TOWN OF HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The race for Hempstead town supervisor remained too close to call early Wednesday afternoon.
Republican challenger Donald Clavin, currently the town’s receiver of taxes, has declared victory over Democratic incumbent Laura Gillen, appearing to return the country’s largest township — with a population bigger than Boston and Newark — back to GOP control.
“You know what? The campaign was what it was, and it was on both sides,” Clavin told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan. “People want to move past that. They don’t want that anymore. They want the government working together. And I’m looking forward to that.
“I made a lot of commitments and we are going to deliver them and we are going to start on day one,” Clavin added.
Gillen has not conceded, saying she’s choosing instead to let things play out.
“I respect the democratic process and want to make sure each and every vote is properly counted,” Gillen said.
Less than 1,500 votes separate the candidates, and Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs told a crowd of supporters on Tuesday night there are 5,500 absentee ballots outstanding.
Due to those factors, “I am not prepared to ask the candidate to concede,” Jacobs said.
The Democrats said they hope to get a final tally on the absentee ballots soon.
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Two years ago, Gillen became Hempstead’s first Democratic town supervisor in more than 100 years. On Election Day, she promoted her platform of ridding the town of a century of “political patronage pay-to-play.”
“Bloated salaries and bloated patronage, high executive level staffing and payroll — that’s where all the money went, and the residents are being cheated,” she said.
Hours before the polls closed, some voters reported official-looking Republican mailings and messages had them confused about taxes, reassessment, and who’s responsible, McLogan reported.
“It’s rampant corruption and they are stealing from the taxpayers and that’s what I’ve been trying to end,” Gillen said.
Voters told McLogan the strain on their wallets likely played a big role in the election’s apparent outcome.
“I think in the end, yes, taxes a big issue here,” one person said.
“We pay a lot of taxes and want to see a more efficient government,” another person said.
WATCH: Everything You Need To Know For Election Day 2019
The race was closely watched, as explained by Larry Levy, Hofstra University’s executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies. Republicans think that a win in Hempstead could set them up to retake control of the state Senate next year, setting the stage for the re-election of President Donald Trump.
“Long Island is what you could call the quintessential suburban swing county, and it’s the suburbs that decide national elections. So we’re going to get a chance, an advanced look, at the 2020 race,” he told CBSN New York.
— New York GOP (@NewYorkGOP) November 6, 2019
The New York GOP tweeted congratulations to Clavin, saying, “Republicans win back the largest town in the country in this important suburban battleground for 2020.”