Southampton Town Justice Karen Sartain will retain her seat on the bench after the counting of absentee ballots lifted her past her Republican challenger, Patrick Gunn, in vote totals.
Mailed-in ballots are still being counted at the Suffolk County Board of Elections, where coronavirus protocols and legal challenges have slowed the process, but Ms. Sartain, who was appointed to the town bench last year, holds a lead of some 1,400 votes, according to Southampton Town Democratic Party Chairman Gordon Herr.
Mr. Herr celebrated the win as a resounding endorsement of Ms. Sartain, whose name was on just one party line, while Mr. Gunn’s was on four.
Ms. Sartain had trailed Mr. Gunn by 355 votes following the count of ballots cast in person on Election Day and during early voting. But nearly half of the 6,400 absentee ballots cast by Southampon Town voters came from registered Democrats, compared to barely a quarter from registered Republicans and Conservatives.
“This has been a very long year on the bench and we’ve worked very hard so I am grateful that the voters of Southampton Town have trusted me to continue,” Ms. Sartain said on Wednesday. “I am happy to get to do this for another four years. I love it.”
Ms. Sartain said that she had communicated with Mr. Gunn, whom she called “a friend and a colleague” on Tuesday. She said it was a bittersweet victory because she sees Mr. Gunn as someone who would have been “an asset to the bench” as well.
While the counting of absentee ballots is continuing, the remaining races have all been settled mathematically.
U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin has cemented his re-election to a fourth term, with a lead in vote totals greater than the number of ballots left to be counted. While the gap between him and challenger Nancy Goroff has narrowed from the more than 65,000 votes that separated them after Election Day to about 48,000 as of the end of the day on Tuesday, there are fewer than 30,000 votes left to be counted.
Ms. Goroff, who said she would not concede the race until the counting was completed, out of respect for those voters who cast ballots via mail, has yet to make an official statement about the outcome. A request for comment to a campaign spokesperson on Tuesday was not answered.
State Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo, a Republican, has also secured election to the New York State Senate, holding on to his lead over Democrat Laura Ahearn as the count of absentee ballots chipped away at the more than 18,000 vote lead he held after Election Day.
The counting of absentee ballots appears likely to push the final results of New York’s elections to a full month after Election Day. New York election law prevents any counting of any absentee ballots until two weeks after Election Day, to allow for ballots that were mailed on Election Day to be received from around the country and overseas.
This year, that meant the counting didn’t begin until November 16 and the pandemic had deluged elections boards with many times the usual number of mailed-in ballots. Legal challenges from attorneys representing the various campaigns can slow the counting process, especially with several key races hanging in the balance of the absentee count.
Then, on November 21, a Suffolk Board of Elections employee tested positive for COVID-19, halting the counting that day and closing the BOE on November 23 so the building could be sterilized and all employees tested for coronavirus infections. Counting resumed on November 24-25, but then paused for the Thanksgiving holiday.