Skip to main content

Democrats Win Big in East Hampton Town

Wed, 11/08/2023 - 16:30
Councilman David Lys, left, checked his phone for election results at a Democratic Party gathering at Coche Comedor in Amagansett, while Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, center, reviewed promising early numbers. David Filer, right, appeared to have won the race for town justice.
Durell Godfrey

In a big night for East Hampton Town Democrats, Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez was elected supervisor Tuesday and will become the fourth woman to hold that post in the town’s history. With all 19 election districts reporting, the Suffolk County Board of Elections’ unofficial tally had Ms. Burke-Gonzalez and her running mates, Councilman David Lys and Tom Flight, cruising to victory over their Republican opponents.

Democrats also dominated in every other local race, including for nine trustee seats, with voters returning the seven incumbents who sought re-election, six of them Democrats and one a Republican who is cross-endorsed by Democrats. Two more Democrats -- one also cross-endorsed by the town’s Republican committee -- won seats as well. That campaign is covered separately. 

According to unofficial results from the board of elections, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez, who with her colleagues also appeared on the Working Families Party line, had 4,334 votes. Her Republican and Conservative Party challenger, Gretta Leon, had 2,067 votes. Mr. Lys and Mr. Flight, a Montauk resident and first-time candidate, had won 4,330 and 4,037 votes, respectively. Their Republican and Conservative Party challengers, Scott W. Smith and Michael Wootton, were trailing with 2,078 and 2,037 votes, respectively. 

Absentee ballots already received by the board of elections are included in the unofficial count, a board official said on Tuesday, though the deadline to receive them is Tuesday, Nov. 14. Votes cast by affidavit at polling stations were also tallied on Election Night, the official said. 

“Those of us called to public service know that the work is the reward,” Ms. Burke-Gonzalez, presently the deputy supervisor, told a crowd of Democratic committee members and supporters at Coche Comedor in Amagansett, where the party had gathered to monitor election results. “And there is much work to do these next two years -- preserving our community, investing in our future, improving townwide communications, and modernizing how town government operates.”

Ms. Burke-Gonzalez, who is the deputy supervisor, was elected to the town board in 2013 after serving for nine years on the Springs School Board. She will succeed Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, who early this year announced that he would not seek re-election after three terms as supervisor and six years as councilman. 

She will lead a board comprising Mr. Lys, Mr. Flight, Councilwoman Cate Rogers, who is midway through her first term, and a councilmember who she will appoint to fill her vacant seat, presumably in January. 

Mr. Lys, a former member of the town’s zoning board of appeals, was appointed to the board in 2018, following Mr. Van Scoyoc’s election to supervisor. He was elected in his own right later that year and re-elected for a full four-year term in 2019. Mr. Flight, a member of the Montauk School Board, is an emergency medical services provider and business owner. A native of London, he became a year-round resident in 2009. 

The Republican candidates, who had gathered at the Palm in East Hampton on Tuesday night, left by 11 with results from several election districts still not reported on the board of elections site. They declined to comment until the final numbers were posted. 

The campaign was marked by debates about the acute shortage of affordable housing in the town and the impact that has on businesses, essential service providers like fire and emergency medical workers, teachers, nurses, even highly compensated professionals like doctors. The incumbents and Mr. Flight pointed to recently completed housing developments and others under construction or in the pipeline, their opponents decrying what they called an unacceptably slow pace of building affordable housing. The town-wide overhaul of its emergency and personal wireless communications infrastructure was another topic, as was the litigation in which the town is embroiled regarding East Hampton Town Airport and the privatization of a 3,100-foot stretch of ocean beach on Napeague popularly known as Truck Beach. 

In other races, David Filer, running on the Democratic and Working Families Party lines, was elected town justice, besting his Republican and Conservative Party challenger, Brian Lester, 3,929 votes to 2,524, according to the unofficial count. He will succeed Lisa R. Rana, who did not seek re-election. 

“What you learn while doing this,” Mr. Filer said on Tuesday night, “is that there are so many people who are really dedicated to a good future for East Hampton, both Democrats and Republicans.” Mr. Lester, he said, “could not be more of a gentleman. He’s a good lawyer, but I think more important than that, he has a long record of giving back to the community, which I think is impressive.”

Stephen Lynch, the superintendent of highways, was unopposed for re-election, as were Jeanne Nielsen and Jill Massa, the incumbent assessors. 

The elections bring a lackluster 2023 campaign to a close, the results predictable given the Democratic Party’s overwhelming advantage in voter registration. According to the board of elections, there are 9,934 registered Democrats in the town against 3,843 Republicans. There are 167 registered Conservative Party members and 52 Working Families Party members. “Blanks,” or registered voters who are unaffiliated with a party, number 5,470, and another 1,034 fall into the “others” category, voters registered with a party that is not on the ballot line, according to the board of elections. 

The winning candidates will be sworn in at the town board’s organizational meeting, in January 2024.  

Villages

East Hampton’s Mulford Farm in ‘Digital Tapestry’

Hugh King, the East Hampton Town historian, is more at ease sharing interesting tidbits from, say, the 1829 town trustees minutes than he is with augmented reality or the notion of a digital avatar. But despite himself, he came face to face with both earlier this week at the Mulford Farm, where the East Hampton Historical Society is putting his likeness to work to tell the story of the role the farm’s owner, Col. David Mulford, played in the leadup to the 1776 Battle of Long Island, and of his fate during the region’s subsequent occupation by the British.

May 16, 2024

Hampton Library Eyes Major Upgrade

The Hampton Library in Bridgehampton, last expanded 15 years ago, is kicking off a $1.5 million capital campaign this weekend with the aim of refurbishing the children’s room, expanding the young-adult room, doubling the size of its literacy space, and undertaking a range of technology enhancements and building improvements to meet the needs of a growing population of patrons.

May 16, 2024

Item of the Week: The Gardiner Manor by Alfred Waud, 1875

Alfred R. Waud sketched this depiction of the Gardiner’s Island manor house while on assignment for Harper’s Weekly.

May 16, 2024

Your support for The East Hampton Star helps us deliver the news, arts, and community information you need. Whether you are an online subscriber, get the paper in the mail, delivered to your door in Manhattan, or are just passing through, every reader counts. We value you for being part of The Star family.

Your subscription to The Star does more than get you great arts, news, sports, and outdoors stories. It makes everything we do possible.