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Town Clerk Elizabeth “Tilly” Strauss at work on Monday morning in the North East Town Hall. She received more votes than any other candidate in the Town of North East election.  Photo by Christine Bates

Preliminary 2023 election returns

DUTCHESS COUNTY —  November 2023 Dutchess County election results, posted on the Dutchess County Board of Elections website as of Friday, Nov. 10, at 12:28 p.m., remain preliminary and do not include a full count of absentee ballots. 

In an off-year election, when there were no federal or state contests on the ballot, turnout is typically limited. Results in town board races this November showed the difference that a few votes can make in a local election.


Drago ousts Pulver

With the help of Working Families voters, Democrat first-time candidate Chris Drago upset popular Republican Gregg Pulver for the District 19 Dutchess County Legislature seat by 50.68% to 49.11%, a preliminary margin of only 60 votes. District 19 is composed of North East, Stanford, Pine Plains and Milan.

The second party line was decisive: although Pulver had strong Republican support of 47.26% over Drago’s 44.99% on the Democratic line, Pulver chose to run on the Common Ground line and not to appear on the Conservative line (candidates are limited to two lines). Asked about his decision to run on the Common Ground line, Pulver said it was his way of “keeping divisiveness out of politics.”

Pulver complimented Drago on doing “a better job of getting his message out. Now it’s time to do the work.”

With Pulver’s defeat, the towns in the 19th District have lost Pulver’s power as the chair of the Legislature, which remains strongly Republican.

Asked if he will run again, Pulver commented: “When I lost the election for Pine Plains supervisor, I thought I was done with politics. Two years later I ran for the county Legislature. You never know what doors will open.”


Ballot errors disrupt North East results

In North East, the 712-voter turnout was significantly higher than 2021’s turnout of 479, even though there were no contentious town races.

Town Supervisor Christopher Kennan ran unopposed, as did Town Clerk Elizabeth “Tilly” Strauss and Justice Dennis Johnson. Broken down by party, however, the totals indicate that North East is becoming an increasingly Democratic town.

The race for three town board seats—two four-year seats and one two-year seat—was supposed to be uncontested as well, with Lana Morrison and Chris Mayville running for the two four-year seats and Meg Winkler for the single two-year seat.

However, a flawed ballot had these three candidates vying for the two four-year seats, and offered no candidate for the two-year seat. The results were 673 votes for Morrison, 415 for Winkler and 332 for Mayville for the four-year term, with 159 write-ins for the two-year term.

Until the write-ins are counted, it’s unclear who will take the two-year term. If it is Winkler, she will have the choice to pick a two- or  four-year term length. If she picks the four-year seat, the Town Board will appoint someone to a one-year term and, next year, there will be another election for the remaining year on that seat.


Pine Plains

In Pine Plains, Republican Town Supervisor Brian Walsh, Town Clerk Madelin DaFoe, who was endorsed by both Republicans and Democrats, ran unopposed.

In the Town Board contest, Democrats Jeanine Sisco and Kevin Walsh overcame Republicans James Smith and Paul Murphy. In the race for Pine Plains superintendent of highways, incumbent Democrat Carl Baden easily overcame Republican challenger Lisa Ambrose 75.87% to 23.88%.

In the election of town justice, Pine Plains voters selected Richard Brenner, a former deputy sheriff and a real estate agent, with 54.19%. He defeated Democratic attorney Stella Isaza with 45.56%. 


Towns of Amenia, Washington, and Stanford

In Dutchess County Legislative District 25—which includes Amenia, Washington, Pleasant Valley and Millbrook—incumbent Republican Deirdre Houston defeated Democrat Nallely Hanna 57.93% to 42.03%.

In the race for Amenia town supervisor, Leo Blackman seems to have defeated longtime town supervisor, Republican Victoria Perotti, by 29 votes. The last-minute write-in campaign led by Munawar Ahmed received 123 votes.

In the race for two seats on the Amenia Town Board, Republican Paul Winters edged out longtime incumbent Vicki Doyle by just eight votes, 533 to 541. Democrat and former schoolteacher Rosanna Hamm received 638 votes, secured a place on the board.

The Town of Washington remained solidly Republican, with Town Clerk Christine Briggs, Town Justice Carol Poles, and highway Superintendent Joseph Spagnola all running unopposed. In the Town Board election for two seats, Republican incumbents Joseph Rochfort and Robert Audia easily overcame Adam Brandow, the only Democrat running for office.

In Stanford, Democrat Town Supervisor Wendy Burton won her third two-year term over Republican Bill Harkleroad by 12.2%, or 159 votes. 

The contest for the two Town Board seats tipped toward Democrats Julia Descoteaux and Eric Haims, who together won 1,307 votes over Republicans Adrienne Zetterberg’s and Joe Colclough’s combined 1,228.


Dutchess County

In countywide elections, only two incumbents ran for office. Republican Brad Kendall, county clerk since 2007, beat Kenya Gadsden for the second time, 53.57% to 46.38%. Unofficial results indicate that incumbent Family Court Judge Joseph Egitto has edged out Democrat James Rogers 50.61% to 49.33%, with strong support on the Conservative Party line.

In the hotly contested race to replace Republican William Grady after four decades as county District Attorney, Democrat Anthony Parisi beat Republican Matthew Weishaupt 51.66% to 48.29%.

Countywide, all four Democratic candidates for the New York Supreme Court, District 19, were elected, with Francesca Connolly garnering the most votes—including, curiously, on the Conservative ballot line, though they did not need those votes to win.

Although not incumbent, well-known former State Sen. Sue Serino, with strong support from the Republican Committee, easily defeated political first-timer Democrat Tommy Zurhellen, 56.61% to 43.33%.

Following his loss, Zurhellen posted on his website, “I hope my campaign inspires other folks to get involved and pursue a life of public service.”


Absentee ballots postmarked through Tuesday, Nov. 7 will be counted on Tuesday, Nov. 14. The names of write-in candidates, important in elections in Amenia and the Town of North East, will be tabulated later.

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