Brookhaven Republicans nearly completed a sweep of town races by ousting a former GOP councilwoman, taking one Democratic council seat and falling only hundreds of votes short of winning another.
Just 14 months after Democrats held the supervisor's seat and had a working majority on the town board, resurgent Republicans appeared in Tuesday's election to reclaim a town that had been a GOP stronghold for decades, before scandal soured voters on Republican incumbents.
"Suddenly Brookhaven is back to being a Republican leader," said Lawrence Levy, executive dean of Hofstra's National Center for Suburban Studies, adding that GOP leaders sought to ensure "that every Republican who would vote for a Republican candidate went out to the polls. They managed to craft a message that appealed to independents and some Democrats, and that is a potent combination."
Republican Supervisor Edward P. Romaine defeated Democrat Vivian Viloria-Fisher by 25 percentage points, and GOP Highway Superintendent Daniel Losquadro soundly beat Democrat Lori Baldassare. GOP challengers beat Councilwoman Kathleen Walsh, a former Republican running on the Democratic line, and held a slim lead over Democratic Councilwoman Connie Kepert.
"There weren't a lot of competitive races in Brookhaven, so they targeted me," said Kepert, who was behind Republican challenger Michael A. Loguercio Jr. by 94 votes with 538 absentee ballots to be counted. "We were outgunned by the Republicans. They put a lot of resources into the campaigns."
Republicans, who hold a 9,900-voter advantage in the county's largest town, fell short of a sweep by only 349 votes -- the margin of victory for Democrat Valerie Cartright in the First Council District. "Having one Democrat clearly poses a problem on the board," said Cartright, who defeated Republican Leslea Snyder to retain the seat held by outgoing Democrat Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld.
Democrats Brian X. Foley and Mark Lesko led the town for seven years before Republicans regained control when Romaine won a special election last November after Lesko resigned.
Romaine's image took a hit when a February blizzard snarled roads while he vacationed in Jamaica.
"I guess the voters listened to the message we were talking about," he said in an interview. "I approach the job every day the same way. I work on the issues that matter to the residents and the taxpayers."
Levy said Romaine "worked very, very hard to overcome that very rough start and obviously showed enough to voters that they were willing to forgive him. It shows us that you can come back from one bad week."