Bender appears poised to grab Southampton town board seat

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Brad Bender in April 2011, when he was forced to step aside as FRNCA president so he could run for Town Council.
TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Brad Bender in April 2011, when he was forced to step aside as FRNCA president so he could run for Town Council.

After finding himself just barely on the losing side of the coin in 2011, Northampton resident Brad Bender appears poised to win a Southampton Town Council seat this time around, marking the first time in recent memory that a resident from one of the town’s northwest hamlets could hold a seat on the town board.

Mr. Bender, who came up just 92 votes short two years ago, holds an unofficial 143-vote lead after Eleciton night in a four-way race for two seats, just ahead of Republican Jeff Mansfield.

Nearly 900 absentee ballots remain to be counted – 879 to be exact – until the Suffolk County Board of Elections officially calls the race.

Mr. Bender said on Wednesday morning he’s confident the way things stand currently, though he isn’t counting his chickens before they hatch.

“Two years ago, I waited to concede until all of the votes were in,” Mr. Bender said. “Not everybody was finished speaking. So I’m still hesitant to be celebratory. I’d like to wait until we hear what the people have to say.”

Southampton Town Democratic Committee Chairman Gordon Herr didn’t have an exact breakdown of the absentee ballots by party, though estimated that “there are about 300 Democrats, 300 Republicans, a couple Conservatives, a couple Independence ballots, and some blanks.” A request for an exact breakdown from the Suffolk County BOE was not immediately available.

Both Mr. Herr and Mr. Bender could not recall the last time – if ever – that a resident of Flanders, Riverside or Northampton had sat on the Southampton Town Board.

Absentee ballots had to be postmarked by Election Day, Nov. 5, and must be in the hands of BOE officials by Nov. 12 in order to be tallied. Mr. Herr estimated all the votes would be counted by sometime next week.

Mr. Bender, meanwhile, attributed his better fortune this time around to a higher visibility town-wide after his 2011 run. And both he and Mr. Herr noted that since Bender barely lost to current Councilwoman Christine Preston-Scalera in 2011, he’s been educating himself further on the issues to make his case better to the voters.

Mr. Bender, 52, said that “maybe my message wasn’t refined enough” last time around, saying he focused more narrowly on improving septic systems.

“I said we need a more regional approach” to improving water quality this time, he said. “Not just septic systems, but stormwater runoff, pesticides, and working with the state and county.”

The Northampton resident took ads out with incumbent Suffolk Legislator Jay Schneiderman to tout the experience he’s had working with officials on various levels of government, dating back to his days as president of the Flanders, Riverside, Northampton Civic Association. Schneiderman (I-Montuak) defeated Republican challenger Chris Nuzzi – who termed out of his time on Southampton town board – on Tuesday night.