Democrat Connie Kepert returned to her Brookhaven town council office Friday after Suffolk election officials said she won the seat by four votes following more than two months of recounts and court challenges.
Kepert, 64, of Middle Island, was sworn in for her fifth term Friday afternoon, a town spokesman said. Brookhaven officials are planning a ceremonial swearing-in on Tuesday.
Kepert said in an interview that she was nervous on election night, Nov. 5, when unofficial tallies showed she trailed Republican challenger Michael A. Loguercio Jr. by 94 votes. She made up the difference with absentee ballots that broke in her favor, and court decisions that validated ballots cast for her.
"I was a social studies teacher," she said. "One of the things I would underscore was the importance of one vote."
Suffolk officials certified the election and declared Kepert the winner after counting the last remaining votes, which had been the subject of court challenges. The ballots had been released earlier this week when the state Court of Appeals refused to hear an appeal filed by Loguercio.
Republican election commissioner Wayne Rogers said the Kepert-Loguercio recount was the longest in his eight years at the Board of Elections.
"It goes to show you the process works, even though it is a long process," he said.
Kepert said she was surprised by the close vote but gratified to return to her third-floor Town Hall office, where a poster of her hero, Eleanor Roosevelt, remained on the wall. Kepert had left the office when her term expired on Dec. 31.
Kepert said she plans to focus on issues facing her district, such as the proposed Caithness power plant in Yaphank and the planned dredging of the hamlet's Lower Lake this spring. She said she looked forward to rejoining the town board, where a Republican and Conservative coalition holds a 5-2 majority.
"I get along very well with my Republican counterparts on the board," she said. "We try to support each other."
Loguercio said this week he will run again for the council seat.