Southampton may be losing its footing as a Republican stronghold.
Since Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, an Independence Party member, won re-election Tuesday and another Independence board member close to Democrats is positioned to win one of two seats on the council, the town's political landscape could have a new majority -- one not aligned with the GOP for the first time since the early 1990s.
The results for the two open seats on the town board are still preliminary, with 931 absentee ballots to be counted next week, according to the Suffolk County Board of Elections. Republican Stan Glinka leads with 5,857 votes and Brad Bender, an Independence Party member, comes next with 5,746 votes. Jeffrey Mansfield, a Republican, trails Bender by 143 votes. Frank Zappone, a Democrat, has 5,445 votes.
Should the numbers hold up, the five-member town board would include two Independence party members with Democratic leanings, two Republicans, and Democratic Councilwoman Bridget Fleming. The current board, which serves through January, has two Republicans, GOP-leaning Conservative Jim Malone (who did not seek re-election), Fleming and Throne-Holst.
The GOP has long dominated Southampton politics, prompting complaints from local Democrats about boards being stacked with Republican committee members and Town Hall workers being pressured to register as Republican.
"We're thrilled," said Gordon Herr, chairman of the Southampton Town Democratic Committee, Wednesday. "We have in office for the first time progressive -- competent, qualified people, who will do what's right from a financial perspective and an environmental perspective."
Democrats took out an ad before the election touting their voter registration gains that said, "You don't have to be afraid to be a Democrat in Southampton any more!"
Between 2005 and 2013, Democratic registration in Southampton increased by 1,552. Republican registration decreased by 1,388, according to Suffolk County Board of Elections.
While Republicans still hold a nearly 1,000-voter lead over Democrats in registration, Independence Party registered voters and nonaffiliated blanks make up about 12,000 voters, a third of the Southampton electorate.
Democrats held a majority for two years in the early 2000s, but Assemb. Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) said they weren't effective as a bloc. "That tenure was marked by the fact that the three of them never seemed to work together as a unit," Thiele said.
"They seemed to be at odds more with each other than the Republicans."Thiele, who as Southampton supervisor held a working majority in 1993 and 1994, said Throne-Holst would need to work to build the majority. Throne-Holst did not return a request for comment Wednesday.
"A lot of this is personal relationships," Thiele said. "It definitely presents a shift in politics of Southampton. The supervisor needs to take advantage of that."