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Nick LaLota

Nick LaLota, above, who won the Republican nomination on Tuesday for New York’s 1st Congressional District, will face Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac) in the general election this November. Photo from LaLota’s campaign website

After a contentious primary contest for New York’s 1st Congressional District, Nick LaLota won the Republican nomination on Tuesday, Aug. 23. 

LaLota, chief of staff to presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature, Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), has also served as a commissioner on the Suffolk County Board of Elections and a trustee of Amityville Village. He will face Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac) in November in a race to fill the seat of U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY-01), who is running for governor.

With over 95% of precincts reporting as of 9 a.m. Aug. 24, LaLota received just over 47% of the total vote count. Responding to the election result, LaLota put out a statement on social media. 

“Thank you, the voters of Suffolk County, for placing your trust in me,” he said. “Tonight, we celebrate a primary win against $3 million in outside special interests. Tomorrow, we fight for our community and country against a liberal rubber stamp for [the] Biden-Pelosi agenda.” He added, “Together, we’ll stand up for hardworking Long Island families, hit so hard by their tax-and-spend agenda, and always put #LongIslandFirst.”

Michelle Bond and Anthony Figliola received 28% and 25% of the vote, respectively. Left photo from Bond’s campaign website, right courtesy of the candidate

Although he received the endorsements of the Suffolk GOP and the Suffolk County Conservative Party, LaLota faced two primary challengers before receiving his party’s nomination. 

Michelle Bond, chief executive officer of a cryptocurrency trade organization, and Anthony Figliola, a former Brookhaven Town deputy supervisor, received roughly 28% and 25% of the vote, respectively. Neither candidate could not be reached for comment for this story. 

Following the primary election result, the Fleming campaign also put out a statement. The Democratic nominee condemned LaLota for running on what she considers an extremist platform, arguing that his views are detrimental to the political process.

“Nick LaLota wants to govern from the extremes,” she said in a press release. “He has proven time and time again that he doesn’t know what’s right for our district. From trying to defund the police, to weakening gun safety laws, to disenfranchising Suffolk County voters and supporting efforts to strip women of their fundamental freedoms, LaLota is only committed to exploiting division and advancing his own dangerous agenda.”

Voters will have the final say on Tuesday, Nov. 8, when LaLota and Fleming face off in a general election showdown.

Anthony Figliola (left) and Nick LaLota (right) tackled a range of issues during Monday’s Zoom debate. LaLota’s photo from candidate’s websites; Figliola’s from candidate

Two candidates took to the virtual debate stage on Monday, Aug. 8, as the Republican primary contest for New York’s 1st Congressional District ramps up to succeed Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1), who is a state gubernatorial candidate.

Hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons, Shelter Island, and the North Fork, declared Republican congressional candidates Anthony Figliola, of East Setauket, and Nick LaLota, of Amityville, squared off for the second time. The debate moderator was Estelle Gellman, who asked questions that were submitted in advance by the public. The third candidate in the race, Michelle Bond, declined the invitation to participate, according to Gellman.

The winner of the Republican primary race will likely face Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac), the presumptive Democratic nominee, in the general election this November.

Introductions

Figliola was born and raised in Rocky Point and currently resides in East Setauket. After serving as deputy supervisor of the Town of Brookhaven, he is executive vice president of a government relations and economic development business, according to his website. He said he entered the race due to a sense of frustration with Washington, which he believes has neglected ordinary citizens.

“People are hurting tremendously,” he said. “What’s happening is that Washington is not listening to them. I’m a regular working-class individual. Our family, we’re in the struggle with you. We understand what’s going on and I think we need someone who’s a regular, working-class person that’s going to fight for the people of this district.”

LaLota is the designated candidate for both the Republican and Conservative parties of Suffolk County. After graduating from the United States Naval Academy, he was deployed three times overseas and is a former Suffolk County Board of Elections commissioner. He said he is running to address the numerous complex issues facing the nation.

