In the days and weeks ahead, the numbers will be crunched and analyzed, and both sides will look at what they did right and what they did wrong. But at the end of the day, it seems to have come down to one thing: Huntington voters were ready for change.
Chad Lupinacci, the state assemblyman from Huntington Station, is the face of that change. The Republican standard-bearer in a watershed election year, Lupinacci sailed to a decisive victory in the supervisor’s race Tuesday night. He’ll be joined on the town board by fellow Republican Ed Smyth, who placed first in the four-way race for two town board seats. Democrat Mark Cuthbertson will return for another term.
Lupinacci’s win over Democrat Tracey Edwards can, in many ways, be seen as a call for change. The theme of his ticket’s campaign was “A New Direction for Huntington,” a clear call for fresh faces in town hall.
It was clear from the beginning that this would be a watershed election. Supervisor Frank Petrone had announced he would be retiring at the end of this term. Edwards, whose term on the town board ends this year, was all in for the race. By running for supervisor, she could not seek to retain her seat. She ran solely on her record and her accomplishments in the political arena as well as the business world. She has a strong track record in both. Lupinacci ran as the face of change, and Huntington voters clearly are looking for just that.
It’s something to consider as the board looks to the transition, because it isn’t over yet. The next political battlefield could occur over the seat currently held by Democrat Susan Berland. Following her win Tuesday, Berland will be making the move to the Suffolk County Legislature come January. Filling the seat she will vacate could get complicated.
There are a few scenarios. Berland could resign before the end of this year, making it possible for the remaining town board members to appoint her successor. A simple majority of the board — three votes — is all that’s needed. The three Democrats on the board — Petrone, Cuthbertson and Edwards — could presumably agree on a candidate.
Should Berland elect to finish her term, a new dynamic takes over: Cuthbertson would be the sole Democrat on a four-person board; and Republicans Lupinacci and Smyth alone could not make up a majority on their own. For that, a third vote is needed, and don’t count on it being Gene Cook. The Independence Party member who was elected as a Republican and lined up to be the GOP’s supervisor candidate until just before the nominating convention. He is not happy with the Republican Party. This opens up the possibility of two Republicans and a Democrat forming an alliance to fill the open seat.
Bipartisan cooperation will also be necessary when the board is required to make supermajority decisions.
Now that would be a refreshing change. Perhaps it’s just the kind of change voters clearly are looking for.