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Democratic Sweep Is Certified

Thu, 11/30/2023 - 09:16

East Hampton and Southampton are outliers as Suffolk County goes red

East Hampton Town Supervisor-elect Kathee Burke-Gonzalez on election night with Christopher Kelley, a member of the town's Democratic Committee.
Durell Godfrey

East Hampton Town Democrats’ lopsided victories in the Nov. 7 election are official, according to the Suffolk County Board of Elections’ results issued this week.

Turnout in the 2023 elections was just 33.6 percent in both East Hampton Town and Southampton Town, where Democrats also swept the races for supervisor and town board. In East Hampton, 6,706 of 19,952 registered voters cast ballots, according to the Board of Elections. 

Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, the Democratic and Working Families Party candidate for East Hampton Town supervisor, defeated Gretta Leon, the Republican and Conservative Party candidate, 4,462 votes to 2,098 votes, or 68 percent to 32 percent. Ms. Burke-Gonzalez was elected to the town board in 2013 after several years on the Springs School Board. She will succeed Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, who announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election. 

In the campaign for the town board, another incumbent, Councilman David Lys, finished first among the four candidates vying for two seats. His vote total was also 4,462, or 34.8 percent. Behind him was Tom Flight, a political newcomer, who won 4,157 votes, or 32.5 percent. Both ran on the Democratic and Working Families Party lines. They finished ahead of their Republican and Conservative Party opponents, Scott Smith and Michael Wootton. Mr. Smith received 2,112 votes, or 16.5 percent, and Mr. Wootton won 2,070 votes, or 16.2 percent. 

Councilwoman Sylvia Overby also announced early this year that she would not seek re-election. Ms. Burke-Gonzalez’s election to supervisor will create a vacancy on the town board, and she will appoint a new member after her and her colleagues’ swearing-in in January. 

David Filer, on the Democratic and Working Families Party ballots, was elected town justice with 4,050 votes, or 61.3 percent, besting Brian Lester, the Republican and Conservative Party candidate, who won 2,561 votes, or 38.7 percent. 

Democrats were also successful on the nine-member town trustee board. All seven incumbents seeking re-election were returned to their positions, six of them running on the Democratic Party line and a seventh, Jim Grimes, also endorsed by the Republican and Conservative Parties. Mr. Grimes, a deputy clerk of the trustees, once again finished first among all candidates with 6,010 votes, or 12.4 percent. Francis Bock, the trustees’ clerk, won 4,638 votes, or 9.6 percent. Ben Dollinger and Bill Taylor, the other deputy clerk, both of whom also appeared on the Working Families Party line, each received 4,536 votes, or 9.4 percent. 

Three other Democratic incumbents were re-elected. David Cataletto, also on the Working Families Party line, won 4,331 votes, or 8.9 percent. John Aldred was re-elected with 4,127 votes, or 8.5 percent, and Tim Garneau was re-elected with 3,985 votes, or 8.2 percent. 

Two first-time candidates were elected to the town trustees. Patrice Dalton, running on the Republican, Democratic, and Working Families Party ballots, won 5,626 votes, or 11.6 percent, and Celia Josephson won 4,338 votes, or 8.9 percent. 

Their Republican challengers fell short: Mark Edwards won 2,333 votes, or 4.8 percent, Kurt Kappel received 2,090 votes, or 4.3 percent, and John Dunning won 1,924 votes, or 4 percent. 

Two incumbents, Susan McGraw-Keber and Mike Martinsen, both Democrats, did not seek re-election. 

This year’s election realigns future elections for trustee. Owing to a bill signed by former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo shortly before his 2021 resignation, the terms of office for the trustees will be staggered. The five candidates receiving the most votes — Mr. Grimes, Ms. Dalton, Mr. Bock, Mr. Dollinger, and Mr. Taylor — will serve a four-year term. The remaining four — Ms. Josephson, Mr. Cataletto, Mr. Aldred, and Mr. Garneau — will serve a twoyear term. Thereafter, elections will continue on a biennial basis, but with fewer candidates up for re-election and all elected trustees serving a four-year term. 