“There are important issues that we need to tackle as a nation,” he said. “Issues with respect to the economy, inflation, public safety, the border, protecting our constitutional freedoms — I’m eager to tackle those issues in Congress. There are good Republican and Conservative solutions to each one of those issues.”

Gun violence

After a proliferation of recent mass shootings around the country, the candidates were asked whether they would support additional restrictions on access to firearms, such as a ban on assault weapons or high capacity magazines. 

As a gun owner, Figliola expressed his support for the Second Amendment and added that the majority of gun owners act safely.

“We have some very insane people that are committing these horrendous and heinous crimes,” he said. “I don’t believe we should be throwing the baby out with the bath water.”

Figliola said the issue of mass shootings is a matter of enforcement rather than additional restrictions. To curb mass violence, he believes that the laws on the books should be enforced and that illegal guns should be targeted and removed.

“The issue here is that we are not enforcing the laws,” he said. “When you go to places like Buffalo and that horrendous mass shooting — a shooting of 10 people — there were all these laws that the Democrats and Kathy Hochul, our governor, put in place and they said that that was supposed to stop mass shootings and it didn’t.” He also advocated for adding armed security in schools and for “a solution with mental health, but not going after law-abiding gun owners.”

LaLota said that the majority of gun crimes are committed with unregistered firearms. Like Figliola, he favored tougher enforcement of existing laws. Given his background, he suggests that he has a unique understanding and appreciation for responsible gun ownership.

“I’m a legal gun owner,” he said. “I grew up in a law enforcement family with a deep respect for the Second Amendment and for safely operating a firearm. I furthered that understanding as an officer in the military, where I learned to safely handle firearms.”

For LaLota, the problem of gun safety is closely tied to the issue of criminal justice reform. “In New York, we’re living in tough times with this bail reform law,” he said. “We have some folks out on the streets who should not be out on the streets.” He added, “It’s not a fact of not having enough laws. It’s a fact of not enforcing the laws that are on the books right now.”

Abortion

The recent Dobbs decision out of the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, has placed a cloud of uncertainty over the future of abortion access nationwide. When asked whether they would support legislation that would legalize abortion nationally, they each declined, opting instead to limit the existing abortion laws in the state.

“The recent Supreme Court decision, which gave the power back to the states and thereby the people, is good,” LaLota said. “This gives the maximum amount of power to we, the people, to hold the politicians accountable and have a policy that comports [with] their values.”

He referred to the existing abortion policies in New York as “radical,” suggesting that the state should modify its abortion laws to eliminate late-term abortions.

“We should celebrate life,” LaLota said, adding, “And the way that we celebrate life is by protecting it. I think that in New York, abortion should be on the ballot this November. We should ask every state assemblymember, every state senator and every candidate for governor: Would you support the repeal of the third trimester abortion provision?”

Figliola also supported the Dobbs decision. He argued that the decision-making power to regulate abortions should be in the hands of the people and their elected representatives rather than the Supreme Court.

“I believe that this current court got it right in giving it back to the states because the court should not be in a position to be legislating,” he said. “As a strict constitutionalist, it is the people who elect their representatives, petition their members of Congress and their state legislatures, and they choose what they want to vote on.”

Figliola favored drastic changes to existing abortion laws. “The reality is there shouldn’t be abortions at all,” he said. “On Long Island, between the ages of 18 and 24, we have a third of pregnancies that end in abortion. This is horrendous.” He added, “History is going to look back on us and they’re going to look very unkindly on us that we’re not choosing life — and not just the life of that child but the life of that mother and the hope and the amazing life that the two of them could live.”

Public health

The threat of COVID-19 remains a priority even two years after the height of the pandemic. Both candidates were asked whether they would favor mask mandates, quarantines or mandatory proof of vaccination for public events. In addition, they were asked to provide the steps that the federal government should take to promote the health of American citizens.

LaLota emphasized the importance of providing accurate information to the public while also empowering citizens to make their own health decisions.

“The federal government should allow people to have access to real, reliable information and people should be able to make decisions on their own,” he said. “I would be tremendously against any sort of federal law or federal mandate involving these sorts of health issues.”

