Absentee ballots from this month’s town elections swung another of the East Hampton Town Trustee seats from Republican to Democrat, according to vote tallies from the Suffolk County Board of Elections.
Democrats won five of the nine seats on the Town Trustees on election night. Then last week, incumbent Trustee Brian Byrnes, a Democrat, gained enough votes in absentee tallying to leap above three Republicans, knocking fellow incumbent Trustee Sean McCaffrey off the list of the nine top vote getters.
Mr. Byrnes gained more than 400 votes in the absentee count, jumping from 2,420 to 2,829, the seventh highest total, followed by Republicans James Grimes, a first time candidate, with 2,811, and incumbent Trustee Diane McNally, the longest serving member of the board and its sitting clerk, with 2,795.
With a more than 2-to-1 advantage in the breakdown of voters who had returned absentee ballots, the Democrats saw all of their candidates’ totals jump substantially in the second round of vote counting. Francis Bock, a former Trustee looking to win back his seat, ended up as the top vote-getter with 3,612—after gaining nearly 500 votes in the absentee count—followed by fellow Democrats Pat Mansir, a former Town Board member making her first run for Trustee, with 3,125; incumbent Trustee Bill Taylor with 3,064; and political newcomers Tyler Armstrong and Rick Drew, who both got 2,980 votes. Republican incumbent Trustee Tim Bock was the top Republican vote-getter, with 2,916.
The win gives the Democrats a 6-3 majority on the Town Trustees, and could put in jeopardy Ms. McNally’s position as the board’s clerk, or president.
“The Trustee victory is really important because we’re hoping that it will signal a more responsible, more influential role for the Trustees in preserving our natural environment,” Town Democratic Party Chairwoman Jeanne Frankl said this week. “The Trustees have an important role to play and they need to be modern and efficient and cooperative.”
The board is currently comprised of five Republicans and four Democrats and elects the clerk with a majority of the 9-member board. The clerk draws an approximately $40,000 annual salary. An assistant clerk earns a $10,000 salary and the other seven Trustees earn about $7,700 annually.
Francis Bock preceded Ms. McNally as the board’s clerk the last time the Democrats held a majority from 2005-2007.
In the Town Board races, the counting of absentee ballots only served to broaden the margins of victory for the three Democratic incumbents. Supervisor Larry Cantwell added 511 votes to his total tally, finishing with 4,122. His Republican challenger Tom Knobel added just over 200 votes to his tally, finishing with 1,920. Incumbent councilpersons Peter Van Scoyoc and Sylvia Overby both received about 465 absentee votes, increasing their already substantial margins of victory over Lisa Larsen and Margaret Turner.