(Updated Nov. 3 1:21 p.m.) Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar won a landslide victory over Councilwoman Catherine Kent and led the Republican ticket in a sweep of all contested offices Tuesday.
Aguiar won 59% of the vote to Kent’s 41% — 5,065 to 3,484 — with all of Riverhead’s 22 election districts reporting, according to unofficial results published by the Suffolk County Board of Elections.
Councilman Ken Rothwell, who was appointed to fill a vacancy in January, was the top vote-getter in a field of four candidates vying for two open council seats, winning 5,197 votes (32%), Robert Kern placed second with 4,952 votes (30%.) Evelyn Hobson-Womack polled 3,416 votes (21%) and Juan Micieli-Martinez took 2,840 votes (17.4%.)
“The people of Riverhead spoke, and they spoke loud and clear when you look at these numbers behind us,” Aguiar told supporters last night who packed into the bar at Stonewall’s at Cherry Creek. “I would like to personally thank everybody who believed in me when I was running two years ago and now two years later is so enthusiastic for me to continue to go forward,” she told the crowd.
She thanked her husband and campaign manager/treasurer Paul Carr, who she said was at her side “through happy moments, sad moments, crazy moments, ridiculous moments, and he help put it and hold it all together.” The supervisor said she’d be out “walking the streets to thank my constituents, the residents, the businesses, everybody who had faith in me.”
Aguiar took a swing at Kent in her remarks. “Unfortunately when you don’t have any credentials, experience, knowledge, and a platform you have to go negative, and I went positive,” Aguiar said.
Rothwell thanked his wife and sons in “an endeavor that started back in January.” He said he could not have run the race without their support.
Kern was exuberant. “The greatest thing is that what’s happening here tonight is that we’re going back to being Americans,” Kern said. “Riverhead wants to keep America in Riverhead,” he said. President of the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce, Kern campaigned on a pro-business platform, what he called making Riverhead the town of “yes.” He alluded to that in his remarks to supporters.
“This ‘always no’ bullshit is just getting old, okay?” Kern said. “No more of this crap —people coming into Town Hall making up garbage, okay? I just know things are gonna move forward.”
Deputy Highway Superintendent Mike Zaleski won the highway superintendent post in a rout over fellow highway department employee William Renten Jr., with 5,624 votes to Renten’s 2,797.
Zaleski said he was “overwhelmed and flattered” by the support of the community and his fellow party members.
Longtime Assessor Laverne Tennenberg was elected to a ninth term of office, with 67% of the votes in her race against challenger Tara Taylor. Tennenberg captured 5,628 votes in the process.
Assessor Dana Brown, a longtime assessment clerk in the town who was appointed to fill a position vacated by Mason Haas, who retired in February, won 66% of the vote in her race against attorney Ellen Hoil.
Brown thanked Tennenberg for having the “faith in me” for doing the assessor job, while Tennenberg thanked voters for electing Brown into office.
Kent and the Democrats gathered at Dark Horse Restaurant on Main Street to watch the returns come in. The crowd’s initial excitement was quickly subdued as the numbers went up on a spreadsheet displayed on an electronic screen.
The councilwoman urged her supporters, “Do not despair.” She acknowledged the results were frustrating and disappointing, but urged the crowd not to give up. “We have to keep asking those questions, because we care about our town,” she said.
“I love Riverhead and my heart is full of gratitude,” Kent said. “Its been an amazing experienced it’s been an amazing ride,” she said.
Kent and running mate Micieli-Martinez went to Republican headquarters to congratulate the victors.
With Tuesday’s victories, the Riverhead Republican Party not only retained the majority it’s had on the town board since 1999, but also emerged with an all-Republican board taking office in January. The Riverhead GOP, held all five seats on the board for most of the last decade, from 2010 until 2018 — when Kent and fellow Democrat Laura Jens-Smith were sworn into office.
The unofficial results published by the Board of Elections include early voting ballots but do not include absentee ballots. There were 840 absentee ballots sent out to voters who had requested them and, as of Monday, 407 absentee ballots were still outstanding. The gap between the winning candidates and their opponents are so wide, that the results on those ballots could not change the outcome of any of the races.
Election District 6 was the last to report their votes, as there was a problem with a voting machine, according to officials. The counts of those votes are reflected in the results listed above.
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