East End voters oust incumbents, give Democrats a supermajority
East End voters ousted two incumbent town supervisors and gave Democrats a supermajority on two other town boards in Tuesday’s election.
Riverhead’s incumbent town supervisor, Republican Sean Walter, was defeated by Democratic challenger Laura Jens-Smith after eight years in office. With Democrat Catherine A. Kent also picking up a council seat, the Riverhead Town Board will include Democrats for the first time since 2010.
Incumbent Republican Councilwoman Jodi Giglio retained her town council seat.
Jens-Smith, 54, of Laurel, is president of the Mattituck-Cutchogue Board of Education and previously lost a bid for town council in 2015.
“I felt happy that the numbers were in my favor,” Jens-Smith said Wednesday. “I’d like to set a strategy for the next two years to see what we can accomplish.”
Kent, 61, a retired teacher, said voters she spoke to felt Walter’s administration is “out of touch with what the people really wanted, and I think people were ready for change.”
Walter did not return a request for comment.
In Shelter Island, Democratic incumbent Jim Dougherty lost the seat he has held for 10 years to Republican challenger Gary Gerth. About half of the town’s population of approximately 2,200 turned out to vote in a race decided by 101 votes, according to unofficial election results.
“Democracy is alive and well on Shelter Island,” Dougherty said, noting high voter turnout. “That’s terrific and it’s very healthy.”
Gerth, 75, an ordained pastor, credited his win to the current administration not addressing issues with infrastructure and a lack of year-round rental housing.
“It’s a call to maintain or get back to the character of our community, which is one of caring for our brothers and sisters,” Gerth said.
The East Hampton Town Board is set to be controlled entirely by Democrats with the election of Peter Van Scoyoc as supervisor, and Kathee Burke-Gonzalez and Jeffrey Bragman as town council members. Van Scoyoc will be able to appoint a new council member to serve the rest of his council term until 2019. Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, who was not up for re-election, is also a Democrat. Incumbent Fred Overton, of the Independence Party, did not seek re-election.
Jeanne Frankl, chairwoman of the East Hampton Democratic Committee, said the Democratic board will “represent a broad current of experience and opinions in our community” and is “focused on the priorities of good Republicans and good Democrats, which is good government.”
Democrats also swept the Southampton Town races, with voters re-electing Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, who recently switched from the Independence Party to the Democratic Party, over Republican challenger Ray Overton.
Incumbent Councilman Stan Glinka, a Republican, lost re-election to Democrat Tommy John Schiavoni, while Democrat Julie R. Lofstad held onto her council seat.
Schneiderman said the supermajority, which might be the Democrats’ first in the town, is “not going to change any of the policies I’ve been promoting.”
Southold was the only East End town to maintain the status quo, with incumbent Republicans James Dinizio Jr. and Robert Ghosio winning re-election to the town council.