she was also running on the Republican line, her first stop was with Mr. Mott and Ms. Behan.
    Down the street at Indian Wells Tavern, the Republicans were already celebrating, clinking glasses amid the din and laughter. A large projection screen revealed that all the votes from the 19 districts were in. The writing was on the wall — Ms. Behan was in last place with Mr. Mott second to last.
    Ms. Behan’s husband, John, rolled his wheelchair to her side. “I think it’s time to go home, Marilyn” he said. “It’s up to you, but there is no point in sticking around.”
    The pizza was cold and getting colder.
    When someone said she would cross her fingers that the absentee ballots would help turn the tide in the Independence team’s favor, Mr. Mott said, “You can cross your legs too, but I don’t think it’s going to do any good.”