Figliola condemned what he called “unconstitutional mandates,” which, according to him, have put people out of work. Regarding potential solutions, he suggests that the federal government begins to put together an endgame strategy for the postpandemic United States.

“I think that the pandemic, by and large, is over,” he said. “We’re now in the ‘endemic’ stages of things, and I think politicians want to find a way to control the people. They’re using the pandemic or whatever the next variant is to try to make people subservient.” He continued, “It’s people’s own individual rights to decide what they want to do with their body, with their children, with their health care — and we’re moving away from that.”

To watch the entire nearly one-hour debate, visit the SeaTv Southampton YouTube channel.

Nick LaLota, shown with his wife, is ready to run for congress. Photo from Nick LaLota’s campaign site

By Raymond Janis

Last week, members of the Suffolk County Republican Committee unanimously endorsed Nick LaLota, chief of staff to the county Legislature’s Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), in the race for New York’s 1st Congressional District.

Nick LaLota, shown with his family, is ready to run for congress. Photo from Nick LaLota’s campaign site

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) is vacating the seat to run for governor, triggering a primary election for the Republican nomination in that race. With the county committee’s endorsement, LaLota appears to be a frontrunner as congressional nominee.

“I’m proud that I have been unanimously nominated by more than 500 committeemen from the Suffolk County committee and from all of Suffolk County’s 10 towns,” LaLota said in a phone interview. “I intend to represent them well on the ballot.”

LaLota, of Amityville, hails from a line of servicemen, who include several police officers and combat veterans. He sees this race as an opportunity to continue the family tradition.

“I was a military officer for seven years, deployed overseas three times and visited 20 countries with the Navy,” he said. “My family has a strong sense of service. We love this country and we’re willing to fight for it and to sacrifice for it. If elected a member of Congress, I intend to do just that.”

LaLota was not alone in the field when he received the endorsement. Anthony Figliola, of East Setauket, and Robert Cornicelli, of St. James, both pursued the endorsement as well. In the wake of the announcement, Cornicelli is suspending his campaign for NY-1 and redirecting his energies to unseat Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-NY2). 

“It was definitely not an easy decision, but this is more about the people than what had happened over the last few weeks,” said Lawrence Bialek, Cornicelli’s campaign manager in a phone interview. “For right now, we’re really focused on getting into the second [congressional district].”

Figliola remains in the primary for NY-1. He criticized the county GOP’s endorsement of LaLota, arguing that Republican leaders are in danger of forfeiting the race to the Democrats.

“Obviously some deals were made and they chose an individual who doesn’t even live in the district,” he said in a phone interview. “I can’t help but think they’re just looking to throw this race away. For me, I believe it’s winnable for a Republican. I love my country and I want to be in a position to represent the people of the first congressional district.”

Figliola said he intends to use his private-sector background to alleviate the economic hardships Americans are facing. He cites rising inflation, gas prices and health insurance costs as motivating his candidacy.

“The reason I am in this race is because I see the way our country is going,” he said. “I see working class men and women of this district are being forgotten and are being ignored by this administration. I want the people to know that there’s someone in this looking out for them, someone who pays bills just like them, pays their own health insurance just like them and is feeling this pinch just like them.”

Both remaining NY-1 Republican primary candidates believe their party is operating at a competitive disadvantage come November. Each has said the new redistricting scheme will inevitably favor the Democratic candidate, also subject to a primary, in the general election.

“Albany Democrats did Long Island a tremendous disservice when they gerrymandered this district, stretching it from west of Amityville to east of Amagansett,” LaLota said. “They have separated a lot of like communities and have made it extremely difficult on constituents who will have to travel many miles just to see their congressman.”

The primary election is scheduled for June 28. 

Englebright/Palumbo/Mattera Claim Victory in Respective Races

Lee Zeldin. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

*This post has been updated to include updated information about other area races.

With the number of absentee ballots counted so far, the GOP commissioner of the bipartisan Suffolk County Board of Elections told TBR News Media that U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin’s (R-NY1) reelection over Democratic challenger Nancy Goroff is “mathematically certain.”

