At 10:21 p.m. Tuesday night, when the MSNBC television station flashed a big, blue “D” representing a Democratic takeover of the United States House of Representatives — corresponding, at least in part, to the “blue wave” that Democrats across the country had been hoping for during these midterm elections — loud applause echoed through Rowdy Hall in East Hampton, where many East Hampton Democrats had gathered to await election results.
Less than five minutes later, when almost all of the results in the special election for an East Hampton Town Board seat were in, even more raucous cheers erupted for the Democratic winner, incumbent town councilman David Lys. He’d earned 69.3 percent of voter approval in East Hampton.
Someone turned off the big-screen television so Mr. Lys, with his wife, Dr. Rachel Lys, by his side, could declare victory.
“I would be so bold as to say this is a mandate,” he said. “This is a mandate from the Town of East Hampton and the residents, who have put upon myself and the board right now to continue the actions that we have started as a democratically-elected board. We have to continue fighting for all the values I have put into my campaign. Those are values not just about water quality, affordability of housing and economics, but we have to continue making this place special.”
Mr. Vilar, who also lost a bid for town supervisor in 2017, on Wednesday disagreed the results equated to a “mandate.” He suggested people simply voted along party lines.
“I think the important thing to remember here is we brought a lot of issues to light, issues that were championed not only by myself but also by the Reform Democrats,” he said.
Mr. Vilar asserted that “there is no minority voice” in East Hampton right now, referring to an all-Democrat town board. Mr. Lys was a registered Republican who recently switched his party affiliation to Democrat.
“Be it Republican, Conservative, Independent, non-politically aligned, they’re completely boxed out of town government. There’s no voice for the alternative.”
He called upon the news media to ask tough questions of the town board moving forward.
“The press has a critical role, more so now than ever before, because there is no one in town government who asks the question ‘why?’ Why are you not spending the money this way, why aren’t you considering that, why aren’t you considering alternatives?” Mr. Vilar said. “You have a critical role to be independent and neutral and ask these questions of government.”
The atmosphere at Rowdy Hall on Tuesday was cautiously optimistic. The crowd cheered the Kansas gubernatorial results, in which Democrat Laura Kelly defeated her Republican opponent. East Hampton results had begun to trickle in, with the first three election districts showing Mr. Lys with 77.5 percent of the vote.
Shortly after 10 p.m., the crowd booed Texas Congressional candidate Beto O’Rourke’s projected loss to incumbent Representative Ted Cruz as more East Hampton election district results rolled in and Mr. Lys’s lead over Mr. Vilar dropped slightly — down to 72.7 percent voter support.
When Mr. Lys eventually emerged the winner, he thanked his family, his colleagues on the town board and his campaign team for their support.
“I want to say thank you very much for allowing me to earn your respect, for putting me on the board, for allowing me to work for my friends, my constituents, my hometown people to make sure that our hometown is as special as it was when I grew up,” Mr. Lys said.
The evening culminated with a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” to attorney Christopher Kelley, a prominent town Democrat who assisted with Mr. Lys’s campaign.
Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said he is looking forward to continuing to work with Mr. Lys.
“It’s very gratifying that the community has affirmed our choice in David Lys as councilman to serve us,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said. “With his energy, his intelligence and his thoughtfulness, I think we’ll have a great year and be able to accomplish many good things for the town.”
Tuesday’s vote saw a record number of people support a single town candidate going back at least 15 years. East Hampton Town voters collectively cast 8,909 ballots, of which 6,177 were for Mr. Lys — more than any one single East Hampton candidate received during general elections dating back to 2003, according to Suffolk County Board of Elections data. Four write-in votes were cast on Tuesday.
Back in June, when Mr. Lys faced David Gruber in a primary election for the Democratic line, he emerged the winner with 61.1 percent, or 1,757 votes. Turnout was 2,874 during the primary.
“I think what we’re seeing on a national level has paralleled what we’re seeing here locally,” Mr. Lys said. “But also what were seeing here locally, when we start mining the data, I think you’re going to see a lot of individuals who are voting for the person over the party because they know I can get things done for the betterment of their town. I am that person this year, and I hope to be that person for a long time going forward.”