Democrats Sweep East Hampton Town Election

Democratic candidates David Lys, Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc at Rowdy Hall in East Hampton on Tuesday night. Michael Heller photo

East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc and his Democratic running mates for Town Board, Sylvia Overby and David Lys, cruised to easy reelection victories on Tuesday night as the Democratic Party once again asserted its electoral dominance in East Hampton Town.

The Democrats also dominated the race for East Hampton Town Trustees, appearing to have won all nine seats up for grabs. With most election districts reporting on Tuesday night, it appeared as though the only Republican to win a seat on the board would be incumbent Trustee James Grimes, who was cross-endorsed by the Democrats.

In the only tight race, political newcomer Andrew Strong, running on the Democratic line for town justice, is trailing veteran Justice Lisa Rana, a Republican, by just 116 votes. The final result of that race will hang in the balance of the more than 660 absentee ballots that have to be counted and likely won’t be decided for another two weeks.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that my percentage will remain after the absentee ballots are counted,” Ms. Rana said on Tuesday evening at the Bel Mare restaurant in Springs, where the “Fusion” slate of Reform Democrats, Independence Party and Republican candidates had gathered to watch election results. “I hope that the people of East Hampton have chosen to extend my [tenure] for four more years.”

As of Wednesday morning, the Suffolk County Board of Elections had received 666 absentee ballots for the East Hampton Town vote. Ballots had to be postmarked by midnight on Tuesday, and the Board of Elections will allow another week for mailed-in ballots to be received. Officials there said it is likely that the ballots will not be opened and counted until at least November 18.

Absentee ballots will play no role in the final results of the races for Town Board, in which Mr. Van Scoyoc got nearly 71 percent of the vote for supervisor over his challenger, David Gruber, the former chairman of the East Hampton Democratic Party, who was running on the Independence Party line.

“This means so much to me and my fellow candidates to have so much support from all of you and from the community,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said at the Democratic Party gathering at Rowdy Hall on Tuesday night. “It’s affirmation and validation of the efforts we’ve made together. We’re not done — we’re just getting started. It’s round two.”

Ms. Overby and Mr. Lys likewise posted comfortable vote margins over their Independence Party challengers, Bonnie Brady and Betsy Bambrick, after votes were counted on Tuesday night. It will be Ms. Overby’s third term on the board.

Mr. Lys will start his first full four-year term on the Town Board in January, after being appointed to the Town Board in 2018 and winning a special election for a one-year term last fall.

Mr. Van Scoyoc got 3,832 votes; Mr. Gruber, 1,561.

In the council race, David Lys had 3,819 votes, Sylvia Overby had 3,367 votes, Bonnie Brady had 2,048 votes, and Elizabeth Bambrick had 1,701 votes.

The final tally in the Town Trustee race was: James Grimes, 4,906; Richard Drew, 4,492; Francis Bock, 3,583; Bill Taylor, 3,224; Susan McGraw-Keber, 3,211; Mike Martinsen, 3,127; John Aldred, 3,072; Tim Garneau, 3,042; and Benjamin Dollinger, 3,030.
The remaining candidates’ tallies: Susan Vorpahl, 2,522; David Talmage, 2,537; Michael Havens, 2,211; Fallon Nigro, 2,049; Dell Cullum, 1,955; Stephen Lester, 2,189; and Rona Klopman, 1,472.

Tax assessors Jill Massa and Jeanie Nielsen and Highway Superintendent Steven Lynch were unopposed on this year’s ballot and won new terms in office.

Turnout for the election in the first year of early voting in New York State was low in a year with no Republican candidates on the ballot for Town Board seats. The 5,393 votes cast so far in the supervisor race, plus the total number of absentee ballots, represents only about 34 percent of the 17,654 eligible voters in East Hampton Town. There were more than 6,800 votes cast in the last supervisor’s race in 2017, when then-councilman Mr. Van Scoyoc defeated Republican candidate Manny Vilar to win the vacant supervisor’s seat.
The Democratic Party has now all but swept the last four town election cycles, plus last year’s special election, and either knocked off or siphoned away the Town Republicans’ most popular candidates.

Highway Superintendent Steve Lynch, who was uncontested in the last two election cycles, was elected in 2011 as a Republican but quietly switched his political registration to Democrat before his last reelection bid.

Other than the typically uncontested tax assessors posts, two of which are held by Democrats and one by a Republican, Ms. Rana is the GOP’s last long-serving official.
The Democrats have a more than 2-to-1 advantage in voter registration in the town and are opposed only by a flagging Republican Party that has struggled to muster candidates with experience in town government and has seen nearly all of those appointed by the last Republican majority pushed out of their posts by the Democratic hegemony.

Mr. Van Scoyoc, Ms. Overby and Mr. Lys all came to town politics through positions on the town’s regulatory boards, whereas the Republicans have not posted a candidate with any previous experience in town government outside of the Trustees offices, since 2014.

Mr. Gruber is a former Democratic Party strategist who helped the party craft its political campaigns and was one of its biggest donors, for two decades, before falling out with the party leadership in recent years. This was his third run for elected office.

He has mustered a splinter group of disaffected Democrats to join him in mounting a challenge to the party leadership’s choices the last two years, but has been rebuffed at the polls in each instance.