“I expect to certify the race in about a week — with the results showing Congressman Zeldin won by almost 50,000 votes,” BOE Commissioner Nick LaLota said in an email statement. The incumbent congressional representative had a lead of over 60,000 votes by the end of in-person vote counting Nov. 3. Absentee ballot counting began Nov. 16.

While Goroff and her election staff said on Election Day they had to wait for the results of in-person voting, Zeldin released a statement that night declaring victory. In it he also thanked Goroff for the race.

“As America enters its next chapter, I am confident we will defeat the coronavirus and continue growing our economy,” the incumbent said in that Nov. 3 statement. 

Zeldin’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for any kind of new statement based on the commissioner’s election call.

A representative from Goroff’s campaign said they are waiting for additional absentee ballots to be counted before putting out any kind of statement.

In other local races, state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) was confident that mail-in ballots would make a difference in the 2020 race for his seat in the 4th Assembly District, and he was right.

On Dec. 2, LaLota confirmed that Englebright was reelected and that official ballot counts would be available shortly.

The assemblyman said it was good to have the ballot count finished.

“This election was unique because fully one-third of the vote came in through mail ballots and was not included in the initial election night tally,” he said. “It was, however, worth waiting for.  The final count was a solid affirmation. I’m grateful that the voters gave me the opportunity to continue representing them in the Assembly. And there is much work to be done in the new year. Until then, please everyone, be safe this holiday season and we will come out of this stronger.”

In person voting showed Englebright behind Nov. 4 with 47.44% of the votes, compared to his challenger Republican Michael Ross who had 51.88% of the votes. At the time, there were nearly 18,000 absentee ballots that still needed to be counted in the district.

Ross did not release a statement by press time.

At the same time, victory was declared by current Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), who defeated Democratic opponent Laura Ahearn to take Senate District 1. The seat had been held by Republican Ken LaValle for over 40 years.

“As our new Senator, I will work hard every day to continue the legacy of retiring State Sen. Ken LaValle and build upon his strong record of protecting the environment, supporting our schools, and fighting for taxpayers,” Palumbo said in a statement. “Thank you for putting your trust in me. I am proud and truly grateful to have the opportunity to continue serving our Long Island communities in the New York State Legislature.”

In a statement, Ahearn congratulated Palumbo for his win and said she would “work with him for the betterment of our communities during these difficult times.”

“I am very proud of the work we all did together as we were just 2.7% points away from flipping this seat, by far the closest this race has been in decades,” Ahearn said in a statement. “For now, I look forward to spending the holiday season with my family, who have been through so much during this remarkable time to run for public office. And of course, there is still much work to be done as we continue to help those who need it most.

In Senate District 2, Mario Mattera succeeded Senator John Flanagan (R). Mattera beat out Democrat and former state trooper Michael Siderakis, of Nesconset.

“Now that the counting is complete, we are ready to work together to bring the voice of all who live in our community to our state government and make sure that the needs of our families are met,” Mattera said in a statement. “The time has come to put Long Island first, and I look forward to getting to Albany to fight for our hardworking families.”

This story was amended to add a statement from Laura Ahearn.

Absentee ballots, early voting or voting in person — voters this year have three options to cast their ballots, though two months before election day, some of these methods have come under scrutiny.

The Suffolk County Board of Elections commissioners say they have their hands full trying to make sure everyone’s ballot counts this November, but several advocacy groups on Long Island say Suffolk, New York State and the BOE should be doing more to spread the word.

Suffolk Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Suffolk BOE Republican Commissioner Nick LaLota disagreed over the locations of Suffolk’s early voting places. File photo

Experts nationwide anticipate numbers like never before will be asking for absentee ballots or doing early voting for this November election. 

The two commissioners for the Suffolk BOE, Nick LaLota, a Republican, and Anita Katz, a Democrat, were present at the Suffolk County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee meeting Sept. 3. While there were multiple problems with the June primary, including that close to 25 percent of polling workers didn’t show up due to the pandemic, the two argued that even with limited resources, they have been making headway in increasing voting access. The number of early polling sites has been increased from 10 to 12 compared to 2019, and Katz confirmed they expect 90 to 95 percent of their poll workers will be on the job come election day Nov. 3.

