Numbers are close in Amenia’s GOP Primary Election

AMENIA — The Dutchess County Board of Elections (BOE) was collecting the last few absentee ballots for the Amenia Republican Primary that took place on Tuesday, June 22, one week later on Tuesday, June 29, at its office on Market Street in Poughkeepsie. A total of 24 absentees were mailed out for the primary, and as of noon on Monday, June 28, nine had been returned to the BOE. Election workers said they didn’t have a time line for counting the absentee ballots as of Monday, but might by later that afternoon; they didn’t.

The race was both contentious and close for those seeking the three slots on the Republican line on the ballot for the General Election come November. The candidates are hoping to serve on the Amenia Town Board come 2022. Some of the candidates also ran on additional party lines.

Ballots were cast exclusively at the Wassaic firehouse on the 22nd as it was only a primary, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t get exciting, with a candidate being challenged from voting on Election Day.

The town supervisor’s seat and two Town Board seats were up for grabs in the GOP Primary, along with two seats on the Dutchess County Republican Committee. The supervisor and committee posts hold two-year terms while the councilmember seats hold four-year terms.

Incumbent town Supervisor Victoria Perotti is seeking her fifth term in office and also ran on the Conservative line; she won with 114 votes out of a total of 221 ballots cast over opponent Julie Doran, who also ran on the independent Amenia Strong party line. Amenia Strong has ties with the Silo Ridge Field Club luxury development and has been connected to the development’s lawsuit fighting the town’s 2019 property reassessment. Doran, who works for Silo Ridge, is also suing the town with two other litigants regarding property values.

“I appreciate that voters came out and showed me the support that they did and also the other two Town Board candidates,” said Perotti. “I was delighted with the results. I put a lot of work into being supervisor and there are still other things I want to accomplish…  I think it also says that a lot of people have a lot of different opinions but basically the town residents do not want a takeover by a corporation of their Town Board.”

Incumbent Town Board member James Morris, who is seeking a second term, won with 122 out of a total of 221 votes cast; he ran only on the GOP line.

“I’m surprised Victoria didn’t win by more votes; people do not realize how much she does and how hard she works,” said Morris. “I didn’t know what to expect. This election had some issues… with the Amenia Strong and Silo Ridge thing, I kind of expected more people to be voting, so that was a surprise. It seems to me these people have a conflict of interest and I still believe that. I don’t know how you can run for the town you’re suing, and I still believe that… I’m a lawyer; I know what conflict of interest is all about.”

Newcomer Brad Rebillard fared second best, with 106 votes; he also ran on the Amenia Strong party line.

“The absentee ballots will be counted [Tuesday],” said Rebillard. “Too close to call at the moment. Remember, Amenia Strong is on the ballot in November. Based on how close the results were for Jamie, Julie and myself I’d say people definitely want change. A low voter turnout for the primary and our great results indicate we will do good in the election in November.”

Another newcomer, Jamie Vitiello, placed third with 105 votes; he also ran on the Amenia Strong ticket.

“It definitely was an interesting primary,” Vitiello said. “I think that the turnout was impressive for a single party primary in a town the size of Amenia… One thing I feel a little frustrated with is this ‘others’ [idea]; the principle argument against myself and Julie, too, is win the election for locals. What? Don’t I live here? When I got to the ballots, Sharon Kroeger objected to my even voting at all.”

In fact, Kroeger, a poll watcher for the Democrats, “challenged the vote of Vitiello based upon the fact that he has not adequately established residence in Amenia,” according to an email she sent to this newspaper following the primary. 

Because of the challenge, Vitiello had to swear under the threat of perjury that he was a legally registered voter in the town of Amenia, which both Democratic and Republican election inspectors verified before handing him a ballot and allowing him to vote. Kroeger’s claim was also vetted and negated by BOE Republican Commissioner Erik Haight. 

“I turned to my daughter and said, ‘This is the ugly side of democracy,’” Vitiello said.

Incumbent Michele Somogyi, who only ran as a Republican in the primary, came in last place with 101 votes.

The race for the Dutchess County Republican Committee garnered a total of 49 ballots, 19 of which were undervotes, meaning those 19 votes weren’t counted because of an unclear marking on the ballot by the voter. 

Incumbent committee member Mark Doyle was challenged by Jeanne Rebillard (wife of Town Board candidate Brad Rebillard) and Apostolis Stefanopoulos  for the two open seats on the committee. Doyle won one of the seats with 33 votes while Rebillard and Stefanopoulos were tied with 23 votes each. That tie could lead to a runoff if it’s not broken once the absentees are counted.

Until the absentee votes are tallied, the primary results will not be certified by the BOE — and the actual outcome could change as the numbers are quite close. The BOE stressed until then, the above numbers reflect the unofficial results. For more, go to www.elections.dutchessny.gov.

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