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Nov 29, 2011 3:25 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Wilkinson's Win Made Official

Nov 29, 2011 3:55 PM

It took two weeks to learn the final results, but East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson defeated challenger Zachary Cohen by a razor-thin 15 votes, according to official Suffolk County Board of Elections results released on Wednesday, November 23.

Mr. Wilkinson, a Republican, received 3,403 votes and Mr. Cohen, an unaffiliated candidate backed by Democrats, received 3,388 votes, according to the Board of Elections. The last votes of the race were counted on Wednesday after Board of Elections commissioners ruled on 11 outstanding challenged ballots.

Mr. Cohen said he conceded to Mr. Wilkinson by phone at about 11:45 a.m. that day. “We had a nice talk,” he said.

“I don’t really have a comment on the election,” Mr. Wilkinson said this week.

Mr. Wilkinson’s victory gives him another two-year term and leaves the Town Board’s Republican majority intact until 2013 when Mr. Wilkinson and his allies, Councilwoman Theresa Quigley and Councilman Dominick Stanzione, will be up for reelection.

Mr. Wilkinson was 177 votes ahead of Mr. Cohen, a first-time candidate, on Election Day. The Board of Elections spent Friday, November 18, and the following Monday counting about 800 absentee ballots, which narrowed the gap between the candidates to about 45 votes.

The following Tuesday, the campaigns agreed to drop most of their challenges to about 70 outstanding ballots, narrowing the gap even further to 12 votes, with the 11 challenged ballots still outstanding.

The extremely narrow margin is a far cry from 2009, when Mr. Wilkinson was swept into office with 67 percent of the vote. Mr. Wilkinson’s Town Board running mates, Steven Gaines and Richard Haeg, were defeated by two Democratic candidates, Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc, who ran alongside Mr. Cohen.

In a press release issued last Friday, Jeanne Frankl, chairwoman of the East Hampton Democratic Committee, said: “We hope that Zach’s success, his continued involvement in public affairs and the leadership of our newly elected council persons will impel those on the current board to rethink their ‘mandate’ and, working closely with the newly elected councilpersons, be more responsive to all in the community.”

Ms. Frankl attributed Mr. Cohen’s near upset victory, in part, to “his open and frank communication with the public.”

“East Hampton Democrats are proud that Zach Cohen, a gifted and unifying leader running for political office for the first time, all but overcame the incumbent Bill Wilkinson,” she said. “This was a campaign about leadership, competence and a vision for East Hampton.”

Last Wednesday, Mr. Cohen said he would consider a future run for public office and would try to stay involved in public affairs in the meantime, possibly hosting a show on LTV that explores local government issues.

Mr. Cohen said he “wasn’t crazy” about the “combative” aspects of campaigning, like debating, but said he enjoyed meeting people and learning about the issues. “It’s very humanizing,” he said. “Doing the policy was interesting also. In funny ways, I’m not looking forward to the politics part, and I have to see what I want to do going forward.”

This year, Mr. Wilkinson received 2,600 votes on the Republican line, 482 votes on the Independence line and 321 votes on the Conservative line, according to the Board of Elections. Mr. Cohen received 2,999 votes on the Democratic line and 389 votes on the Working Families line.

Ms. Overby and Mr. Van Scoyoc will replace two fellow Democrats, Councilman Pete Hammerle and Councilwoman Julia Prince, both of whom did not run for reelection.

Ms. Overby and Mr. Van Scoyoc survived a six-person contest for two Town Board seats, winning 24 and 22 percent of the vote respectively to beat out Mr. Gaines, Mr. Haeg and Independence Party candidates Marilyn Behan and Bill Mott. The final results of the election show Mr. Van Scoyoc with 3,149 votes, Ms. Overby with 2,936, Mr. Haeg with 1,959, Mr. Gaines with 1,939, Mr. Mott with 1,744 and Ms. Behan with 1,442.

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And further deterioration of quality of life in East hampton, Montauk and farther afield will surely follow. Kicking the can down the road is not the way to move forward.
By Trish (91), Sag Harbor on Nov 30, 11 7:19 AM
Trish - I don't know what your personal beef is about - but this administration hasn't kicked ANYTHING down the road that I know of ... having been here for over 30 years ... perhaps you don't understand RANS and BANS, the theft of CPF funds from Peter to pay Paul and (finally!) zero based budgeting and (gasp!) governmental accountability? Please explain who kicked what where "down the road" - if you can.
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Nov 30, 11 10:05 PM