Suffolk County has also issued an order saying any union employees who wish to work in polling centers for the election are allowed to do so, and will be compensated for doing so.

But the commissioners have also come under fire for where, and where they haven’t, put these 12 early voting locations. For one, Shelter Island, which had an early voting location in 2019, is not currently scheduled for one this year. 

Early Voting Issues

LaLota said the decision was based on “how do we do the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people,” arguing the numbers of voters in a place like Islip who would have a 20-to-30-minute drive to get to one of these places outstrips the small population of Shelter Island.

Those arguing for a Shelter Island location said the population there who would need to do early voting would have to take a ferry just to get to the mainland. Town of Shelter Island Supervisor Gerard Siller (D) has already sent a letter to the BOE, pleading them to reinstall the early voting place on Shelter Island. Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), who once represented Shelter Island as county legislator, also sent a letter to the BOE asking for its return as well.

“Having no on-island early voting location will unfairly disenfranchise many of the voters on Shelter Island,” Romaine said in his letter. “Voting will be particularly difficult for the elderly and the infirmed. There needs to be an early voting location on Shelter Island.”

Suffolk Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Suffolk BOE Republican Commissioner Nick LaLota disagreed over the locations of Suffolk’s early voting places. Photo from Suffolk GOP website

For some officials on Long Island proper, the early voting locations still left something to be desired. Suffolk Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) was especially miffed about the decision for where the two early voting locations were placed in Brookhaven — one at Town Hall in Farmingville and the other in Mastic. She contended there was a “political reason” to put one on the South Shore in the Mastic/Shirley area, later stating in a phone interview that she was referencing U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1), who lives in Shirley and faces a challenge by Stony Brook Democrat Nancy Goroff. 

“I feel like all of northern Brookhaven got screwed by that decision,” Hahn said during the hearing.

LaLota argued choosing the Mastic destination, along with focusing on other marginalized communities, was based on the number of low-income residents in those areas. 

“Equity is the number one issue that gets put to the top, economic hardship people face — people are working two jobs, needing health care or day care, and in the grand scheme of things early voting addresses those economic hardships,” LaLota said. “I would submit to you those economic hardships are best seen in places we chose to put our early voting locations.”

Hahn shot back saying, “There are those communities all over Brookhaven.”

In a phone interview, LaLota vehemently pushed back against the characterization of the decision to put the voting location in Mastic, instead arguing Democrats are focusing on affluent areas like North Shore Brookhaven and Shelter Island. 

“I think it’s sadly ironic that a Republican commissioner is the one advocating that we bring voting to people from lesser-off communities,” he said. “I think those legislators need to be a little more introspective and be a little more receptive to the economic needs of all Suffolk County voters.”

Numerous progressive groups from all around Suffolk County signed on to a petition sent to the Suffolk BOE and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D). The petition argues the location of some early polling places are “puzzling at best,” considering New York State law asks BOEs to consider population density, travel time, proximity of an early voting site to other early voting sites and whether the early voting site is near public transportation routes.

Shoshana Hershkowitz, the founder of left-leaning advocacy group Suffolk Progressives, said last year she and fellow advocacy groups lobbied Suffolk to expand its early voting options. She said at the outset last year, Suffolk’s approach was only the bare minimum with a single early voting site per town. They asked for closer to 21 early polling locations with longer hours at each. Now that Suffolk went up to 12, she said she was happy to see more available, but at the same time was disappointed at the one removed from Shelter Island.

“It’s what our budget priorities should be,” Hershkowitz said. “We should be looking to add another polling location or two — it’s a question of the political and financial will.”

In a phone interview several days after the legislative hearing, Hahn argued, considering the general geographic size of a town like Brookhaven, that it would need five early polling locations to be truly equitable, but that it could do with three. If the BOE truly needed more money for more early voting locations, Hahn argued they should have made that explicit to the Legislature before now, especially seeing the cost of one of these locations is about $50,000.

