No matter who wins the Town of Oyster Bay supervisor race, the message sent by voters must be taken to heart: The status quo can't go on. The town has to be run competently and transparently.
Democratic challenger John Mangelli was ahead of nine-term incumbent Republican John Venditto by 68 votes out of almost 44,000 cast Tuesday, but the race is too close to call. At least 1,700 absentee ballots will be opened next week and closely scrutinized by party lawyers.
But the fact that the race was so close shows how fed up many staunch GOP voters are with leadership that even two years ago apparently was acceptable.CartoonDavies' latest cartoon: Nassau's got mailCommentSubmit your letterReader essaysGet published in Newsday
Venditto beat Democratic challenger John Capobianco by 41 percentage points in 2013. In 2011, he beat Capobianco by 45 points. And Capobianco is a better known political figure in the town than Mangelli.
A lot of Oyster Bay voters came out to specifically cast ballots against Venditto. They voted against a town awash in scandal. Planning and development Commissioner Frederick Ippolito is under federal indictment for allegedly failing to report $2 million in income he received from a town contractor. Town concessionaire Harendra Singh faces federal charges that include bribing an Oyster Bay official. And the town, against the advice of its own outside counsel, guaranteed Singh's borrowing and gave him multi-decade lease extensions despite his shaky finances.
Scandal isn't the only problem, though. The town's reserves have dwindled, its debt has quadrupled to $800 million since 1998 and its debt ratings have repeatedly been downgraded. In addition, police were recently called to escort a reporter seeking public records out of town hall.
If Mangelli, an attorney and political novice, is handed the town reins, he'll need to surround himself with top-notch municipal professionals who can help him lead an honest and well-run town.
And if Venditto wins, this vote tally says he'll need to do the same.