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Razor-Thin Lead Keeps Rana on Bench

Thu, 11/21/2019 - 11:14

Justice race shows ‘every vote counts,’ she says

Lisa R. Rana, second from left, was surrounded by supporters on election night, including her cousin John Dunning, her mother, Virginia Rana, and Doreen DiSunno, but she could not celebrate her victory until this week.
Christine Sampson

By a lead of just 27 votes, East Hampton Town Justice Lisa R. Rana prevailed in her re-election campaign, defeating her Democratic challenger, Andrew Strong, to win a fifth four-year term on the bench.

Anita Katz, the Democratic commissioner at the Suffolk County Board of Elections, said yesterday that 766 absentee ballots and 81 affidavits had been received. The unofficial result, which has yet to be certified but will not change, she said, gives Ms. Rana 3,401 votes to Mr. Strong’s 3,374.

In an email yesterday, Ms. Rana expressed her “gratitude to the voters of East Hampton,” and said, “It was a hard-fought election. We have such a beautiful community, and it is so refreshing that the voters were able to move past party-line politics to re-elect me for another four-year term as an East Hampton Town justice.”

She thanked her supporters “for sticking by me and coming out to vote. As this election indeed shows, every vote counts. However, I must particularly acknowledge my Democratic supporters. It is a testament to our small community that my Democratic supporters were willing to put partisan politics aside and move off their party line to vote for me — what an incredible thing in the current political climate.”

Aside from her win, East Hampton races this year broke overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates.

Ms. Rana quoted the late Tip O’Neill, a speaker of the United States House of Representatives, who famously said that “all politics is local.” Her victory, she said, “proves this still to be true in East Hampton. I believe that is a good thing. Elections are tough, but this community that has been my home for my entire life makes it all worth the effort.”

“I feel extremely grateful for all of the support I received from the community and I’m very proud of the race that we ran,” Mr. Strong said in an email yesterday. “We kept a positive message throughout and made social and economic justice the center of our campaign. I’m proud of that. At the same time I want to congratulate Judge Rana. She won a hard-fought race.”

Cate Rogers, chairwoman of the East Hampton Town Democratic Committee, said on Tuesday afternoon that a count of the absentee ballots had Ms. Rana ahead by around 24 votes, two weeks after the Suffolk County Board of Elections’ unofficial count of the Nov. 5 election had her leading Mr. Strong by 116 votes, or about 51 percent to Mr. Strong’s 49 percent.

Another East Hampton Democratic Party official said on Tuesday that once Ms. Rana’s lead exceeded the remaining number of challenged ballots, during Tuesday’s count of absentee ballots, it was mathematically impossible for Mr. Strong to have won.

Ms. Rana’s victory closes the book on the 2019 election. Her re-election is virtually the only bright spot in this year’s campaign for the EH Fusion Party and the East Hampton Town Republican Committee, both of which endorsed her. The Fusion Party, a coalition of Democratic, Republican, and unaffiliated voters, ran candidates for supervisor, town board, and trustee; none prevailed, with candidates for supervisor and the town board suffering resounding defeat. Democrats will hold all nine seats on the trustee board in January, although Jim Grimes, who was easily re-elected, received Republican and Conservative Party endorsement, along with the Democratic Party’s backing. Jill Massa, an incumbent assessor who received Republican, Conservative, Democratic, and Independence Party backing, ran unopposed.

Ms. Rana appeared on the Republican, Conservative, Libertarian, and Independence Party lines. The East Hampton Reform Democrats, a faction of Democrats who split from the party and members of which later formed the EH Fusion Party, also endorsed her candidacy. In the 2015 election, Ms. Rana ran unopposed, with support from the Democratic, Republican, Independence, Conservative, and Reform Parties.

Earlier this year, she successfully petitioned to force a primary on the Democratic line. Mr. Strong, a first-time candidate who is general counsel to Organizacion Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island, or OLA, easily held off that challenge, winning with 71.4 percent of the vote.

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