LaLota said the BOE approached Suffolk for more funding for more early voting locations last year and was rebuffed. According to budget documents, the board of elections requested $21,384,480 for 2020 but instead received $20,304,177.

Though the Republican BOE commissioner said in terms of any new early voting locations, “That ship has sailed.”

“It’s a matter of staffing,” he said. “I don’t have the employees to open up new sites. Even if somebody funded us with $100,000 tomorrow, I don’t have the employees to staff the polling place.” 

Getting the Word Out on Early Voting

With only a little over 17,000 people in 2019 taking advantage of early voting, more people are asking that officials work to get the word out.

The BOE has plans for a countywide mailing that will go to every household explaining the three ways that people will be able to vote: absentee, early or in person. That mailing should be out around mid-September, the Republican commissioner said.

Hahn was also critical over the positioning of the absentee ballot on the BOE’s website, saying one has to navigate through multiple links before coming upon the New York State’s absentee ballot form. She argued the BOE should look to put a larger, bolder text button on the BOE’s landing page that takes people directly to the absentee ballot form. 

Click on this image to see all the current early voting locations and times.

Katz, the Democratic BOE commissioner, argued they are somewhat constricted by having a page that works off Suffolk County’s template, and they’re not able to bring a set of buttons directly to the top of the page. In terms of a social media campaign, the commissioners argue they don’t have the resources to pull that off. There is currently no Facebook or Twitter page operated by the BOE itself.

The progressive groups’ petition also argues for a stepped-up communications campaign from both the BOE and other county officials. They point to Westchester County, which pledged to use the county’s communications team to publish information for people of when or how to vote.

Sue Hornik, a representative of Advocacy Group South Country Unites, one of the proponents of the petition, said she was disappointed to hear the BOE did not have any plans for instant communication with residents online. She said the whole of Suffolk government should make a concerted communications effort countywide to emphasize the availability of early voting.

“If they don’t get out the word on early voting and make people understand they have an option — and so everybody votes either absentee or on election day that would be unfortunate.”

Fellow activist Hershkowitz also advised the importance of letting people know their options.

“My hope is that people would really take advantage of it,” the Suffolk Progressives founder said. “There’s just a lot of mistrust in government, and the more transparent and accessible we can make it seem to the public, then we can perhaps regain that trust.”

The Town of Smithtown Town Hall. File photo by Phil Corso

No clear winner has emerged in the Smithtown Republican primary for town supervisor as a narrow 39-vote margin at the close of polls Sept. 12 left the outcome undecided, pending a count of absentee ballots.

Smithtown Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) holds a razor-thin lead on incumbent town Supervisor Patrick Vecchio (R), 2,822 votes to 2,783, in the unofficial election results posted Sept. 13 by the Suffolk County Board of Elections.

“By definition, it’s too close to call,” said Nick LaLota, the Republican commissioner for the county board of elections. “The number of paper ballots outstanding exceeds the margin of victory by machine. It is literally too close to call.”

LaLota said the board of elections has received 322 absentee ballots as of Sept. 13. He said he expects the county may still receive a few dozen additional ballots over the next week. Absentee ballots must have been postmarked by Sept. 11 and received by the county by Sept. 19 to be valid.

“I am confident that we will remain victorious once they are opened,” Wehrheim said Wednesday morning.

The councilman said his campaign, along with Smithtown Republican Committee Chairman Bill Ellis, ran an extensive absentee voter outreach campaign leading up to the primary race.

“A lot is going to depend on how the absentee ballots go,” Ellis said in a phone interview. “We worked aggressively and I believe a lot of the absentees we had contact with voted for the entire team.”

LaLota said he anticipates by Sept. 25 the Suffolk County Board of Elections will have all the voting machines and paper ballots to be checked, and will have given sufficient notice to both campaigns in order to begin counting absentee votes.

The process of counting paper ballots involves opening each absentee envelope, allowing the ballot to be reviewed by a board of elections inspector and campaign observers, potentially including attorneys representing the campaigns. If there are any objections to the validity of a ballot it will be recorded.

