The candidates running for Southold Town justice this year made a gentleman’s agreement during the campaign that once the results of the election were in, they would make dinner plans together.
But as the results were reported from across Southold Town Tuesday night it became perfectly clear that reservation would have to be made another day.
“We’re not doing that tonight now,” Republican nominee William Goggins joked with a reporter.
With absentee ballots still to count, Mr. Goggins, a Mattituck attorney, trailed his Democratic opponent Brian Hughes by just 180 votes, according to preliminary results from the Suffolk County Board of Elections.
It was the closest of all two-way races in the town.
“There’s still about 600 absentee ballots to count, but I feel confident  is a good number to gave,” Mr. Hughes said Wednesday morning.
Mr. Goggins, 55, said that no matter what the outcome, Southold will “be in a better place.”
“I think we both worked hard and we both want what is best for the Southold Town Justice Court,” he said Tuesday night.
The winner will replace retiring judge Rudolph Bruer, who is stepping down after 20 years on the bench.
Should Mr. Hughes, an attorney with a private practice in Southold, hold on for victory after absentee ballots are counted, it would mean that, for the first time ever the town’s two sitting justices were elected to their current terms without the support of the Republican Party.
It would also mean that Mr. Goggins lost his second consecutive race, having fallen to 31-year incumbent William Price, whom the GOP abandoned in favor of Mr. Goggins, by more than 1,400 votes in 2013. Mr. Price has since changed his party registration to Democrat and said his current term, which expires in 2017, will be his last.
Both Mr. Goggins and Mr. Hughes preached the need for Justice Court reform following the conviction of a former court clerk on a grand larceny charge for stealing more than $230,000 from the town bail fund. Both also said they support moving the Justice Court out of Town Hall for space and safety reasons.
Mr. Hughes, 66, said he and Mr. Goggins have been in touch since Tuesday night and that they both believe it’s important for the people of Southold Town that they maintain a strong relationship.
Of the 637 absentee ballots that were mailed out, 263 went to Republican voters, 198 to Democrats, 128 to registered “blanks,” 29 to Independence voters, 16 to registered Conservatives and several others to minor party registrants.
In the tightest race of all, which is also too close to call, incumbent Republican Trustee David Bergen, 60, of Cutchogue leads running mate Glenn Goldsmith, 38, of Mattituck by just five votes for the second seat on the board. A fourth candidate, Matthew Kapell, 35, of Greenport finished about 300 votes behind Mr. Bergen and Mr. Goldsmith and more than 1,000 votes behind running mate Mr. Krupski, who is guaranteed the other seat.
Top caption: Democratic justice candidate Brian Hughes flashes a smile Tuesday night. He has a 180-vote lead, according to the Suffolk County Board of Elections. (Credit: Chris Lisinski)