The Following articles represent the coverage of the 2013 election in Brookhaven’s 4th Council District by Newsday. Take a look at this coverage as well as summary: “It’s Time this Election Came to an End.”

Kepert declared winner for Brookhaven council

Originally published: January 17, 2014 5:50 PM
Updated: January 17, 2014 9:14 PM
By CARL MACGOWAN  carl.macgowan@newsday.com


Photo credit: David Pokress | Democrat Connie Kepert returned to her Brookhaven Town Council office after Suffolk election officials said she won the seat by four votes following more than two months of recounts and court challenges.

Democrat Connie Kepert returned to her Brookhaven town council office Friday after Suffolk election officials said she won the seat by four votes following more than two months of recounts and court challenges.

Kepert, 64, of Middle Island, was sworn in for her fifth term Friday afternoon, a town spokesman said. Brookhaven officials are planning a ceremonial swearing-in on Tuesday.

Kepert said in an interview that she was nervous on election night, Nov. 5, when unofficial tallies showed she trailed Republican challenger Michael A. Loguercio Jr. by 94 votes. She made up the difference with absentee ballots that broke in her favor, and court decisions that validated ballots cast for her.

"I was a social studies teacher," she said. "One of the things I would underscore was the importance of one vote."

Suffolk officials certified the election and declared Kepert the winner after counting the last remaining votes, which had been the subject of court challenges. The ballots had been released earlier this week when the state Court of Appeals refused to hear an appeal filed by Loguercio.

Republican election commissioner Wayne Rogers said the Kepert-Loguercio recount was the longest in his eight years at the Board of Elections.

"It goes to show you the process works, even though it is a long process," he said.

Kepert said she was surprised by the close vote but gratified to return to her third-floor Town Hall office, where a poster of her hero, Eleanor Roosevelt, remained on the wall. Kepert had left the office when her term expired on Dec. 31.

Kepert said she plans to focus on issues facing her district, such as the proposed Caithness power plant in Yaphank and the planned dredging of the hamlet's Lower Lake this spring. She said she looked forward to rejoining the town board, where a Republican and Conservative coalition holds a 5-2 majority.

"I get along very well with my Republican counterparts on the board," she said. "We try to support each other."

Loguercio said this week he will run again for the council seat.


Court ruling allows Brookhaven ballots to be counted

Originally published: January 15, 2014 1:41 PM
Updated: January 15, 2014 8:48 PM
By CARL MACGOWAN  carl.macgowan@newsday.com


An unresolved Brookhaven Town council race neared conclusion Wednesday when the state's highest court rejected an appeal of a lower court ruling on more than a dozen contested ballots.

The decision by the state Court of Appeals in Albany effectively allows Suffolk County election officials to count the remaining 13 votes in the Nov. 5 race between Democrat Connie Kepert and Republican Michael Loguercio Jr. It was unclear when election officials would count the votes and certify the election.

The court, without comment, rejected Loguercio's appeal of a state court decision ordering the Suffolk Board of Elections to count the remaining votes, which had been contested by Loguercio and Kepert over issues such as questionable signatures and extraneous ballot markings.

Republicans and Democrats have said they believed Kepert would win the race by two votes if the disputed ballots were counted. Kepert, who had held the 4th District seat since 2005, left the town board when her term expired on Dec. 31.

Loguercio, a Longwood school board member from Ridge, said he would run again for the council seat. "As soon as I got the phone call, my campaign for two years from now started right away," he said.

Kepert complained at a recent town board meeting that the board planned to conduct business while her former council seat was vacant.

Her attorney, Jared A. Kasschau, said Wednesday that he and Kepert were "pleased that the constituents of C.D. 4 will finally have closure."

Brookhaven GOP chairman Jesse Garcia said he was "disappointed that basically the Court of Appeals has stripped this election away from Loguercio."

Loguercio led by 94 votes in unofficial tallies released after polls closed on Nov. 5. His lead narrowed to 11 votes when absentee ballots were counted about a week later, then dropped to four votes after a Dec. 10 ruling on contested ballots by State Supreme Court Justice Carol MacKenzie.

Kepert took the lead on Dec. 20 when the New York State Second Appellate Division in Brooklyn overturned parts of MacKenzie's ruling.

Republicans and Conservatives hold five seats on the seven-member Brookhaven Town Board.

The Court of Appeals decision is also expected to allow election officials to certify the re-election of Suffolk 6th District Court Judge Chris Ann Kelley.

With Deon J. Hampton



 

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As Brookhaven board meets, Kepert still awaits political fate

January 11, 2014 10:53 PM By RICK BRAND rick.brand@newsday.com


When Democrat Connie Kepert appeared last week at a Brookhaven Town Board organizational meeting, Supervisor Edward Romaine remarked, "It's odd to see you on that side of the table."

Kepert, an eight-year town board member, spoke from the audience because her fate as a town official remains unclear. The state's highest court in Albany has yet to decide whether to review her disputed town board election. At the moment, Kepert leads her GOP opponent, Michael Loguercio, who also was in the audience, by only two votes.

"Obviously, I'd prefer to be sitting at the dais," Kepert told her former and perhaps future colleagues. "But due to delays, unfortunately the people of the 4th District have no representation." She then questioned board members from the floor on pending changes to the town budget.

The Court of Appeals could decide as early as this week whether to hear a Republican court challenge. If the court takes the case, the seat will stay open even longer.

"On TV, people see an arrest by the first commercial, and the trial by the second commercial and the appeal is done by the end of the hour," said Tony Parlatore, a lawyer and Brookhaven Democratic chairman. "But . . . in the courts, time stands still."

