Ex-Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi and U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens) won Long Island Democratic congressional primaries Tuesday, but a third local race on the East End was too close to call, according to unofficial results.
Suozzi, of Glen Cove, declared victory with 36 percent of the vote in the crowded field of five Democrats seeking to replace outgoing U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), who’s not seeking re-election. Meeks, who represents part of western Nassau and eastern Queens, easily fended off Democratic challenger Ali Mirza, a publicist and county worker from Elmont. But hours after the polls had closed, former Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst held only a slim 29-vote lead over opponent David Calone, a former federal prosecutor turned venture capitalist from Setauket.
“We are waiting for all votes to be counted, but are proud to have a lead at the end of election night,” Throne-Holst said in a statement. “We are confident going forward that victory will be ours now… and in November.”
The winner in this race will face freshman U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who represents New York’s First Congressional District, which includes the five East End towns and the Town of Brookhaven. The absentee and other paper ballots will be counted in the coming days before the Suffolk County Board of Elections certifies a winner. Throne-Holst had 5,446 votes over Calone’s 5,417, according to the unofficial early returns.
“While we won’t know the final results until the roughly 1700 absentee votes are counted next week,” Calone said in a statement, “the current 29-vote margin represents a victory of the volunteer grassroots. We did not have Wall Street fundraisers, and we did not have $720,000 of SuperPAC funding poured in for us in the last three weeks, but here we are in a virtual tie.”
He said the stakes this fall are high. “Our Congressman, Lee Zeldin, is a proud defender of Donald Trump, who voted to defund Planned Parenthood and voted against prohibiting people on the terrorist watch list from buying guns,” Calone told his supporters.
Even before the voting was over, Zeldin’s campaign team was urging his supporters to donate to the Congressman’s war chest. “We need your help to fight back against the dishonest, negative attacks sure to come from our liberal Democratic opponent,” read their email. That race is expected to be one of the costliest Congressional contests in the country.
Back in Nassau, Suozzi thanked his cheering supporters at Ben’s Kosher Delicatessen Restaurant & Caterers in Greenvale.
“If I win this race in November, I’ll be the only Italian-American Congressman in all of New York State,” he said, before predicting he’ll win on Election Day and taking issue with the increasingly combative tone of national politics.
Suozzi, who was narrowly unseated by Republican Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano in 2009 and later resoundingly lost a rematch, beat term-limited Suffolk County Legis. Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills), former Nassau Interim Finance Authority Chairman Jon Kaiman, North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck) and Jonathan Clarke, an attorney from Jericho. That race is for New York’s Third Congressional District, which includes northwestern Suffolk, northern Nassau and northeastern Queens.
With almost all the returns counted, Suozzi had about 36 percent of the primary electorate, or 6,532 votes. His nearest rivals, Stern and Kaiman, both had about 22.1 percent. Stern got 4,069 votes and Kaiman had 4,060 votes. Kaplan garnered 2,815 votes. Clarke, who spent less than $5,000 compared to the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by his opponents, came up with 909.
Adding to the backstory in the 3rd CD race were the candidates’ competing endorsements. Rep. Israel threw his weight behind his protégé, Legis. Stern. Israel’s predecessor in the district, former Congressman Gary Ackerman, supported Kaiman, who also got the backing of Jon Cooper, the ex-majority leader of the Suffolk Legislature. Suozzi wound up getting the nod from current Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, which reportedly may have helped him do well there. In the 1st CD, Throne-Holst had the endorsement of ex-Rep. Tim Bishop, whom Zeldin had defeated in 2014.
Barring any legal surprises, Suozzi is expected to face New York State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) on Election Day. Before Tuesday’s primary, Philip “Flip” Pidot, a Nassau Republican, had tried to get on the ballot to challenge Martins, but his petitions were thrown out by a judge. After Pidot appealed, Nassau Supreme Court Justice Arthur Diamond ruled in his favor. But it was too late for him to get his name printed on the June 28 ballot. Pidot is suing to have another primary date set later this summer. Meanwhile, Martins welcomed Suozzi to the race even before Suozzi declared victory.
“There is no shortage of issues which require solutions,” Martins said in a statement. “I look forward to discussing these issues over the coming months…With the primaries completed, I look forward to facing Tom Suozzi in November.”
Meeks will face Republican Michael O’Reilly and Green Party candidate Frank Francois in the general election.
With Spencer Rumsey