A nail-biting race for one of two open seats on the Southampton Town Board ended on Tuesday night with Republican Christine Preston Scalera as the apparent winner, but only by a photo-finish 85-vote lead over Independence Party challenger Brad Bender, according to unofficial results from the Suffolk County Board of Elections.
Party officials from both sides of the aisle cautioned that the outcome could change pending the tally of 791 absentee ballots that haven’t yet been counted.
According to the BOE’s unofficial results, Ms. Fleming garnered the most votes of the four candidates vying for two seats on the Town Board, with a count of 5,828 votes, or nearly 27 percent of votes cast. Ms. Scalera brought in 5,342 votes, or 24.7 percent; Mr. Bender received 5,257 votes, or 24.3 percent; and Republican Bill Hughes came in fourth with 5,173 votes, or about 23.9 percent. Fewer than 180 votes separate the bottom three candidates.
Ms. Scalera said while she’s standing by what the polls said, she remained “cautiously optimistic.”
When reached on Wednesday morning, Mr. Bender said he would not concede the race until the results of the absentee ballots were known.
“Over 85 votes? I don’t think so,” Mr. Bender said. “There’s over 700 [absentee] ballots. Had it been 85 votes the other way, I wouldn’t have claimed victory either, because the people haven’t finished speaking yet. I think it’s a little premature to claim victory or defeat at this point.”
A recount of the votes and the opening of absentee ballots will begin early next week—a typical practice in all elections, said officials from the BOE. It’s unclear how long that recount will take, but Mr. Bender said he’s heard it could be two weeks. An official at the BOE said total voter turnout numbers won’t be available until the end of the day on Wednesday.
Also on Tuesday night, incumbent Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst secured a sound victory against former Supervisor Linda Kabot, who waged a write-in campaign against Ms. Throne-Holst late in the campaign season. According to the results, Ms. Throne-Holst received 6,249 votes, or about 63.4 percent of the vote. The total number of votes cast for a write-in candidate were 3,602 votes, or a total of about 36.6 percent of the vote.
The official tally may not be available for another three weeks, Ms. Kabot said, though she’s confident that she garnered the lion’s share of the write-in votes for supervisor.
At the Democratic gathering at 230 Elm on Tuesday night, Ms. Throne-Holst spoke as though Mr. Bender had been elected, giving her majority control of the Town Board for the first time as supervisor, even though Ms. Scalera was slightly ahead in the race. “I have to say, a moment of true emotion came over me with the thought that what the last two years have been, I think, are over,” the supervisor said. “We have worked so hard to get to where we are today, and the thought that we were going to have two more years of that uphill battle was just painful, and I am really breathing a huge sigh of relief because I am confident that on January 1 you will see the three of us up on that podium.”
Ms. Fleming also offered positive words about her victory and introduced Mr. Bender as the “next town councilman.”
“I deal with this job because I love it, and I love it because we have been able to deliver real results for real people, and that’s why it’s easy to commit, not to misuse your trust,” Ms. Fleming said. “I am honored by that trust, and I’m looking forward to continuing to serve you with Brad and Anna, working hard for the people’s interests, not the special interests. With the three of us together on your Town Board, I assure you you’re in very good hands. We will not misuse your trust. We will continue to move Southampton forward. Thank you very much. We’ve gotta get back to work.”
Republicans gathered at Villa Tuscano restaurant in Hampton Bays on Tuesday night to watch the election results come in. In a speech thanking many of her supporters, Ms. Scalera said she looked forward to joining her colleagues on the board.
“I’m really proud of the team of people that I ran with, and I’m proud of the campaign that we ran,” Ms. Scalera said. “We stayed on the message. We worked hard. We stayed positive and we stayed honest. And as Bill would say, it was a pleasure to have run with you and I’m better for having known you. We left nothing on the field. And I’m very proud of that.”
Mr. Hughes also thanked many people for helping him throughout the campaign, but after his speech, he noted he would still wait to see what the official results were. “It was an honor,” he said. “I’ll see what the final numbers are.”