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Nov 10, 2011 4:16 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Absentee Ballots Will Decide Next East Hampton Town Supervisor; Breakdown Favors Cohen

Nov 15, 2011 4:05 PM

East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson held a 177-vote lead over his challenger, Zachary Cohen, after Election Day, so the outcome of the race will be decided by a count of absentee ballots that is not expected to be completed until Friday at the earliest.

Anita S. Katz, Democratic commissioner of the Suffolk County Board of Elections, said 1,047 absentee ballots had been sent to East Hampton Town residents, and 799 had been returned as of Tuesday.

Board of Elections officials expect to begin counting absentee ballots from western towns today, November 16, and start counting absentee ballots from the East End sometime after that. It’s unclear exactly how long the count will take, because the pace depends on staffing, the number of ballots to be counted from other towns, how many ballots different parties challenge and other variables. All absentee ballots sent by mail had to have been postmarked by Monday, November 7. Ballots that were handed in needed to have been returned before polls closed on Election Day.

The absentee ballots are expected to favor Mr. Cohen, an unaffiliated voter endorsed by Democrats, although it remains to be seen whether the advantage will be enough to close the gap between him and Mr. Wilkinson, a Republican.

Of the absentee ballots that were sent out, 541 went to Democrats, 286 went to Republicans, 175 went to unaffiliated voters, 37 went to Independence Party members, seven went to Conservatives and one went to a Working Families Party member, according to the Board of Elections.

Of the absentee ballots that had been returned as of Tuesday, 418 came from Democrats, 220 came from Republicans, 132 came from unaffiliated voters, 22 came from Independence Party members, six came from Conservatives, and one came from the Working Families Party member.

If Democrats and Republicans voted along party lines, Mr. Cohen would net 198 votes. That means Mr. Wilkinson would need to make up the difference through unaffiliated and Independence Party votes in order to win a second term.

“We had sort of all agreed in the beginning that if there was anything short of a 300-vote victory, we didn’t think that anybody could declare it,” due to the large number of absentee ballots, Trace Duryea, chairwoman of the East Hampton Town Republican Committee, said last Thursday.

Ms. Duryea said she believes Mr. Wilkinson will win, but said it should have been “by a landslide.”

“We had more confidence in the voting public,” she said. “We really thought they had signed on to how great a job Bill has done in virtually saving our town, and so we didn’t count on the town that they would want to throw him out with the dishwater, so to speak. So that part, and I’ve told all the other papers, is a disappointment, that he just doesn’t have this overwhelming victory.”

Jeanne Frankl, chairwoman of the East Hampton Town Democratic Committee, said she believed Democratic and unaffiliated absentee voters would propel Mr. Cohen, a first-time candidate, to victory. She credited a combination of Mr. Cohen’s personality and a rejection of Republican policies for Mr. Cohen’s “remarkable” performance against Mr. Wilkinson, who won by a landslide in 2009.

“A lot of it was their own doing, but I think a lot of it was the unique personality of Zach Cohen,” she said. “I think people respect brilliance and intellect, particularly as resources for government, and I think they respect the willingness to listen that he has shown.”

Ms. Frankl said Mr. Wilkinson and the rest of the Republican Town Board majority that took power in 2009 has been a “two-note team,” focusing almost entirely on cutting the budget and aiding local businesses, while ignoring other issues that voters cared about. “I think that Wilkinson really misjudged both the temper of the town and the emerging temper of the times,” she said.

Democratic Town Board candidates Peter Van Scoyoc and Sylvia Overby solidly defeated Republican candidates Steven Gaines and Richard Haeg and Independence Party candidates Marilyn Behan and Bill Mott. Ms. Duryea said she knew the large crop of candidates would “complicate things” for the Republicans, and acknowledged the Independence Party candidates split the Republican vote. She also noted that Democrats have a registration advantage in East Hampton Town.

As of November 1, there were 6,407 Democrats, 4,482 Republicans and 1,004 Independence Party members among East Hampton Town’s 12,807 registered voters, according to New York State Board of Elections figures. The rest are unaffiliated or members of smaller parties.

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Actually the numbers so far favor Wilkinson. If Wilkinson gets 90% of the Republican votes and Cohen gets 10%; and Cohen gets 90% of the Dem votes and Wilkinson 10%; Wilkinson gets the 5 conservatives; Cohen gets the one working families; and the blanks and independence party are split even; then Cohen picks up 149 and comes up about 30 short. When you consider absentee voters are more concerned about the issues of taxes, and for the more affluent homeowners the airport, you figure Wilkinson picks ...more
By hohum123 (91), springs on Nov 11, 11 1:20 AM
You hit the nail on the head with your Logic. Unfortunately as evident by the vote thus far logic doesn't play here. Both repubs and demd tend to ignore the issues and just vote party lines. Bill needs to pick up a a big majority of the independents
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Nov 11, 11 5:40 AM
Over here in the doublewide we're already busy trying to find Bill a new job because we've been told by reliable sources that Al Gore is personally counting the absentee ballots. Best we can suggest for old Bill is that he puts in an application with East Hampton Starbucks. They teach you to be all nice and respectful of others when you work there even if you don't agree with their order. And the benefits ain't bad either.
By we could run this town! (129), wonderful Wainscott on Nov 11, 11 11:29 AM
1 member liked this comment
Except he doesn't have to work, Einstien.
He came out of retirement to fix the mess that the democrooks left behind last time around. Since everyone seems to have forgotten that fact, let's hand the town over to them again. They will pick up our leaves and we will pick up their bill.
By lucklucy (9), Hampton Bays on Nov 11, 11 6:30 PM
Maybe he could teach you geography pumpkin. Ain't Hampton Bays
in SOUTHampton? Your leaves is your leaves not our leaves. Bag it
By we could run this town! (129), the oceanfront trailer park on Nov 13, 11 12:45 PM
By this time next evening we should know the outcome of the Supervisor's race. It will be Zack Cohen, by a comfortable margin. He will receive all the Democratic votes; a majority of the idependence and unaffiliated votes; and a substantial minority of the Republican votes, putting him over a hundred votes ahead.

Out here, you can win office if you are a thief, an adulterer, a liar (D'uh), or a drunk but god help you if you are a Despot. Wilkinson spent so many years in the unique psychopathic ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Nov 15, 11 11:28 PM
2 members liked this comment
So right, highhatsize!! Love your last comment about "subordinates". How quickly people forget that letter.....Keeping my fingers crossed.
By utahgirl1970 (8), East Hampton on Nov 16, 11 8:59 AM