The final outcome of the primary race may remain unknown until late September.

“With 300-plus ballots, I’d assume it’s going to take a few days,” LaLota said. “Attorneys have been known to gum up the process.”

Vecchio wrote the primary’s outcome was “still questionable” in an email statement, and that he was uncertain about the odds of being declared the Republican candidate after the absentee ballots were counted.

This is not the first time Vecchio has been challenged by his own party in a primary for town supervisor. In 2013, he faced off against former town councilman Robert Creighton (R) and prior to that, Jane Conway in 2005. In both of these primaries, Vecchio had a decisive victory at the polls.

“Against both Jane Conway and Bob Creighton, the results were substantially in Mr. Vecchio’s favor,” Ellis said. “Never has he lost on the [voting] machines to anyone.”

If Wehrheim remains victorious, he will be running for Smithtown town supervisor on the Republican, Conservative and Independent party lines in November.

Wehrheim currently has approximately $59,000 available in his war chest to spend on the general election, according to the 11-day pre-primary financial disclosure report filed with New York State Board of Elections.

“We won’t start campaigning until [the absentee ballots] are opened,” Wehrheim said. “Once they are open and the decision is finalized, then we will begin to carry on for the general election if we are the successful candidate.”

The winner of the Republican town supervisor primary will face off Nov. 7 against Democratic Party candidate William Holst and Kristen Slevin, running under her own None of the Above campaign.

After losing by two votes, newcomer is challenging validity of ballots

Poquott's Village Hall. File photo

t seems the dust hasn’t settled yet after Poquott’s June 20 election for two trustee seats.

While challenger John Richardson emerged as a clear winner for one seat, it was a tight race between newcomer Debbie Stevens and incumbent Jeff Koppelson for the second spot. Stevens recently filed a lawsuit in Suffolk County Supreme Court in Riverhead to review the results.

Debbie Stevens

At the end of election night, Stevens had a slim lead over Koppelson before absentee and 10 contested votes were counted. Official results were delayed and not announced by the village until the next day, after election inspectors retained by the village and certified by the Suffolk County Board of Elections completed the count at Poquott’s Village Hall. Koppelson was declared the winner with 180 votes, while Stevens received 178.

After Stevens challenged the results, the village brought the ballots to the headquarters of the board of elections in Yaphank June 29, where the votes were hand counted by board staff members and certified by  county election commissioners Nick LaLota (R) and  Anita Katz (D).

LaLota said the village clerk handed over the ballots to their bipartisan team, and they hand counted each ballot, and their results were the same as the village’s count. However, the board of elections was not involved in any decisions involving the disputed ballots.

Stevens’ attorney George Vlachos of George C. Vlachos & Associates in Central Islip, said the village was served with a show-cause order last week to appear in court. A hearing will be held in Riverhead July 19.

Vlachos, who was originally retained by Stevens and Richardson to monitor the election, said he and his client have taken issue with the discarding of the rule that voters must be registered 10 days before an election. He said all the votes, no matter when the voter registered, were counted.

Jeff Koppelson

The attorney said he also questions whether the ballots were secured after the polls closed. He said he was on hand at Village Hall until the end of the night June 20, and there were approximately five or six ballots that were mismarked and had to be interpreted as far as what the voters’ intents were. He said he only saw one of those ballots presented to the board of elections. The lawyer said he remembers one ballot the night of June 20 where a voter chose three candidates instead of two. Vlachos said that ballot was not brought to the board.

LaLota said he had heard about the mismarked ballots before the recount, but didn’t see any major issues.

“There were up to two ballots that required a minimal review by the bipartisan team, but they easily came to a conclusion,” he said.

Koppelson declined to comment until after the matter is resolved, and Vlachos requested his client not talk directly to the press.

Vlachos added that many people from the village have offered to pay for his services to get to the bottom of the matter.

“This may just be the tip of the iceberg,” the attorney said. “I’m doing whatever investigation I need to do. I’m not sure what’s going on in Poquott, but I’m going to find out.”