By Carl Corry and Janee Law
Huntington voters went to the polls Tuesday and stood by the people they know best -- re-electing every incumbent on the ballot.
The closest race was for the two hotly contested seats on the town council, with the results too close to call until early in the morning Wednesday.
Republican Eugene Cook was the top vote-getter, with 14,340 votes, or 27 percent of the total count, enough to claim one of the open seats. He was followed by the other incumbent, Democrat Susan Berland, who earned 12,481 votes, or 24 percent of the vote, for the second slot.
Not far behind were Democrat Keith Barrett, who garnered 11,728 votes, and Cook’s running mate, Jennifer Thompson, who earned 11,546 votes. Conservative Michael Helfer had 2,741 votes.
The totals don’t include absentee ballots, which were still being tabulated at deadline.
“I want to express my heartfelt thank you to the voters of Huntington for re-electing me as your Town Councilman,” Cook said in a statement Wednesday. “I am honored and humbled that you have placed your trust in me. With your trust, I will work tirelessly on your behalf to help address the challenges our town faces, and to secure lasting and meaningful improvements to our quality of life.”
Barrett, the town’s deputy director for general services and an auto shop owner, said, “I’m glad it wasn’t a blowout by anybody, but the people have spoken and they chose the incumbents.”
It was easier to determine the winners in the other races that affect Huntington residents.
Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia, a Republican, ran unopposed, as did Marian Rose Tinari in the election for Third District Court judge.
“I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to all of the residents from the Town of Huntington who took the time out of their busy schedules to vote for me on Election Day,” Raia said in a statement. “It has been an honor and a privilege for me to serve as Huntington’s Town Clerk since 1982 as I have always believed that public service is noble work.
“My goal always has been and will continue to be to provide the best possible service to all residents through dedication and tireless commitment.”
Receiver of Taxes Ester Bivona beat out Republican Monique Pardes by a 40-point margin.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone was easily re-elected to a second term over Republican James O’Connor, and all three Suffolk legislators representing the Town of Huntington, including Steve Stern in the 16th district, Lou D’Amaro in the 17th district and William “Doc” Spencer were given new terms.
At Huntington Town Hall on Election Day, Neil and Eileen Brogan, of Huntington, said they have taken to the polls their entire lives.
“It’s a privilege, but it’s also an obligation, so it’s something we take seriously,” said Eileen Brogan, 81.
The Brogans both voted for Jo-Ann Raia and Ester Bivona for receiver of taxes, while Neil, 81, voted for Eugene Cook for town council and Eileen voted for Michael Helfer.
Bucking the trend, Paul Wilson, 61, of Huntington, “voted against all the incumbents I can remember.” Wilson voted for Grant Lally for Suffolk’s 18th Legislative District and James O’Conner for Suffolk County executive, both Republicans.
“The union contracts that [current County Executive Steve] Bellone set up I think should be squashed, thrown out,” Wilson said. “That was important -- that was the main reason why I voted today.”
Back at the polls, Jack Fass, 62, of Huntington, said he has been a Democrat his whole life, but occasionally crosses party lines. He didn’t want to reveal who he voted for, but noted that no matter who he chose, “it’s always important to vote. It’s part of being an American [and] it’s part of being a citizen.”