With absentee ballots yet to be counted, Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Kathy Walsh conceded last night in her bid for Brookhaven highway superintendent.
She congratulated her opponent, Assemb. Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham), on his victory and then said she looked forward to working with him as a board member.
"We ran a good race. We ran a clean race," Walsh told her supporters and volunteers less than two hours after polls closed at 9 p.m. "We may not have won this race, but we showed that the principles we ran on matters."
With 294 of 295 districts reporting shortly after 10:30 p.m., Losquadro held a slim lead -- about 51 percent to 48 percent -- but Suffolk County board of elections officials said more than 2,400 absentee ballots still had to be counted.
The closely watched race was made more contentious by the department's handling of last month's blizzard.
Early results on the elections website showed there were more than 23,000 votes cast, but as of Friday, there were 292,229 registered voters in town.
Losquadro had not appeared at his campaign headquarters in Medford at press time. But Jesse Garcia, town Republican chairman, said, "I'm extremely optimistic about his chances of winning."
The highway department, which has not had an official leader since former Superintendent John Rouse resigned Dec. 31 to become a county judge, was helmed by acting Superintendent Michael Murphy during the Feb. 8-9 blizzard that dumped more than 30 inches of snow on parts of town.
Murphy faced criticism for taking a medical leave during the blizzard, during which residents in some neighborhoods waited more than four days for streets to be plowed.
Murphy resigned under pressure from town officials, who then appointed John Capella acting superintendent. Murphy returned to his previous job as general foreman.
Given the storm failures, turnout had been expected to be brisk.
The race to finish Rouse's term, set to expire in November, took on a new urgency after the blizzard. Residents complained about roads unplowed for days, lack of leadership in the department, and poor communication from the town.
Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine, who was criticized for being on vacation during the storm, said before polls closed Tuesday that he is "looking forward to sitting down with them [the winner] and talking about their recommendations that they are putting forward, and then putting forward my recommendations about how we can make the department a better department for the town."