Shelter Island Town Councilman Glenn Waddington virtually claimed victory in a thank you speech to his supporters at about 9:45 Tuesday night at the Chequit Inn with unofficial results showing him ahead by 61 votes in the three-way race for supervisor.
Mr. Waddington garnered 549 machine votes to incumbent Jim Dougherty’s 488 and Bob DeStefano’s 221, with all four Island election district reporting. Mr. Waddington trailed Mr. Dougherty only in Election District 1, which includes Ram Island and Hay Beach.
The vote for supervisor appears to reflect the highest turnout in any town election, about 67 percent of registered voters.
The results are unofficial and do not include 308 absentee ballots that had yet to be counted. They weren’t expected to be tabulated for perhaps a week or more.
Supervisor Dougherty commented in an email on Wednesday, “We had winners election night but the biggest winner once again was Shelter Island, which had a record turnout of registered voters, approaching 70 percent, perhaps the highest voter turnout of any town in New York State. And the absentee ballots are yet to be counted – a record 234 absentee ballots had been received as of yesterday, with more coming in.
“These absentee voters go to a substantial effort to participate in our elections and I feel strongly are entitled to be heard from before we confirm final results in close races.”
Wayne Bourne, a former town Republican committee chairman who worked in support on Mr. Waddington, said at the Chequit that the supervisor would probably have to win about 200 of those absentee votes to turn the race his way.
Two-term Councilman Peter Reich, a Republican running with Conservative support, was the leader in the five-way race for two seats on the Town Board with 575 machine votes. Independent Paul Shepherd, a regular observer at Town Hall meetings, followed with 518 votes.
Jay Card Jr., a former town police officer, appeared the likely winner of the race for highway superintendent, taking 692 machine votes to 561 for Harry “Hap” Bowditch Jr.
A proposition to reduce the terms of Town Board councilpersons from four to two years was defeated by a margin of about 3 to 2.
All reelected with more than 1,000 votes each were tax receiver Nancy Kotula and assessor Al Hammond and part-time assessor BJ Ianfola, who ran without opposition and were cross-endorsed by multiple parties.
“I love the fact that we did it without signs,” Mr. Waddington told his cheering supporters, referring to his refusal to use political lawn signs during his campaign as did Republican Councilman Peter Reich, who appeared to have won re-election. “I loved the fact that we were able to do it as independents candidates. We had the Conservative line; they gave us a spot on the ballot, for which I will always be thankful to them.
“But we went out and we created our own party, the Island Unity Party, and we picked that name for a reason. It wasn’t something that just popped into my head. We wanted to bring everybody together. Whether it be second-home owners, working families, senior retireds, we’re all in this together. This is the whole point of being on an Island. I love the fact that we’re an island.”
“All right Wayne. Tell them what these numbers needs mean … other than the fact that I won!” Mr. Waddington said to applause and laughter.
“Sixty-one votes is a substantial number, ” Mr. Bourne said of Mr. Waddington’s margin, adding he’d never seen absentee ballots change the direction of a race with a margin that large except the one lost by Supervisor Art Williams in a three-way race in 2005; Alfred Kilb won that election by 15 votes.
Mr. Bourne warned, however, that most of the absentee votes were cast and mailed “before Dougherty blew himself up, so that may help him a little but. I don’t think enough. Glenn, I think this is your winner right here.”
After Mr. Reich and Mr. Shepherd, the council race had fireman and plumber Will Anderson, running on the Republican line, in third place with 453 machine vote; Democrats Dan Fokine had 417 votes and Ian Weslek followed with 366.
Mr. Reich, who had watched the vote come in at Republican Election Night headquarters at Sweet Tomato’s, paid a visit to the Chequit to congratulate Mr. Waddington, joking that the two “bobbleheads” — which a testy Supervisor Dougherty had branded them at a Town Board budget meeting last month — were the winners.
Mr. Reich noted that both he and Mr. Waddington were the only candidates who had refused to use lawn signs during their campaign.
The mood was somber at the American Legion, where the Democrats convened to await the election numbers. Jay Card was the party’s only winner in a contested race. Supervisor Dougherty declined several requests for comment.One of his close supporters, Richard Smith, told a reporter for this newspaper at the Legion that its coverage had been “unfair” and its editor was “biased.”