- Call her Madame Supervisor. Southampton Town Republican
Councilwoman Linda Kabot
was declared the "unofficial" winner by a 52 vote margin over Democratic challenger Jim Henry late Friday evening in one of the closest races for the town's top job in recent memory.
The first woman to hold the seat in 20 years, Kabot held onto a lead she established on election night, handily defeating three term incumbent Republican Supervisor Patrick "Skip" Heaney in what had come down to a two-way race by night's end as Independent candidate Alex Gregor
was deemed out of the running earlier in the night.
Verifying the tally of 711 absentee ballots to determine a winner between Kabot and Henry took all week as Suffolk County Board of Elections officials conducted the closely witnessed recount process. Kabot doggedly held onto a 52 vote lead over Democratic opponent Henry who remained a close contender right to the end.
With the counting ending some 10 days after voters went to the polls on Election Day
, the victory did not come as a huge surprise to voters since Kabot had maintained a steady 50-plus vote lead throughout the recount process. Pending final certification of the results by the Suffolk County Board of Elections early next week, Kabot will go down in the history books as receiving 4540 votes to Henry's 4488, an uncontested winner.
"The lawyers told me I won," Kabot said in an exclusive interview with Hamptons.com Saturday afternoon. Celebrating may have to wait as the exhausted winner explained, while preparing to send out a press release thanking her supporters. "I have a bad cold."
"Now is the time to put the campaign aside and stop thinking about Republicans and Democrats," Kabot asserted, "We have to move forward on the issues that I campaigned on. It's time for a change, its time to increase our level of service to the public."
"I'm going to rest for a few days and get well. Then I am going to start to put a transition team together," the supervisor-elect said.
Looking back on the long and arduous campaign, Kabot said, "I am very honored to have been elected. I am also very humbled. Every vote does count," she underscored. Kabot became the Republican Party candidate after upsetting long time party favorite Skip Heaney's before forging on to battle the formidable and well financed Democratic challenger Jim Henry.
"Heaney spent over $250,000 on his campaign," Kabot said from her home in East Quogue, "Henry spent about $200,000 and I spent a total of about $50,000. This shows you that you can't really buy votes if the people are not behind you as a candidate." Kabot reports she raised $20,000 for the primary run and an additional $30,000 on the head to head race.
Kabot combined forces with her popular colleague incumbent Republican Councilwoman Nancy Graboski
to gain the party faithful's support.
Kabot noted the high percentage of disaffected voters in this election became her biggest voting block. "Look at the results, "she said, "Nearly 67 percent of the people did not vote for Henry. If Heaney had stood down instead of waging a $150,000 campaign for Supervisor on the Conservative Line we would have seen a much stronger mandate. This was a really tough race," she concluded having emerged the victor with a low budget kitchen table campaign that took her message to directly to the voters.
"Now I want to build a consensus on issues and policy," Kabot said as she looked ahead preparing to step up to the new job at hand. "I will be reaching out to Anna Thorne-Holst later today," Kabot mentioned, referring to the successful Democratic candidate for Town Board. "Then I will talk to Nancy," she added, referring to her comrade in arms who emerged as the largest vote getter in the election.
"The people have spoken in a tough race," Kabot concluded, gaining vigor as she spoke. "I worked hard to get here."
One of the first orders of business will be the appointment of a new Town Board member to fill the seat Kabot vacates in January. "We will be selecting an appointee to fill the seat. Then the appointee will be given the opportunity to run for election next year. I am hoping we will all work together now," the Supervisor-elected concluded, not making mention of her short list of prospects.
"Now you can call me Madame Supervisor," she quipped.