Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) conceded that his challenger Edward Wehrheim has officially defeated him in the primary for town supervisor, bringing about the end to his storied 40-year reign.
Councilman Wehrheim (R) held a razor-thin edge over Vecchio, 2,822 votes to 2,783 votes, when the polls closed Sept 12. After all 373 absentee ballots were counted by the Suffolk County Board of Elections, Wehrheim’s lead increased and he was declared the Republican Party candidate.
“I always anticipated it being a very close race,” the councilman said. “Supervisor Vecchio is a 40-year incumbent. I had no illusions it would be easy to win the primary.”
The Suffolk County Board of Elections began counting the absentee votes Sept. 25 with attorneys from both candidates observing the process. Wehrheim said his counsel kept him briefed throughout the day, but a winner wasn’t clear until around five minutes to 5 p.m. That’s when he learned he was still leading by 83 votes.
“The result is very gratifying as we put in two-and-a-half months of very hard work, it’s very gratifying,” the councilman said.
Vecchio admitted despite the initial polling results that “it did, it did, it did” still come as a bit of a shock. However, the supervisor said he first congratulated Wehrheim on his victory in the hallways of Smithtown Town Hall just days after the primary.
“I was resigned to the fact that I had lost on the night of the election,” he said.
Vecchio is the current longest-serving town supervisor in New York, first elected to the position in 1977. To his credit, his years in office have been known as fiscally conservative ones for Smithtown, leading the town to have a Triple AAA bond rating. It’s been predicted there will be no tax increase for residents in 2018.
Vecchio said that he’s no stranger to a close ballot count. He recalled that in his first general election he won by a slim 67-vote margin.
“All good things come to an end. For now, I’m going to continue coming to work every day like I’ve done for 40 years.”
— Pat Vecchio
He’s faced numerous primary challenges from members of his own party before. In 2013, he faced off against former town Councilman Robert Creighton and prior to that, Jane Conway in 2005. The key difference was in both of these primaries, Vecchio had decisive victories at the polls.
Vecchio said that despite facing the reality of his loss, he hasn’t given much thought to what he will do after office.
“All good things come to an end,” he said. “For now, I’m going to continue coming to work every day like I’ve done for 40 years.”
Wehrheim will face off against the Democratic candidate William Holst and independent Kristen Slevin in the general election. Wehrheim said he plans to take a few days to “catch his breath” before sitting down to plan his campaign strategy for the next five weeks.
“I appreciate the confidence of the Republican voters in Smithtown to give me the opportunity to run in the general election,” Wehrheim said. “If we are successful, I’ll be able to roll up my sleeves and get to work.”
Wehrheim will share the party line with incumbents Councilman Thomas McCarthy and Councilwoman Lynne Nowick this November. McCarthy and Nowick, while not endorsed by the Smithtown Republican Committee, kept their lead on challengers Bob Doyle and Tom Lohman despite the absentee ballots.