A last-minute write-in effort in an uncontested election in Great Neck that surprised local politicians and came close to toppling the village's ruling party left each side claiming a victory of sorts Wednesday.
While all the incumbents retained their seats, challenger Pedram Bral said the fact that his slate mounted a significant challenge to them in a matter of days delivered a "clear message" to village government.
"They have to listen to the people who live in the village," Bral, a physician, said. "If everybody's happy, nobody's going to run against them."
Bral said he first decided to run a write-in campaign three weeks ago after talking with local civic activist Rebecca Rosenblatt Gilliar. But he didn't begin actively campaigning, he said, until the Friday before the election, when the rest of the slate was complete -- Christine Campbell and Anne Mendelson for trustees, and Kambiz Akhavan for village justice.
The effort resulted in hundreds of voters going to the polls Tuesday, four times more than what the village clerk had expected for an uncontested election. Technical difficulties and long lines pushed voting an hour and a half past the 9 p.m. close, although no one new was allowed in line after 9.
Mayor Ralph Kreitzman and trustees Mitchell B. Beckerman and Jeffrey L. Bass held onto their seats, while trustee Mark D. Birnbaum won his bid for village justice. Each emerged with roughly 100 more votes than their write-in opponents.
Kreitzman said the effort came as a surprise to him on Election Day, causing his side to ramp up its efforts, including recruiting former Rep. Gary Ackerman to record a phone message to be sent to voters.
He said he didn't know what prompted the write-in effort he called a "stealth campaign."
Bral said his slate had a platform of a friendlier, more responsive government, saying the village harasses its residents through fining them for everything from not cutting their lawns to removing dangerous trees after storms.
Beckerman said he doubted the motivations of most of the voters casting write-in ballots.
"From what I saw, most of the people that voted for them did not have a clue of who these people were, but they were just brought in to vote," Beckerman said.
Bral disagreed, saying that position indicated a lack of respect for the community.
"If they're willing to vote for someone and they don't know who he is . . . that speaks volumes about the mayor, Ralph Kreitzman. That is a protest against the government."
With Scott Eidler