To recap: On election night Nov. 5, unofficial returns had Loguercio ahead 4,309 to 4,215, or 94 votes. Kepert lost a challenge to the vote count in State Supreme Court. But Justice Carol MacKenzie, in ruling on disputed absentee and provisional ballots, found that Loguercio's margin had shrunk to only four votes.

An Appellate Division panel in Brooklyn reversed that ruling, finding that Kepert led by two votes. Because the Appellate ruling was unanimous, Republicans have asked the Court of Appeals whether it will even consider the case.

GOP attorney Steve Losquadro says he is hopeful the high court will take up the appeal because the lower court rulings were diametrically opposed. "When the conflicts are irreconcilable, the Court of Appeals sometimes wants to take a look to provide clarity," he said.

Loguercio, 55, an insurance broker from Ridge and a decadelong member of the Longwood school board, said he has an even shot at winning the election. "At first, you get anxious and want finality," he said. "But courts have a job and it's inappropriate not to respect that."

He acknowledges he did not mount a major effort to circulate absentee ballots to those who would be out of town or unable to get to polls on Election Day, but instead concentrated on "knocking on hundreds and hundreds of doors." He noted that many backers from Coram and his home community of Ridge told him they tried to vote for him, only to find they lived just outside the district.

While the case remains unsettled, Parlatore said Kepert has remained stoic, even though an adverse ruling has made the race far closer. "It's like we're playing with house money," he said. But the town leader added, there "must have been some pangs" for Kepert as she attended the year's first town board meeting as an outsider.

Should Kepert retain the seat, Republicans see a rematch. "I think he's in it for the long haul," Losquadro said of Loguercio. "Getting literally half the votes of the district against a well-known official, I'd have to assume he'd go again."


Challenges in Loguercio-Kepert race continue

Originally published: January 7, 2014 4:47 PM
Updated: January 7, 2014 7:08 PM
By CARL MACGOWAN  carl.macgowan@newsday.com


Attorneys for Republican Michael A. Loguercio Jr. are challenging parts of a state court ruling throwing out three ballots cast in his race for Brookhaven Town board -- including one ballot that would be invalidated because of "swirls" alongside a voter's signature.

Loguercio's attorneys, in an 18-page filing on Monday, said a ruling by the state Appellate Division in Brooklyn last month set a bad legal precedent and the one ballot with the markings should be counted.

"It is respectfully submitted," the attorneys wrote, ". . . that the addition of a 'smiley face' or some other such mark should not invalidate a perfectly valid signature."


The ballot was one of three in the race that were ruled invalid by appellate court judges. The court also ruled that Suffolk election officials should count 13 other disputed ballots in the 4th Council District race between Loguercio and Democrat Connie Kepert.

Loguercio led by four votes in unofficial tallies before the appellate court decision. It is unclear which candidate the disputed ballots were cast for. Democrats and Republicans have both said they believe the decision may ultimately lead to Kepert winning the race.

No winner has yet been declared. Kepert, whose fourth term on the town board expired on Dec. 31, said Monday she was "still expecting to win."

Attorneys for Loguercio have asked the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, for permission to appeal the appellate court decision. The Court of Appeals could decide as early as Tuesday whether to consider Loguercio's request, a Court of Appeals spokesman said. The appellate court decision would stand if it is not reviewed by the Court of Appeals.

A State Supreme Court justice ruled on Dec. 10 that 11 of 22 ballots cast in the race should be discounted because of questionable markings and other problems. Parts of that decision were overturned by the Brooklyn appellate court on Dec. 20.

The court dispute has included debates over the validity of so-called "tadpole markings" on ballots. Another vote was thrown out because the voter had written a statement referring to consumer advocate Ralph Nader.


Brookhaven Town board election remains uncertified after court decision

Originally published: January 1, 2014 4:22 PM
Updated: January 1, 2014 8:44 PM
By DEON J. HAMPTON  deon.hampton@newsday.com


A State Supreme Court justice has denied a motion by Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Connie Kepert to certify the November election results and allow her to represent her district at upcoming town board meetings.

State Supreme Court Justice Joseph C. Pastoressa denied Kepert's motion in Riverhead on Tue
sday, in light of a plan by Republicans to appeal a court decision that may have overturned the November election and awarded the seat to incumbent Democrat Kepert over GOP challenger Michael A. Loguercio Jr. While no winner has been declared, both sides said they believed the court has effectively awarded the contest to Kepert.

Attorney Steven Losquadro, representing Loguercio, said he plans to file papers with the New York Court of Appeals early next week, seeking a reversal of the decision on the November election.


Kepert said that because court officials are permitting the GOP to appeal, the 4th Council District will be without representation as 2014 begins, and that the elected candidate will miss at least two work sessions and a town board meeting.

Last month, a four-member appellate court panel in Brooklyn reviewed a Dec. 10 decision by State Supreme Court Justice Carol MacKenzie, who had thrown out 11 of 22 ballots challenged by attorneys for Kepert and Loguercio.

The appellate judges considered 16 of the 22 ballots and reversed seven of the decisions in which MacKenzie deemed ballots were invalid. They upheld her decisions on two defective ballots. The candidates did not challenge two other decisions finding ballots were invalid.

Ultimately, the appeals court said 13 of 16 disputed ballots should be counted in the race.

Loguercio had held a four-vote lead in tallies before the court ruling. Kepert was down 94 votes against him after the Nov. 5 election, but made up ground with absentee votes and ballots from Democratic districts.



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