For nearly 14 months, Anna Throne-Holst and Dave Calone have competed for the Democratic nomination to run against Congressman Lee Zeldin in November.
On primary night Tuesday, the Congressional hopefuls learned they’ll have to wait even longer.
Ms. Throne-Holst, a former Southampton Town supervisor, held a narrow lead over Mr. Calone in a 1st District primary race that was too close to call on the night of the vote.
Unofficial results from the Suffolk County Board of Elections showed that Ms. Throne-Holst held a lead of just 29 votes, with about 1,700 absentee ballots still to be counted. As of Tuesday night, she had secured 5,446 votes to Mr. Calone’s 5,417.
“They said it was gonna be close, but that’s ridiculous,” Mr. Calone told his supporters at the Meadow Club in Port Jefferson Station shortly after the last precinct was reported.
Mr. Calone thanked his wife, Kate, for her support and said that despite being outspent by the Throne-Holst campaign, his team kept him in the race to the finish.
“We are honored to be here today,” he said. “We are thrilled to be in this position, when people have put [in] so much time and effort like you all have, and to have so much working against us to be where we are right now is a tremendous victory and it wouldn’t be possible without all of you.”
Ms. Throne-Holst didn’t arrive at her gala at Cowfish in Hampton Bays until her supporters had spent more than two hours nervously watching the results come in.
“As you know, it’s a bit of a hairpin margin we’ve got now but we are ahead,” Ms. Throne-Holst said before predicting eventual victory.
“Absentees tend to go the way things go at the polls, so we are looking at a victory and we are looking at another victory in November,” she said, calling this the “most interesting year of my life.”
Ms. Throne-Holst, 56, of Sag Harbor served as Southampton Town Supervisor for six years before not seeking re-election in 2015 to focus on the Congressional race.
In her bid for Congress, Ms. Throne-Holst, formerly a registered Independent, said that as Southampton supervisor she cut spending, reduced debt and upgraded the town’s bond rating, while preserving “thousands of acres of open space” and introducing new energy-efficient building codes.
Before serving on the Town Board, she was executive director of the Bridgehampton Child Care Center, where she said she launched Head Start programs, after-school assistance, teen pregnancy prevention programs and college prep courses.
Mr. Calone, 42, of East Setauket, is an attorney, venture capitalist and former chairman of the Suffolk County Planning Commission. He is CEO of Jove Equity Partners, a venture capital firm that helps start technology companies. He said he helped organize a bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, as well as a Long Island Emergency Technology Fund, which helped start nine technology companies on Long Island.
The eventual winner of Tuesday’s primary will attempt to reclaim the seat previously held for 12 years by Democrat Tim Bishop of Southampton. In the 2014 general election, Mr. Bishop lost by more than 15,000 votes to Mr. Zeldin (R-Shirley), a former New York State Senator.
Many Democrats believe a presidential election year gives them their best chance to win back the seat. Mr. Bishop fared significantly better in the larger turnout presidential years than he did in mid-terms, nearly losing his seat to Republican Randy Altschuler in a 2010 race that wasn’t determined for more than a month after Election Day.
That shouldn’t be the case in a primary. In 2000, the most recent Democratic primary in the 1st Congressional District, Regina Seltzer held just a 39-vote lead on primary night and was declared the winner days later over Republican incumbent Michael Forbes, who was attempting to switch parties after three terms in office. That year, 12,119 of 90,282 registered Democrats took part in the primary election. In Tuesday’s primary, the number of voters rose to 12,563, but with 135,776 active registered Democrats in the 1st District, turnout actually declined to just 9 percent from 13 percent in 2000.
At the Calone camp Tuesday night, former assemblyman and one-time Brookhaven Democratic leader Marc Alessi of Shoreham said he “did expect that [this year’s primary] would be a close race.”
“We are getting too used to nail-biters in elections these days,” Mr. Alessi said, predicting that no matter who the winner is they will be ready to take on Mr. Zeldin.
Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman attended the Throne-Holst event Tuesday night and said he believed she was at a disadvantage considering that Mr. Calone comes from a more densely populated area and he had the support of Brookhaven Democrats. Still, he believes his predecessor in Southampton is in a better position.
“It’s very close, but I’d rather be in Anna’s position than Calone’s,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “You want to go into the absentees with the biggest lead you can. And while 29 is not exactly a giant lead, I do think that the absentees will break more Anna’s way than the regular primary because, I think, there will be more from the East End.”
In the only other Congressional primary stretching into Suffolk, former Nassau County executive Thomas Suozzi won a Democratic primary in a five-way race for the 3rd District nomination, according to Newsday.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Top caption: Congressional hopeful Anna Throne-Holst arrives to applause at her campaign gala in Hampton Bays late Tuesday night. (Credit: Tim Gannon)