Despite not having a candidate at the top of their ticket, Republicans picked up one of two open seats on the Southampton Town Board in Tuesday’s election, with Cynthia McNamara, who also had the Conservative and Working Families lines, rolling to an easy win in a four-way race.
“I’m excited. I think it’s a pretty clear message that the people want to be heard,” said McNamara, who received 6,860 votes, or 27.9 percent of the total cast in the Town Board race. “That’s pretty much what I ran on and that’s what I plan on doing in office.”
Noting that the Democrats outspent the Republicans in this year’s election, she said her victory was the result of “a big turnout by the working class of Southampton.”
McNamara’s tally was based on unofficial results from all 42 districts that came in from the Suffolk Board of Elections well after midnight. Hundreds of absentee ballots remain to be counted.
Meanwhile, after falling behind early, incumbent Democratic Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni apparently pulled out a close win over Republican and Conservative challenger Ann Thomas to preserve the Democrats’ Town Board majority. Schiavoni received 6,364 votes to Thomas’s 6,101 votes.
Schiavoni, who said it looked like the election would be close, based on early turnout, remained cautiously optimistic as he fell behind Thomas during counting by about 150 votes before rallying to regain the lead when the last four districts were counted.
Wednesday morning, Schiavoni said his late surge was fueled by votes from his home base in the Sag Harbor area. “I didn’t see big jumps in my numbers as the night went on, so I was hoping those last districts were Sag Harbor, and they were,” he said.
Schiavoni said he was confident his 263-vote margin would hold up when the absentee ballots were counted.
“I’m grateful to be in the position I’m in,” he said. “I’m really happy to be able to continue to work for the people of the town and complete some of the projects we’ve started and also to get this affordable housing initiative going.”
Democrat Robin Long was out of the running early with only 5,822 votes.
In the other big town race, Conservative Party member Charles McArdle, who also had the Republican and Working Families lines, was the apparent victor over Democrat Thomas Neely for the position of highway superintendent. With all districts reporting, McArdle had received 51.3 percent, or 6,705 votes, to Neely’s 48.6 percent, or 6,352 votes. Earlier in the evening, McArdle enjoyed a lead of more than 600 votes. It remains to be seen if Neely can make up the difference with absentee ballots.
“It’s too close to call,” McArdle said on Wednesday morning. “Clearly, I would hope the absentees would follow the same trend as the regular vote.”
McArdle thanked Suffolk County Conservative leader Mike Torres and town Conservative leader Robert Macedonio, as well as David Betts, the chairman of the town Republican Committee, and Jesse Garcia, the chairman of the county committee, for supporting him.
He added that his wresting of the Working Families nomination from Neely in a primary last spring played a role in his apparent victory. McArdle picked up 210 votes on that line.
An ebullient Democratic crowd at Claude’s restaurant at the Southampton Inn began to turn somber at about 10:30 p.m., when it became clear that their party’s slate was struggling.
Small groups of worried party members and candidates spoke in quiet voices about what went wrong in local races and others across Suffolk County, where Republicans won major gains.
“I have a feeling when we look across the county and the nation we had a headwind we didn’t realize,” said Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, who ran unopposed and received 9,521 votes.
“Going into tonight, I thought there was a strong possibility that most of the ticket would make it across the finish line,” he said. “I thought we ran a good, unified campaign, we ran on a good record, and our policies seem to mesh with the voters — or so I thought.”
Before the final tallies were reported and Schiavoni surged ahead of Thomas, Schneiderman said he thought the Democrats had a strong chance to hold onto their Town Board majority. He said with hundreds of absentee ballots remaining to be counted, “we feel we have the edge based on party affiliation. It’s possible that some of tonight’s results will be changed by those votes.”
As the Democratic gathering began to thin out before the final numbers came in, the party’s local chairman, Gordon Herr, tried to rally his troops.
“Nobody’s talking about conceding,” he said. “There’s still a lot of absentee ballots. Tommy John has a really good shot of winning.”
Herr said he believed the Democrats suffered because of a Republican backlash following the defeat of President Donald Trump last year and not because of failings on their part.
“This was the most outstanding slate we’ve ever run in the 14 years I’ve been doing this,” he said.
If things were subdued at Democratic headquarters, they were decidedly more upbeat across town in Westhampton Beach, where Republicans gathered at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5350. Classic rock played on the speakers as candidates and supporters gathered around the computer screen cheering each other on.
“I think it has been a very exciting evening and election,” said Thomas, who held a lead over Schiavoni when she went home around midnight. “We have all worked really hard and look forward to having the final results at some point.”
In other races, Town Justice Barbara Wilson, who had Republican, Conservative, and Working Families backing, easily won another term, with 7,606 votes, or 30.4 percent of the total. She will be joined on the bench by Patrick J. Gunn, who had Republican and Conservative support, and received 6,613 votes, or 26.4 percent of the total.
The two Democrats on the ballot, Adam Grossman and Shari Oster, lagged behind, with Grossman receiving 5,782 votes and Oster getting 5,042 votes.
Bill Pell, who was backed by the Democrats, Republicans and Conservatives, outpaced all candidates to win another term as Trustee. He received 11,644 votes, or 19 percent of the total.
Ed Warner Jr. and Scott Horowitz — running under the Republican and Conservative banners — were also reelected with 7,044 and 6,626 votes, respectively.
It was neck and neck for the last two Trustee seats, with Republican and Conservative newcomer William Parrash leading 6,623-6,506 over incumbent Democrat and Working Families candidate Ann Welker.
Republican and Conservative Robert Savage fell short, finishing in sixth place with 6,153 votes.
A trio of candidates backed the Democrats and Working Families parties brought up the rear. Martha Reichert Jr. received 5,613 votes, Will Peckham received 5,571, and Andrew Brosnan received 5,428.
Incumbent Town Clerk Sundy Schermeyer, who was cross-endorsed by the Republicans, Democrats and Conservatives, was reelected with 12,290 votes.
With reporting by Dana Shaw.