Democrats' Numbers Dim Hopes for G.O.P.

Jeanne Frankl, second from right, a co-chairwoman of the East Hampton Town Democratic Committee, watched Election Night results at Rowdy Hall. Ms. Frankl said this week she is pleased with the Democrats’ strong showing in November, but hopes a greater percentage of people will see the importance of voting in local elections. Durell Godfrey

“I learned that we are heavily outnumbered,” Reg Cornelia, the outgoing chairman of the East Hampton Town Republican Committee, said this week when asked to reflect on the Democrats’ strong performance in this year’s town races. “It’s going to be very difficult with these numbers to win elections.”

The Suffolk County Board of Elections certified results for the Nov. 7 election on Dec. 6, further confirming the Democrats’ dominance in East Hampton Town, where the party’s candidates won the races for town supervisor and town board and came away with a 7-to-2 majority on the East Hampton Town Trustees. 

Their election night showing was strong, and they made still more gains when absentee ballots were factored in. Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc, the supervisor-elect, picked up 617 votes in the final count, bringing his total to 4,296 votes (62.8 percent), against Manny Vilar’s 2,544 (37.2 percent). Mr. Vilar picked up 243 votes in the final count.

Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez won re-election to a second four-year term with 4,543 votes, picking up 654 votes since election night, and Jeff Bragman won his first term as a councilman with 3,707, gaining 593 votes in the final count. On the Republican ticket, Paul Giardina had 2,464 votes and Jerry Larsen had 2,388; they picked up 252 and 228 votes, respectively. 

“I think that it was such a clear vote for good government, which is really comforting in this time of rotten government on the national level, and it’s wonderful for our town,” said Jeanne Frankl, a co-chairwoman of the town’s Democratic Committee, who, like Mr. Cornelia, will be stepping down. “We had good government in the Cantwell administration for four years, and our supervisor-elect was a part of that even before Larry was elected.”

She was also encouraged by the trustee votes, which she saw as a strong endorsement of the work that the current board’s Democratic majority began over the past two years and a desire to see that continue. “Our trustee candidates said, we are as determined as any trustee candidates have ever been to take care of our shores and our beaches and the property we own, but we are going to do it in a cooperative way.” The trustees, who serve two-year terms, with all nine standing for a vote the same year, oversee most of the town’s beaches, bottomlands, and waterways on behalf of the public. 

In the trustee race, absentee ballots had an outside potential to change the outcome. Diane McNally, a Republican who served as a trustee for more than two decades and was the board’s longtime presiding officer, stood in 10th place after the election night tally, but in the final count she dropped to 11th. 

“It’s a party-line vote now,” Mr. Cornelia said. “I thought we had by far the better list of candidates. We had two people with a captain’s license. . . . I thought on the trustee ticket we would do better than we did.”

On the Republican ticket, only Jim Grimes, an incumbent, and Susan Vorpahl, a first-time candidate who is a daughter of the late Stuart Vorpahl, a former trustee, were elected. 

The Democratic majority come January will include Francis Bock, the trustees’ current presiding officer, and his deputies, Bill Taylor and Rick Drew, as well as Brian Byrnes, another incumbent, and the newcomers John Aldred, Dell Cullum, and Susan McGraw Keber.

Mr. Bock had 4,423 votes, Mr. Drew had 3,995, Mr. Aldred 3,808, Mr. Cullum 3,780, Mr. Taylor 3,733, Mr. Byrnes 3,648, and Ms. McGraw Keber 3,314. Ms. Vorpahl got 3,288 votes, and Mr. Grimes had 3,178. Trailing them most closely were Rona Klopman with 3,027 and Ms. McNally with 2,907. 

Republican candidates were unified in opposition to Deepwater Wind’s planned 15-turbine facility 30 miles off Montauk, and Mr. Cornelia thought more people would support them at the polls for that reason. 

Whether it was party-line voting or an awareness of the issues the trustees tackle, more people voted in the trustee race than in 2015 or 2013. Mr. Bock, this year’s top vote-getter, had 811 more votes than he did in 2015, when he was also the top vote-getter, and 382 votes more than the high vote-getter in 2013. Even the ninth-place winner, Mr. Grimes, got 283 more votes than the ninth-place winner in 2015 and 241 more votes than the ninth-place winner in 2013. In a race with a dizzying 18 candidates and a confusing arrangement on the ballot, it seems that in some years people forgo the vote for trustees.

“The Democrats have been on a very, very strong campaign of registering second-home owners,” Mr. Cornelia said. “That puts us at a serious disadvantage because the New York City voter tends to be a very loyal Democrat. . . . If you look at the absentee ballots in general, there’s a greater preponderance of Democrats who will vote the party line.” 

“There is a strong level of interest among our second-home owners, who for the most part want to come out and enjoy what they see other people have been enjoying since 1640,” Ms. Frankl said.

Across the spectrum, she said, there was “a very high level of consensus about what needs to be done.” Even where there may be differences of opinion — about how to implement water quality improvements, for example — “what was there was a deep concern about water.”

In the 2017 race for town supervisor, 6,840 people voted out of 16,886 registered; only 40.5 percent voted for supervisor and 38.8 percent for town board candidates. Still, that is an improvement over 2015, when turnout was 37.7 percent in the race for supervisor  and 36.7 for town board.

“Turnout was somewhat disappointing, but we’re always disappointed in the turnout,” Ms. Frankl said. “We worry that people don’t appreciate how particularly important local elections are at this time when we’re counting on local government to do the forward-looking things because the federal government is repudiating its commitments to do things that we think are important on climate change, social issues. . . .”

Ms. Frankl, who is co-chairwoman with Ilissa Loewenstein Meyer, plans to step down early next year. Mr. Cornelia is stepping down at the end of this year, but vows to continue being a voice for the causes that are important to him. 

He would like to see a younger person take on the job of chairman and said that just as the Democrats did not give up when they were outnumbered by Republicans, his party will not give up. 

“Our job now is to keep them on their toes,” Mr. Cornelia said.