Oyster Bay Democrats are preparing for a protracted legal battle over the absentee ballots that could decide who will be town supervisor next year.

Unofficial results of Tuesday's election showed Democratic challenger John Mangelli beating Republican incumbent John Venditto by 68 votes -- less than 1 percent of the 43,767 votes cast on Election Day.

"I'm putting together a team to fight them tooth and nail on every ground that they can claim," said Mangelli, a Bayville lawyer who has never held elected office. "We are going to meet them head on, and we are going to overcome this challenge that they are wasting more taxpayer dollars on."

As of Nov. 2, the Nassau County Board of Elections had received 1,590 absentee ballots, and more could be in the mail, said a board official, who said the ballots are expected to be opened next week.

Nassau County Democratic leader Jay Jacobs said there could be as many as 1,700 absentee ballots, and while thus far they had an almost 200-vote edge toward registered Republicans and Conservative party members, enough may have crossed party lines to secure a Mangelli win.

"We have a very good chance of picking up votes in the absentees instead of losing votes," he said.

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Mangelli said the election was about financial mismanagement, sweetheart deals for insiders and nepotism. Residents "want this administration to be out, they want somebody new, they're tired of everything that has been going on," he said.

Oyster Bay Town spokesman Brian Devine issued a statement on behalf of Venditto, who did not respond to interview requests.

Venditto said he is "pleased with the public's continued support of our elected officials" but that the "process must be allowed to unfold."

Nassau County Republican Committee spokesman Anthony Santino said he would not speculate on the outcome. "We have to see when we open up all the ballots," he said.

A Mangelli win would be an upset for the popular, nine-term incumbent whose administration has been enveloped in scandal.

In March, town Planning and Development Commissioner Frederick Ippolito was indicted on federal tax evasion charges after he allegedly received $2 million in unreported income from a town contractor.

In September, town concessionaire Harendra Singh was indicted on federal charges that included bribing an Oyster Bay official.

Both have pleaded not guilty.

Absentee ballots must be postmarked the day before the election and received by the board of elections by the seventh day following the election, according to the board of elections website.Santino said "there is no strategy" but Jacobs predicted a long fight over the election results.

"Normally what ends up happening in these things is the Republicans will challenge each and every Democratic ballot to try to find a reason to get it excluded, and you go on forever," Jacobs said. "When they challenge one of ours, we're going to challenge one of theirs, and this thing could go to Christmas."