The incumbent town assessors, Jeanne Nielsen and Jill Massa, ran unopposed for re-election, as did Stephen Lynch, the incumbent superintendent of highways. Ms. Nielsen won 5,980 votes and Ms. Massa 5,910 votes. Mr. Lynch received 6,202 votes. All appeared on the Democratic and Republican Party lines, with Ms. Massa also on the Conservative Party line. 

At the County Level 

East Hampton residents will have new representation in the Suffolk County Legislature. Bridget Fleming, who did not seek re-election in the Second District, will be succeeded by Ann Welker, a Southampton Town trustee who ran on the Democratic and Working Families Party lines. She bested Manny Vilar, a Springs resident and chairman of the East Hampton Town Republican 

Committee who ran on the Republican and Conservative Party lines, 11,537 votes to 7,183 votes, or 61.6 percent to 38.4 percent. Voter turnout in the Second District was 34 percent. 

“Our team is thrilled with the final election results and the overwhelming mandate our candidates have received from the voters to continue doing the important work of local town government,” Anna Skrenta, chairwoman of the East Hampton Democrats, said in an email to The Star. “We are incredibly grateful to our committee members, volunteers, and supporters who worked tirelessly and gave generously of their time, talents, and resources to get our excellent candidates elected. The East Hampton Democrats are proud that we continue to run positive campaigns, anchored in organization and teamwork, and focused on the accomplishments of candidates who are dedicated public servants.” 

In a letter to The Star last week, Mr. Vilar wrote that “with a 2.6-to-1 Democrat to Republican ratio” in the town, “party rule has gotten so dominant that dissenting viewpoints, even from elected Democrats, have been met with scorn and banishment.” (In the 2021 election cycle, the East Hampton Town Democratic Committee declined to endorse two of its incumbents, Councilman Jeff Bragman and Rick Drew, a trustee.) “We urge the town board,” Mr. Vilar continued, “to make appointments based not on political party affiliation but on experience and capabilities.” 

Other Results

In other official results, Suffolk will have a new executive, as the incumbent, Steve Bellone, a Democrat elected in 2011, signed a bill last year limiting the holding of that office to 12 years total. Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, running on the Republican and Conservative Party lines, was elected county executive, defeating David Calone, the Democratic and Working Families Party candidate, 160,098 votes to 121,115 votes, or 56.9 percent to 43.1 percent. Mr. Calone fared better in East Hampton, winning 4,192 votes to Mr. Romaine’s 2,332 votes, or 64.3 percent to 35.7 percent. Countywide, turnout in that contest was just 27.4 percent. 

In Southampton Town’s race for supervisor, Westhampton Beach Mayor Maria Moore, running on the Democratic and Conservative Party lines, bested Councilwoman Cynthia McNamara, the Republican candidate, 8,294 votes to 6,259 votes, or 57 percent to 43 percent. Ms. Moore will succeed Jay Schneiderman, who was prevented from seeking re-election because of term limits. 

In the race for Southampton Town Board, Bill Pell, a town trustee running on the Democratic and Conservative Party lines, won election with 8,109 votes, or 29.3 percent. Michael Iasilli, an aide to Ms. Fleming, ran on the Democratic and Working Families Party lines and won 6,997 votes, or 25.2 percent. They bested two Republican candidates, Councilman Richard Martel and William Parash, a town trustee, who won 6,730 and 5,879, respectively, or 24.6 and 21.2 percent. Mr. Martel also ran on the Conservative Party line. 

“While it is encouraging that East Hampton remains a solidly blue town,” Ms. Skrenta wrote, “the Republican wave that has taken Suffolk County from purple to red in the last few election cycles shows no signs of letting up, and come the new year our committee will be laser-focused on playing an important role in the 2024 regional and federal elections.”

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