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Republicans, Conservatives ahead in Islip

Islip Town Supervisor Phil Nolan speaks to supporters.

Islip Town Supervisor Phil Nolan speaks to supporters. (Nov. 8, 2011) Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Phil Nolan -- the first Democratic supervisor in 38 years in the Town of Islip -- acknowledged a new Republican-Conservative town leadership will take the helm Jan. 1, but stopped short of conceding Wednesday.

"We did a great job here, and I wish them luck," a chagrined Nolan said at Town Hall. "We leave them a triple-A-rated town with the lowest taxes on Long Island; a leaner, smarter, more accountable workforce than I inherited, and I'm proud we accomplished a lot."

Tuesday's vote delivered a rout for the Republican-Conservative-Independence ticket, handing it a 5-0 board-elect, with two more seats on the town board and what appears a certain win for Nolan's challenger, Tom Croci.

Croci will be joined by two other newcomers to public office, Republican John Cochrane and Anthony Senft, a Conservative, who each convincingly beat Democratic incumbent councilman Gene Parrington and newcomer Renee Ortiz by about 5,000 votes.

Croci, a former naval intelligence officer and aide to state Sen. Lee Zeldin, led Nolan by 419 votes after all 223 districts reported. He is expected to take the lion's share of almost 1,800 absentee ballots -- more than half of which were filed by registered Republicans or Conservatives, Suffolk County Board of Elections officials said.

Political strategist Mike Dawidziak said the Conservative and Independence Party cross-endorsements for the GOP spelled trouble for the Nolan team. Conservatives brought in 12 to 14 percent of the total vote for most of the GOP's candidates, and more than 7,000 Conservative and Independence Party-registered voters backed Croci. But the old-fashioned, surgical strategy of identifying "likely favorable" voters, and methodically door-knocking an estimated 15,000 households, had the greatest impact, Dawidziak said.

"We thought we had a good plan, and it's nice when it works," Islip GOP chairman Frank Tantone said Wednesday. His candidates began walking neighborhoods as far back as June and by Election Day, the ticket had a stable of voters they believed would back them, he said. "We had a specific plan to ensure they came out, and our strike lists delivered almost 90 percent," he said.

Senft and Cochrane will join Republican council members Steve Flotteron and Trish Bergin Weichbrodt, whose seats were not contested. Republican Alexis Weik for Receiver of Taxes and Conservative Olga Hopkins Murray as Town Clerk rounded out the GOP's clean slate victory.

The board-elect will inherit a budget pared to deliver what Nolan's 3-2 Democratic board hoped would be a vote-winning, zero tax increase for recession-weary residents.

Islip has 85 board-appointed positions, though Nolan kept many registered Republicans when he took over.

Wednesday, as they visited Town Hall, the councilmen-elect seemed aware of some of the challenges ahead. "We've been voted in by the electorate, and we have to run this town with the very best quality people we can bring," Cochrane said.

Croci said he looked forward "to working hard for the residents of Islip."

Said Senft: "Now the work begins -- from January, it's on our shoulders."

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