Francesca Hagadus-McHale did something Tuesday night that no Democrat had accomplished in the last 30 years – win a seat on the Mount Pleasant Town Board.
Hagadus-McHale comfortably defeated Republican Anthony Amiano (8,364-6,951) in a special election, breaking through against decades-long GOP dominance in town races. The special election was necessitated after former councilman Mark Rubeo was appointed town justice last spring. Amiano was appointed to the board to fill the seat until Election Day.
“I believe in the hard work of campaigning,” Hagadus-McHale said. “I believe you need to speak to every voter and be at every event with a big smile on your face and get out there and talk to them and talk on the phone with them.”
Since the election was to determine who would complete Rubeo’s unexpired term, she will be forced to run next November for a full four-year term in order to keep her seat. She plans to run again next year.
Hagadus-McHale, 65, a Pleasantville resident who retired after a long career as a foreign language teacher in the Chappaqua School District, said she made a special effort to reach out to residents in the town’s villages of Pleasantville, Sleepy Hollow and Briarcliff Manor to attract voters, many of whom typically haven’t participated in the off-year town elections.
But she also said that she tried to appeal to as many residents as possible throughout the town where the three hamlets of Thornwood, Hawthorne and Valhalla each carry a strong identity.
“They should have an identity but not a less than or more than identity,” Hagadus-McHale said. “We are one town and we should make it one town and share the joy of being in a great town.”
When reached Wednesday morning, Amiano said there were several factors that led to his defeat, including Democrats having coattails from their electoral successes in Westchester County.
“I think there were a lot of factors. Clearly, they had the headwinds,” he said. He also added the Democrats in town “were motivated and engaged.”
“I’m very proud of the campaign we ran,” Amiano said.
Amiano, had previously served on the Valhalla Board of Education for four years before resigning that post when he was appointed to the vacant Town Board seat.
Hagadus-McHale will now have to work with the four Republicans on the Town Board. Although she acknowledged that being a Democrat this year helped her get elected, governing at the local level shouldn’t be about party, she said.
“I’m sure the board will be as collegial as they can be,” Hagadus-McHale said. “It doesn’t look good if they can’t and I’m going to hope that we can all work together.”
Early Tuesday morning, a Board of Elections snafu sent the ballots and machines intended for the Briarcliff High School polling site to a site in Valhalla and vice versa. It took the elections workers about three hours to correct the problem, forcing the public during the first few hours to cast votes by affidavit.
Amiano said once those votes are counted, he would still be unable to catch his opponent.
Neal Rentz contributed to this article.