Larocca Ousts Incumbent Mayor Mulcahy In Sag Harbor Election

Mayor James Larocca on election night.

Trustee James Larocca ousted incumbent Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy in Sag Harbor Village voting on Tuesday. Mr. Larocca received 379 votes to Ms. Mulcahy’s 357 after a bitter campaign in which Mr. Larocca attacked the incumbent’s performance on an almost daily basis, while Ms. Mulcahy sought to reassure voters progress was being made on a number of key issues despite the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Trustee Aidan Corish, who was seeking his third term, led all candidates with 572 votes, while incumbent Trustee Robert Plumb received 497 votes to win his second two-year term. Challenger Bayard Fenwick received 250 votes.

About 30 people gathered in the Sag Harbor Firehouse after the polls closed. There was a muted response as poll worker Diane Schiavoni silently filled in the results on a white board, showing that Mr. Larocca, who has previously served as trustee for six years, had bested his rival by just 22 votes. Ms. Mulcahy’s supporters gasped, while Mr. Larocca’s applauded softly.

Mr. Larocca kissed his wife, Dale, on the cheek and hugged Mayor Mulcahy when she came over to congratulate him.

Mr. Larocca acknowledged that it was a tight race and thanked his supporters for their votes. In an interview Wednesday morning, he joked the first order of business would be “to take a day off.” After that, “I’ll have three weeks to get ready, to deal with personnel, to deal with the vacancy my assumption will create,” he said. “There will be a lot of chores involved in just the routine of a transition.”

“Obviously, I’m disappointed personally,” said Ms. Mulcahy, “but I’m also disappointed for the village because I think, unfortunately, much of our good work will be potentially undone in the coming weeks — and I know we did good work.”

Perhaps at the top of the list of decisions facing Mr. Larocca when he takes office on July 6 will be who to appoint to fill the year remaining on his term as a trustee, but he declined to say who he would choose.

Mr. Larocca also declined to give specifics, but he said he expected to begin work on his version of a waterfront rezoning initiative as soon as he takes office after having opposed a proposal put forth by the mayor for a rezoning of a portion of the waterfront as insufficient. While the topic of a future home for Bay Street Theater has been the hot topic in the village, Mr. Larocca, who has steadfastly opposed its plans to build a new home on the Water Street Shops site, said a proper site for the theater would be addressed as part of “a broader matter of rezoning.”

This year’s mayoral campaign took a decidedly nasty tone, with both sides accusing the opposing camp of being responsible for negative campaigning that played out in newspaper ads, letters to the editor, and social media posts. Mr. Larocca’s supporters painted Ms. Mulcahy as a rubber stamp for Bay Street’s plans even though she has only said she supported the theater’s right to build on the property it bought and that any building would have to be reviewed by the village’s various regulatory boards. Meanwhile, the mayor’s supporters said Mr. Larocca should be pinned with some of the responsibility for the three large waterfront condos being constructed by Jay Bialsky on the waterfront, which set in motion fears of overdevelopment. Mr. Larocca has steadfastly denied he bore any responsibility for the buildings.

Mr. Larocca denied he was guilty of negative campaigning and said he focused on the mayor’s record. “My examination of that record and my criticism of that record was personalized and taken as personal attacks when it wasn’t,” he said.

Ms. Mulcahy said she tried to remain positive and was not responsible for comments made by others in the community. She said she largely avoided taking to social media to respond to attacks made on her. “I truly would not have changed one thing I did as mayor,” she said.

The bad blood spilled over to Mr. Larocca and Mr. Plumb. The two exchanged words when they met at the Sag Harbor Cinema on Saturday night, and on Tuesday night when Mr. Plumb approached Mr. Larocca to congratulate him, Mr. Larocca rebuffed him.

As the second leading vote-getter, Mr. Plumb said he planned to devote his term “to trying to conserve what is left of the historic characteristics of the village.”

“Elections can be viewed as a verdict on the past, but ultimately elections are about hope for the future,” said Mr. Corish. “The village has spoken, and we have a new mayor. I wish Jim every success and look forward to working with him over the next two years.”

Mr. Corish also praised Ms. Mulcahy. “I would like to add that Kathleen was an excellent mayor and brought much needed fresh thinking to Village Hall,” he said. “Her stewardship of the village through COVID was exemplary. I will miss her.”

In what he said will be his last term, Mr. Corish said he hoped to continue his work as liaison to the village sewage treatment plant and grant writing.

Trustee Thomas Gardella, who supported Mr. Larocca’s campaign, was the sole board member who was not on Tuesday’s ballot. “Congratulations to Jim,” he said. “Now it’s time for us to come together and work for the village.”

North Haven Results

Compared to Sag Harbor, it was a quiet election in neighboring North Haven, where incumbent Trustee Terie Diat received 103 votes and Chris Fiore earned 95 votes to win the two open seats on the Village Board.

James Laspesa, who was not seeking another term, received six write-in votes, while Jason Whitt received two write-in votes and Leslie Schatz received one.