Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio conceded defeat Monday to his Republican primary rival, marking the beginning of the end of a long and storied political career.
Vecchio, 86, the town’s supervisor for a Long Island record 40 years, was defeated by Councilman Edward Wehrheim, who claimed victory after absentee ballots were counted Monday by the Suffolk County Board of Elections.
“It’s over. It’s over,” Vecchio said in a telephone interview Monday night. “After 40 years, I’m a little numb. It’s OK.”
Wehrheim had held a 39-vote lead in Smithtown’s Republican primary when polls closed Sept. 12. Hundreds of absentee ballots were counted Monday to decide the primary’s outcome.
Wehrheim, a former town parks employee, said he was told at 5 p.m. Monday that he had won by about 83 votes.
“I feel very gratified. It was a hard-fought primary,” he said.
Vecchio said he was called at about 6 p.m. Monday by Councilman Thomas McCarthy, who informed him of his defeat.
Vecchio, of Fort Salonga, a former New York City police officer, was a political novice — and a Democrat — when he was first elected supervisor in 1977. He later changed parties to run an unsuccessful campaign for county executive.
His fiscal conservatism and low-key style appealed to Smithtown voters, who re-elected him through four decades, believed to be a New York State record for a town supervisor.
Still, Vecchio clashed repeatedly in recent years with Suffolk County Republican chairman John Jay LaValle and other GOP leaders.
Vecchio successfully fended off a challenge from another Republican town councilman, Robert Creighton, in 2013.
But Wehrheim, 69, a Kings Park native and lifelong town resident, was able to tap into support from fellow Republicans frustrated that the town had changed little while downtowns languished under Vecchio’s leadership.
Vecchio said Monday that he had no other way to run in the November general election after losing to Wehrheim. Wehrheim faces Democrat William Holst of Nesconset and independent Kristen Slevin in the Nov. 7 election.
Vecchio said he regretted that he would not serve another term.
“It’s the end of the line,” he said Monday. “I have so much more to do. I have so much knowledge, it’s a shame to let it go to waste. All things come to an end. All things have an end.”
Vecchio said he was “resigned” to his defeat, adding that he had not thought about what he would do when he leaves office Dec. 31.
“I haven’t given that any thought,” he said. “I never thought it would come to this end.”