Democrats Sweep East Hampton Elections; Van Scoyoc, Burke-Gonzalez Re-Elected, Rogers To Join Town Board

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Cate Rogers, Kathee Burke-Gonzalez and Peter Van Soyoc. MICHAEL HELLER

On a night when the Republican Party made sweeping gains in political offices across Long Island, East Hampton Town cemented itself as a Democratic stronghold behind a blue wall of victories, with the party’s candidates sweeping every seat up for election on Tuesday’s ballot.

The results of the race were, perhaps fittingly, delayed for several hours by what the Suffolk County Board of Elections claimed was cellular connection issues. Chronically poor cellular service, and how exactly to address it, had been a major issue in the campaign.

But when the results finally did make their way through the ether to Board of Elections headquarters in Yaphank, just before 1 a.m., the data dump fell heavily in the corner of the East Hampton Town Democratic Party’s nominees.

Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc and Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez easily won re-election to third terms in their respective posts — Van Scoyoc for two more years, Burke-Gonzalez for four — and Cate Rogers captured the other town council seat on the ballot.

East Hampton Village Mayor Jerry Larsen chats with Town Council candidate Kathee Burke-Gonzalez at the Democratic post-election gathering at the Coche Comidor restaurant in Amagansett on Tuesday night. MICHAEL HELLER

Turnout for the election was light. Only 6,037 voters cast ballots on Election Day and during early voting, barely more than 30 percent of the town’s more than 19,000 eligible voters. As of Wednesday, there still 700 absentee ballots to be counted.

The Republican Party extended its woeful losing streak to a fourth straight town election, with its candidates — supervisor challenger Ken Walles and council hopefuls George Aman and Joe Karpinski — finishing far behind the Democrats in the vote totals and even behind a candidate on a minor party line near the bottom of the ballot in the supervisor’s race.

Councilman Jeff Bragman, who was elected in 2017 on the Democratic line but was passed over for renomination by the party committee this year and chose to challenge Van Scoyoc, finished in second place in the supervisor’s race with 1,702 votes, or about 28 percent of the vote, to Van Scoyoc’s 2,831, or 47 percent — possibly the first time that a supervisor candidate will ever have won office with less than half of the votes cast . Walles got 1,504 votes, or about 25 percent.

With Walles and his GOP running mates refusing to participate the three virtual candidates forums, the race had largely been between Van Scoyoc and Bragman and centered on their at times bitter differences in personality, policy, governing style and ideologies.

Bragman had cast himself as an alternative to Van Scoyoc who would promote a more deliberative approach to policy, with a more open ear to concerns from residents about specific initiatives.

“While we came up short, we are encouraged by the fact that Mr. Van Scoyoc and the machine won less than 50 percent of the total votes counted at this point,” Bragman said in a concession statement. “My hope is that an informed local community can unite, because the future of East Hampton depends on it. The political machine has shown little interest in controlling the commercialization and development forcing our friends and neighbors out. It has been and remains an enabler of those trends. The truth is that East Hampton is at a tipping point and the time for preserving our small town character is quickly running out.”

Van Scoyoc had run on a record of advancing public initiatives quickly — from the installation of water mains to relieve residents with contaminated drinking wells to negotiating agreements with wind farm developers and setting up a COVID-19 vaccination clinic — and a list of progressive initiatives on the horizon, like affordable housing developments, sewering, coastal retreat policies and renewable energy projects.

“I am deeply honored to have been chosen to continue to serve as East Hampton Town supervisor and look forward to working with my fellow elected officials and community members on the many challenges we face, such as affordable housing, sustainability, and the environment, to name a few,” the supervisor said in a statement on Wednesday. “There is much to do.”

In the council race, Burke-Gonzalez got 3,275 votes, or about 28.5 percent, and Rogers, the top voter getter, got 3,289 votes, or about 29 percent.

“Our success is based on teamwork and our love for East Hampton,” Ms. Rogers said in a statement on Wednesday morning. “We have an amazing group of volunteers who spend hours and hours for the benefit of our community. I thank them for their hard work and dedication. My friends and family are the blessings in my life. We face every opportunity and challenge together. I am so grateful for this opportunity. Now I am eager to get to work for all the community and this beautiful place we call home.”

It was Rogers’s first run for elected office, but she’s been involved in East Hampton government for a decade, first as a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals for several years and then three years as the chairwoman of the East Hampton Democratic Party, as well as having served on the town’s advisory committee on energy sustainability.

Karpinski, a political newcomer from Amagansett, finished third with 1,837 votes, or 16 percent, and Aman got 1,682 votes, or about 15 percent. John Whelan, a Democrat who lost the party primary to Rogers and Burke-Gonzalez in June, but ran on the Independence Party line, got 1,392 votes, or about 12 percent.

In the East Hampton Town Trustees race, all nine of the Democratic candidates won the election, including newcomer David Cataletto, who was endorsed by the party over current Democratic incumbent Trustee Rick Drew.

James Grimes was the lone Republican to win a seat, though he was cross-endorsed by the Democratic Party and had attended the Democratic campaign gathering on Tuesday night. With his name on the top two lines of the ballot, he was the top vote getter in the election.

The seven other Republican candidates — David Talmage, Reginald Cornelia, Lona Rubenstein, Manny Vilar, Deborah Ann Schwartz and Willy Wolter — finished far behind the winners and Drew, who, with his name far down the ballot on two minor party lines, finished last with 1,305 votes.

Town Clerk Carole Brennan, Highway Superintendent Stephen Lynch, Town Justice Steven Tekulsky and Tax Assessor Eugene DePasquale were all uncontested in this year’s election and earned new four-year terms in their respective offices.

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