By a razor-thin margin, Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio won the endorsement of the Smithtown Republican Committee Monday night at the group's convention.
Vecchio won by a slim 74 votes out of more than 13,000 cast in a weighted voting system.
Smithtown GOP chairman Bill Ellis congratulated both candidates, saying, "The way I feel is both are designees."
Vecchio said after the announcement, "A win is a win."
Councilman Robert Creighton thanked the committee members and assured them he would move forward in a primary.
"The people spoke, and I'm disappointed in the outcome, but I expect to turn that around in the next couple months," Creighton said. He also congratulated Vecchio.
Votes were cast by roll call, followed by a complex manual tabulation that took about an hour.
The weighted balloting is based on votes cast in the town's 92 election districts during the 2010 gubernatorial race.
Also winning endorsements were incumbent councilmen Kevin Malloy and Thomas McCarthy, incumbent highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen and incumbent Town Clerk Vincent Puleo. The committee also tapped town Board of Zoning Appeals attorney Paul Hennings to run for the county legislature seat held by Lynne C. Nowick (R-St. James), who is term-limited. A formal endorsement is expected Tuesday night at the county GOP nominating convention. The committee also endorsed Suffolk Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset), minority leader.
Ellis said the party committee would back petition drives by both Vecchio and Creighton to get on the September primary ballot as a gesture of party unity.
"We must keep this committee together and not have any openings for the Democrats to get in," he said.
Voting Monday night at the Elks Club, either in person or by proxy vote, were as many as 184 Republican committee members -- two from each of the 92 election districts.
The intraparty showdown between Vecchio -- who, at 82 and completing his 12th term, is the longest-serving town supervisor in Long Island history -- and Creighton, 75, a former Suffolk police commissioner, has divided Smithtown Republicans and led some to worry of a split.
Suffolk Republican chairman John Jay LaValle has thrown his support behind Creighton, while Ellis last week publicly proclaimed neutrality.
But in February at a fundraiser where Creighton announced his campaign, Ellis, a longtime Vecchio supporter, said Republicans "have to move forward." He said he told Vecchio, "He's operating in 2003, and, worse yet, on occasion 1993."
Supporters of both Vecchio and Creighton said before the convention that they were confident that their candidate would win.
Smithtown Democrats, who plan to hold their nominating convention May 20, have chosen attorney Steven E. Snair, 31, to run for supervisor. Town Democratic chairman Ed Maher said the party would not endorse Vecchio.
Creighton said he is seeking the endorsement of the Smithtown Conservative Committee. The former Conservative switched to the GOP last year. Town Conservative chairman Gary Forte said endorsements will be announced at a convention Wednesday. Vecchio said he would seek neither Conservative nor Democratic endorsement. He has trumpeted his fiscal conservatism, saying the town has relatively little debt.
Creighton, in his second term on the town council, has said Vecchio's policies have led to stagnation.
Creighton and Vecchio are expected to collect at least 500 signatures on nominating petitions to run in a primary.