The longest-serving mayor in New York State history emerged victorious from especially heavy turnout to fend off a challenge from a young candidate in the village of Lattingtown's first contested election in four decades.
Lattingtown was one of dozens of villages across Long Island to hold elections Tuesday. Eight others were contested -- not including a surprise coordinated write-in campaign in an otherwise uncontested election in Great Neck that posed a threat to the mayor and two trustees.
Clarence Michalis, 91, who has served as Lattingtown's mayor for 44 years, defeated Nicholas Della Fera, 23, a pharmaceutical salesman who graduated from college last year.
Voters poured into Village Hall when polls opened at noon, with as many people voting in the first half-hour polls were open as normally do in a typical nine-hour election day in the village.
Phebon Kontulis, who has lived in the village for 33 years, and his wife, Marilyn, were the first to vote.
Kontulis said he thought turnout was high because voters wanted to keep Michalis in office. He voted for Michalis, saying Della Fera was too inexperienced. "You have a 23-year-old running," he said. "It doesn't make any sense at all. He doesn't have the experience for the office."
"This is phenomenal," Della Fera said of the early turnout that saw lines leading to the two voting machines. "I told people it's an election and you haven't had one in a while. I just wanted residents to have to make a decision."
The mayor, three trustees, one of whom was running for village justice, won election, foiling a surprise write-in campaign in Great Neck that brought lines of people out the door at the polling place at Great Neck House. There, physician Pedram Bral made an effort to unseat Mayor Ralph Kreitzman, who was running unopposed on the ballot.
Kreitzman said, "Obviously, I'm honored by the support of our community," but said that he was "really very disappointed our opposition ran a secret, write-in candidate which deprived the community of an opportunity to focus on their issues."
"You always worry about a write-in, but I didn't expect the magnitude of this," he said, after the votes were all counted 1:30 Wednesday morning.
He criticized the opposition for their tactics. "These people never communicated with the public, or us," he said.
Bral, who garnered 232 votes, compared to Kreitzman's 325, said he was encouraged by the result. "I feel very good, we had an amazing turnout, we did 3.5 days of campaigning."
Joining Bral were Christine Campbell and Anne Mendelson as write-ins for the trustee positions held by Mitchell B. Beckerman and Jeffrey L. Bass, and Kambiz Akhavan as a write-in for village justice. Trustee Mark D. Birnbaum had been running unopposed for that position.
Bral said the write-in effort came together about 2 1/2 weeks ago. He said he wanted to make the village friendlier to its residents, citing fines given out for generators and cutting trees.
“This was to show that people are fed up,” Bral said.
Kreitzman, who stood in the hall at Great Neck House, would only say, “It’s interesting.”
But North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman, who lives in the village, openly clashed with Bral in the parking lot of Great Neck House before polls closed.
“That’s a disgrace,” Kaiman said to Bral. “You share with the community that you want to run. . . . That’s a real shame for our community.”
Meanwhile, voting was slow going, as voters who had been in line before polls closed at 9 p.m. were still waiting to vote an hour later, while those who arrived after 9 p.m. were turned away by police officers.
“This is not expected,” said clerk-treasurer Joe Gill. “We had an uncontested election, so we thought.”
Officials were counting hundreds of machine and write-in ballots until after 1 a.m.
In Brightwaters, where tensions have flared in recent months over an alleged illegal ambulance-company contract and lack of transparency, John E. Lawlor and structural iron worker Joe McDermott won two seats, beating out incumbent Robert W. Fischer.
Incumbent Mayor Brian Gilbride narrowly won re-election, beating out former mayor Pierce W. Hance, former village clerk Sandra L. Schroeder and political newcomer Michael Bruce Tait, who runs a yacht-brokerage firm.
Former mayor and trustee Edward T. Deyermond and restaurateur Ken O'Donnell won trustee seats, beating incumbent trustee Edward Gregory and former trustee Bruce A. Stafford.
In the tiny village of North Haven, where deer control and shoreline erosion are concerns, incumbent trustee Jeffrey Sander and Arthur "Jim" Laspesa, an architect, won the two available trustee seats, garnering more votes than political newcomer and attorney Mary Whelan.
Former trustee Raymond Fell defeated Janine Roe, an administrator, and trustee James Vaughan in the race to replace retiring mayor Will Veitch. Retired veterinarian Michael Ferrigno and retired lawyer Robert Rosenberg won trustee seats over ferry executive Fred Hall and incumbent Kenneth Budny.
In Rockville Centre, where parking and taxes dominated the campaign, unofficial results show that lawyer Emilio F. Grillo received 1,102 votes, incumbent Edward Oppenheimer received 1,054 votes, incumbent Kevin R. Glynn received 1,047 votes and retired lawyer Marc Wieman got 355 votes for two trustee seats.
Since the results for the top three were so close, Nassau County will impound the machines and conduct a recount.
In Manorhaven, incumbent trustee Dorit Zeevi-Farrington emerged victorious in her bid to keep her seat, beating a challenge from former trustee James M. Avena.
Post-Sandy recovery has been chief among the election concerns in Lawrence, where three candidates ran for two trustee positions. Incumbent Michael A. Fragin and business owner Alex H. Edelman won, receiving more votes than lawyer David J. Seidemann.
In Woodsburgh, Lee A. Israel defeated fellow trustee Ed Mukamal for the mayoral spot that will be vacated because current Mayor Susan Schlaff is moving away from the village.
Incumbent Gary Goffner and accountant Jake Harman won two trustee seats. Incumbent Carl Cayne was not re-elected.