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Nov 12, 2008 9:59 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Russo awaiting recount

Nov 12, 2008 9:59 AM

A machine recount and a tallying of some 3,000 absentee ballots this week will make Election Day results official in Southampton Town—but in one race there is still a chance that the outcome could change.

The Democratic wave that swept the nation last week also hit Southampton Town, resulting in upsets in local races, with Democrats Sally Pope and Andrea Schiavoni emerging victorious in the Town Board and town justice contests, respectively. As it now stands, Ms. Pope leads Republican Dan Russo by 740 votes in the race for the Town Board. The incumbent, Mr. Russo, who was appointed to the board in February to fill the seat left vacant by Town Supervisor Linda Kabot, did not concede on Election Night and remained optimistic about his chances to become Southampton’s comeback kid.

Mathematically, Mr. Russo could pull it off. Needing to overcome the 740-vote deficit, his hopes hinge on uncounted absentee ballots. For Southampton Town, 3,061 absentees ballots were sent out, and as of Wednesday afternoon, the BOE reports that 2,640 have been received back. That leaves 421 ballots uncollected by the BOE as of Wednesday afternoon.

Of the 3,061 ballots sent out, 1,078 are Republican, 1,007 are Democrat, 150 are Independence, 40 are Conservative, five are Working Families, and 781 have blank affiliation, according to BOE officials.

By law, absentee ballots can be received by midnight on November 12, as long as those ballots were postmarked no later than November 3. Military absentee ballots can be received as late as November 17. The BOE reports 46 military ballots for Southampton Town, of which 32 have been received, leaving 14 outstanding.

According to the Suffolk County Board of Elections, or BOE, the machine recount was expected to be completed on Wednesday.

The contest for town justice, however, is a different story. Ms. Schiavoni holds a commanding 2,822-vote lead over incumbent Town Justice Thomas DeMayo, a Republican. Even if Mr. DeMayo were to receive all of the 2,640 absentees yet uncounted, he would still trail Ms. Schiavoni by 182 votes. Though he has not conceded publicly, Mr. DeMayo did call to congratulate Ms. Schiavoni last week.

Based upon precedent and conventional wisdom, absentee ballots tend to reflect the vote totals on Election Day—only in rare instances do they vary significantly from the breakdown of the larger vote. In Mr. Russo’s case, a deviation from that trend could spell victory if a significant number of blank and Democrat absentee ballots go his way, especially if Ms. Pope’s current margin in the machine count shrinks.

As the results trickled in on Election Night and began to paint a Democratic sweep, the chairs of both the Southampton Republican and Democratic parties pointed to the dramatic ascension of President-Elect Barack Obama as a major factor in the town races.

Marcus Stinchi, the Republican chairman, said on Election Night that Mr. Russo and Mr. DeMayo were “caught in the crossfire that was Barack Obama.” Mike Anthony, who heads up the Southampton Democrats, said the rising Obama tide certainly helped lift his candidates to victory, but added that both worked very hard on their campaigns. “I don’t want to take anything away from our candidates,” he said last Tuesday night.

A mediation attorney and resident of Remsenburg, Ms. Pope’s run was her first bid for elective office. Ms. Schiavoni ran for a seat on the town’s bench in 2007 against Town Justice Edward Burke. Though she garnered the most votes of any Southampton Democrat, she lost that bid.

On the Republican side, Mr. DeMayo’s defeat ends a 16-year career as a town justice. Like Ms. Schiavoni, Mr. Russo was a candidate in 2007 coming up 150 votes shy of winning a seat on the Town Board.

Whether Ms. Pope holds onto her lead, or whether Mr. Russo snatches victory from the jaws of defeat, the ultimate winner will have to run again next year in order to win a four-year term.

The official election results must be certified 25 days after the election, according to the BOE, which, because that 25th day falls on a weekend, will be Monday, December 1.

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I believe that the GOP conceded the race to Ms. Pope, a wise choice on their part. They are going to lose once the absentee ballots are counted, so save time and gear up for next year. They also have the added bonus of being able to run Mr. Russo or another candidate, and blame Ms. Pope for all that has gone wrong recently with the economy. It is no secret that things will get worse before they get better, and Mr. Russo can then campaign on the "I didn't do it" platform.

May I suggest ...more
By CommonSense (71), Southampton on Nov 14, 08 2:01 PM