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NewTown Party Sweeps East Hampton Village Elections

Thu, 09/17/2020 - 08:48
Supporters rallied around Jerry Larsen, in blue, on Tuesday night at the East Hampton Emergency Services Building as he reviewed numbers confirming he had won the race for East Hampton Village mayor. With him were, from left, Matthew Kochanasz, Kenneth Brabant, Jeffrey Erickson, and Steven Niggles.
Doug Kuntz

Making his first bid for elective office in East Hampton Village, Jerry Larsen, the village's former police chief, was the high vote-getter in the three-person race for mayor on Tuesday, winning in a landslide against Barbara Borsack, the deputy mayor, who has been a member of the village board since 2000, and Arthur Graham, a trustee since 2017.  

Mr. Larsen won 453 votes, Ms. Borsack 271, and Mr. Graham 121. There was one write-in vote for James Amaden, the president of the Amaden Gay insurance agency. 

Mr. Larsen's NewTown Party running mates Chris Minardi, sales director at New York Title Abstract Services and a 10-year member of the village's zoning board of appeals, and Sandra Melendez, a lawyer with a practice in the village, won the two open seats on the village board. Mr. Minardi won 467 votes, and Ms. Melendez, who will be the first Latina to serve on the board, won 388.

Ms. Borsack's Elms Party running mates Ray Harden, a recently appointed trustee and a co-owner of Ben Krupinski Builder, and Mayor Richard Lawler, who was seeking a fourth term as a trustee after having been appointed mayor following the resignation of Paul F. Rickenbach Jr., trailed with 311 votes and 245 votes respectively, as did Mr. Graham's Fish Hooks Party running mate, David Driscoll, a 34-year veteran of the New York Police Department, who earned 181 votes. Mr. Graham will remain on the board, as his term is not up; Ms. Borsack and Mr. Lawler will not.

"I'm very grateful to the residents for being able to represent them for all these years," Ms. Borsack said on Wednesday. She was the first woman to be elected to the village board and served on the board for 20 years. "I worked hard, and I'm grateful for the opportunity."

Mr. Larsen grew up in the village and served on the police force for 34 years, including 14 as chief, before retiring in 2017. He and his wife, Lisa Larsen, own Protec Security Services, which provides property management and security for residential and commercial buildings. They own a house in East Hampton Town and rent an apartment on Newtown Lane in the village. 

Since announcing his candidacy in April 2019, Mr. Larsen has promised to usher in change and vitality in the village, and said he would be an advocate for the business community. "The village board doesn't believe it's their job to help businesses, and I do," he told The Star during the campaign. "They've earned the reputation as the village of 'no.' Some people think if it ain't broke don't fix it. I'm against all of that." 

Mr. Minardi, a lifelong village resident, had said he would bring youth and energy to the board, provide better management of the beaches, and cut down on unnecessary bureaucracy. "Red tape drives me crazy," he said. "Things take forever, and they don't have to."

Ms. Melendez, a mother of four, said she would like to make the village more family friendly, and was eager to be an agent of change. She cited the construction of a wastewater treatment facility as the most urgent priority, partly because it would allow for more affordable housing, which would make it possible for the children of residents to live and work in the village as well. "Our kids need to come back and bring back businesses, so the village doesn't become a thing of the past," she said.

Mr. Larsen's victory brought to a close a campaign that was unusual both for its length and frequent conflict among the top-line candidates. 

With a relatively small number of in-person votes being counted early in the evening on Tuesday, Ms. Borsack held a substantial lead, along with her Elms Party running mates, Mr. Harden and Mr. Lawler, who also appeared headed for victory. 

As the absentee ballots were opened, that quickly began to change. About 500 absentee ballots had been requested by voters, according to the village. 

In the first batch of 30 absentee ballots, the NewTown Party candidates dominated. Mr. Larsen and his campaign manager, Marcos Baladron, had run a campaign largely focused on the owners of second homes in the village with a message of change, particularly focused on loosening business and property restrictions. 

In an 11th-hour move on Tuesday, Mr. Larsen signaled that he was prepared to mount a legal challenge to the election results and to ask that ballots, voting machines, and objections to ballots be impounded. 

"It has been reported that a record number of absentee ballots have been received by the village clerk for the upcoming general village election," read paperwork filed in New York State Supreme Court Tuesday on Mr. Larsen's behalf by Vincent J. Messina Jr. of Messina, Perillo & Hill. "As a result, it may be that the final outcome may hinge upon the judicial review of the voting machines utilized in the election, as well as challenged paper ballots, ballots rejected by the village clerk, including but not limited to absentee ballots." 

Earlier this month, Mr. Graham had questioned the authenticity of 200 voter registrations, and formally challenged them with the Suffolk County Board of Elections. After receiving the voter roll as of Aug. 21, he noticed numerous irregularities. A list he sent to the Suffolk County Board of Elections included dozens of people who had listed commercial properties, including the Palm restaurant, the Village True Value hardware store, Fierro's Pizza, and John Papas Cafe as residential addresses.

Mr. Graham was inside the polling place contesting some voters in person on Tuesday. Shirley Wornstaff, the election chairwoman, said Mr. Graham had contested four voters who were then required to take an oath that their voter registration was valid. They complied and subsequently cast their votes. 

Ms. Wornstaff said another voter who had been contested was found on the voting roll and was allowed to vote without taking an oath. According to Mr. Graham, that voter was Bernard Kiembock, the owner of the hardware store, whose address on the roll was the store's address and not a residence.

Mr. Larsen said that his lawyer advised him to serve legal notice to the village because of Mr. Graham's presence at the polling place and the votes he had contested. Speaking on behalf of his NewTown party candidates, Mr. Larsen said, "We are proud to safeguard and ensure the rights of our citizens to have every proper vote counted, as opposed to my opponent, who has chosen to violate the provisions of the election law by attempting to act as a poll watcher and remaining in the polling place all day."

In the end, however, Mr. Larsen's potential legal challenge proved to be unnecessary. 

With Reporting by David E. Rattray

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