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Dems, GOP split wins in town board elections

The two major political parties split the spoils last night, with Republicans picking up a town board seat in Brookhaven and Democrats winning a board seat in Southampton, according to election results.

In Brookhaven, Republican Daniel Panico, 31, of Manorville, handily beat Democrat Douglas Dittko, 58, for the 6th District seat left vacant by the death of Keith Romaine, narrowing Democratic control of the board.

County Legis. Ed Romaine, father of Keith, said he feels "the baton has been passed" to the right candidate.

Panico's win means Republican and Conservative members have a 4-3 edge on the town board. However, Republican Kathy Walsh has been voting with the Democrats for a few months, effectively giving Democratic Supervisor Mark Lesko and his supporters a 4-3 edge.

Democrat Dittko said he thought voter angst had played a role in his loss. "National politics have a lot of influence on local results," he said.

In Southampton, Democrat Bridget Fleming, 49, had third-party help in easily beating Republican William Hughes, 59, for the seat that became open when Anna Throne-Holst was elected town supervisor.

Her victory gives Throne-Holst, who sits on the board and ran as a Democrat, a political ally on a five-member board that has two Republicans and one conservative.

Hughes got about 100 more votes on the Republican line that Fleming got on the Democratic line, but she won by about 11 percentage points and her margin of victory was provided by the 636 votes she got on the Independence Party line. Hughes had only the Republican line.

Panico, a senior deputy Suffolk County clerk, has said he will push for a townwide vote on a Brookhaven property tax cap and propose a local anti-nepotism law.

Panico graduated from Stony Brook University and earned a law degree from Touro Law Center. He graduated from William Floyd High School in 1996.

In Southampton, Fleming and her opponent had a lot of common background. Both are Irish Catholics from large families, with backgrounds in law enforcement. And, neither had held elected office before.

Fleming, of Noyack, is an attorney who worked for former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, and later ran his welfare fraud unit. She is in private practice, and also serves on the Noyack Citizen Advisory Committee.

She said she won by identifying voters who vote regularly and getting them to turn out. About 16 percent of registered voters cast ballots Tuesday in her race.

"There was a lot of shaking hands, a lot of shoe leather," said when her victory became apparent about 9:30 p.m. She said she intended to get to work "to deal with the economy and jobs."

At some meetings, Throne-Holst could not even get someone to second a resolution she wanted to introduce.

But, the other members of the town board did not always agree, and Throne-Holst has been able to put together a three- or even four-vote majority on occasion.

With William Murphy

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