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    Monday, March 04, 2024

    UPDATED: Unofficial results show Cunningham leading East Lyme first selectman race

    East Lyme Democratic first selectman candidate Dan Cunningham greets friends as they wait for election results at Lyme Tavern on Tuesday Nov. 7, 2023. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    East Lyme Republican first selectman candidate Anne Santoro and others watch as results are written down at Flanders Fish Market on Tuesday Nov. 7, 2023. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    East Lyme Democratic first selectman candidate Dan Cunningham greets friends as they wait for election results at Lyme Tavern on Tuesday Nov. 7, 2023. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    East Lyme ― Unofficial totals late Tuesday night showed Democrat Dan Cunningham with a 93-vote lead over Republican Anne Santoro in the first selectman’s race.

    The mood had been tense at Flanders Fish Market as Republicans waited for absentee ballots to come in a contest that was too close to call.

    There was tacit acknowledgment that for the first time in 16 years there would likely not be a Republican in the first selectman’s seat.

    With the results of more than 300 absentee ballots unavailable until 10:30 p.m., it was unclear if the close race would require a recount.

    Based on initial machine vote tallies, Cunningham was ahead 2,550 votes to Santoro’s 2,522 ― a difference of 28 votes. Absentee votes added 189 votes for Cunningham and 126 for Santoro, widening the gap to 93.

    State statute says a recount is triggered when the difference is less than 20 votes or 0.5% of the total number of votes for that office.

    East Lyme election officials said half a percent would set the threshold for a recount at 27 or fewer votes.

    Santoro, after conferring with election officials at the office of the registrar of voters after the absentee ballots were tallied, said she would wait for official numbers in the morning to find out how close the race is and how to proceed.

    Cunningham, a lawyer in town since 1996, is a four-term selectman.

    Santoro, the current deputy first selectman, was an attorney at the Smithsonian Institution’s contracting and procurement office as well as for the municipalities of Milford and Greenwich. She is not currently practicing law.

    The winner will take over on Dec. 4 from outgoing Republican First Selectman Kevin Seery.

    Tentative results without the absentee ballots pointed to a new Democratic majority on the Zoning Commission, with Democrat-endorsed candidates Nancy Kalal, Denise Markovitz and Gary Pivo ahead of Republican incumbents Anne Thurlow and Mike Schmitt. Thurlow is the current chair.

    Republicans held a bare majority on the Zoning Commission prior to the election.

    Results for the Board of Selectman race were also incomplete without the absentee ballots. There were six candidates for five seats, with Democrat Anthony Attanasio the lowest vote-getter.

    Santoro around 10 a.m. told her supporters they could “hold their heads high, whatever the result is.”

    She thanked them for an honest, forthright campaign.

    “We never took the low road,” she said.

    e.regan@theday.com

    Editor’s note: This article was updated to correct the final quote and the affiliaton of Anthony Attanasio.

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