COVER STORY: Not much changed in Southold this election

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell with his family on election night.

Southold’s voters have spoken, and they’ve chosen the status quo.

Every Republican on the ballot won by a wide margin Tuesday, led by Supervisor Scott Russell, who didn’t quite equal his 2007 record of taking 83 percent of the vote, but still cruised to victory by a 3 to 1 margin over Democrat Bob Meguin.

The only change in town government coming in 2012 will be current Trustee president Jill Doherty stepping in to Councilman Vincent Orlando’s Town Board seat. Mr. Orlando chose not to seek a second term.

The GOP maintained its 5-1 Town Board super-majority, leaving Councilman Al Krupski and Highway Superintendent Pete Harris as Southold’s only elected Democrats. Both are up for re-election in 2013.

GOP Trustee Jim King, who won another four-year term, as did running mate Bob Ghosio, was pointed in his critique of the Democratic campaign.

“I just look at those numbers up there and that tells everything,” he said. “If I was the competition, I’d be embarrassed.”
Town Democratic leader Art Tillman doesn’t disagree.

“They cleaned our clocks,” he said to party members gathered to follow the results at Rothman’s Gallery in Southold.

Acknowledging that his first campaign as town leader ended in a GOP sweep, Mr. Tillman offered his resignation, but the party declined.

Meeting at the Soundview Inn in Greenport, Republicans were subdued in savoring their sweep.

“We focused on what was important,” said Mr. Russell. “Never underestimate the intellect of the voting public out here.”

The supervisor took 76 percent of the vote, beating Mr. Meguin 4,647 to 2,462, according to the Suffolk Board of Election’s unofficial tally.

Councilman Bill Ruland won his second term with 3,832 votes, followed in the second of two seats up for grabs by Ms. Doherty with 3,678. Democrats Marie Domenici and Nicholas Deegan finished with 2,248 and 1,987 votes, respectively.

“It’s an honor to be part of the Ruland team,” the supervisor said.

Ms. Doherty, the newest member of that “team,” said, “I really worked hard. I was hoping I’d win but I didn’t think I’d win by this much.”

It was a frustrating defeat for Ms. Domenici. “I don’t know what else I could have done,” she said.

Before taking the oath of office in January, Ms. Doherty must resign from her Trustees post. The Town Board is expected to discuss options for filling her seat during its next work session in two weeks.

The last time that need arose came in 2005, after then-Trustee Al Krupski won a Town Board seat. At that time the Town Board appointed former Democratic Trustee John Holzapfel, who agreed he would not run in the next election, as an interim Trustee.

In the Trustees race, Mr. King took 3,892 votes and Mr. Ghosio 3,759. On the Democratic side, Steve Brautigam received 2,037 votes and Lynn Summers 1,999.

Veteran Town Justice Rudolph Bruer beat back a spirited challenge from Southold attorney Brian Hughes, 3,729 to 2,314, a split of 62 percent to 38 percent.

In the tax receiver’s race, which the Democrats framed as a referendum on abolishing that position, George Sullivan easily bested former councilman Bill Edwards with 64 percent of the vote. By the numbers, he won 3,786 to 2,146.

Running unopposed, Assessor Darline Duffy received 4,780 votes.

The Democrats had secured an independent ballot line, the Save Medicare line, which the party said offered voters a chance to make a statement against Republican efforts in Washington to cut that and similar programs. But that failed to catch fire, with the 222 votes Ms. Summers received on that line the most of any of the candidates.

The party is wasting little time in planning on a comeback.

“We need bodies,” party organizer Gwynn Schroeder said. She suggested immediately reaching out to people throughout the town by holding events to shed light on ongoing issues and Democratic principles.

Bob Meguin said he began efforts in Greenport Tuesday by reaching out to the clergy to discuss housing problems.

“Naturally, I’m quite disappointed at our inability to make some progress on a lot of issues,” Mr. Meguin said. “It’s very difficult to pierce the Republican Party. The electorate is clearly satisfied with what’s going on, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to go away.”

The outspoken Mr. Meguin apologized for what he called his “Jackie Gleason mouth” and said he felt he let the party down.

“I’m vocal; I’m passionate,” he said. “I kind of knew I’d be a lightning rod.”

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Democrats. As early vote tallies were rolling in, Dan Durett, a member of the party’s executive committee, took to the stage to cheer, “Hip, Hip, Hooray. I don’t care what the numbers say. Put it on the record — it’s a brand new day.”

This story was reported by Julie Lane and Beth Young and written by Tim Kelly.