Phillips Wins, Venditto Too Close to Call as NY Senate Majority in Play


Republican Elaine Phillips beat Democrat Adam Haber to win an open New York State Senate seat, but an incumbent Republican Long Island State Senator may lose his—and that could potentially tip the balance of power in that Albany chamber, giving Democrats the majority.

Phillips, the 56-year-old Flower Hill village mayor, beat Haber, a 49-year-old businessman, Roslyn school board member and former Nassau Interim Finance Authority director, by a margin of 48 to 45 percent, according to unofficial results tallied by the New York State Board of Elections. Democratic challenger John Brooks, a 66-year-old insurance executive from Seaford, had a 33-vote lead over 33-year-old freshman State Sen. Michael Veniditto (R-Massapequa) in a race that will go to a recount, results show. The other seven incumbent New York State Senators representing LI were all re-elected, although a local longtime incumbent faces a close call, results show.

“With thousands of votes remaining uncounted in multiple State Senate races, we expect more Democratic candidates to win when all New Yorkers’ voices are heard,” said Mike Murphy, State Senate Democratic caucus spokesman. “Multiple candidates remain in races too close to call, including John Brooks. When all the votes are counted, we expect that a majority of the sitting senators will be Democrats and look forward to everyone in the state Democratic party working together to establish a working Democratic majority.”

State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Smithtown) was confident that the 63-member chamber would remain in GOP control, at least with their current one-vote lead.

“Tonight, we have grown our majority in the New York State Senate,” he said in a statement.

Haber has not publicly conceded the race, so it is unclear if his campaign believes they can overcome the 4,161-vote loss in a recount. Based on the early returns, Phillips is slated to replace outgoing three-term state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury), who ran a losing bid for Congress instead of seeking re-election this year. This was Haber’s second bid for Martins’ seat after unsuccessfully running for county executive.

Phillips will represent state Senate district seven, which includes the northwestern corner of Nassau. Twice in the past decade, the district has played a role in changing which party holds the majority in the state Senate.

After state Sen. Michael Balboni (R-East Willison) left that district seat to lead the state Office of Public Safety, then-Nassau Legis. Craig Johnson (D-Port Washington) won a 2007 special election to replace Balboni. When Republican candidates lost several other state Senate seats in the following year’s elections, Democrats won the majority for the first time in decades. Then, in 2010, Martins’ ousted Johnson, helping return the state Senate majority to the GOP.

Two years later, Democrats again won a majority of New York State Senate seats, but a breakaway group known as the Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC) joined forces with the Republicans to keep the majority in GOP control in a power-sharing arrangement. That alliance ended in 2014 when Republicans and the GOP preserved their majority by recruiting one Brooklyn Democrat to their side. Leaders of the seven-member have reportedly been coy about whether they will reform a partnership with the GOP if Democrats win the State Senate majority in this election, although Flanagan hinted that they would.

“Along with our partners in the IDC, Senate Republicans will continue to lead the way,” Flanagan said, suggesting that he is planning for the possibility that that Republicans may lose the majority and need the IDC’s help again.

The local race most notably in play involves Venditto’s eighth State Senate district, which includes southeast Nassau and southwest Suffolk. The senator’s father, Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges last month. His son is not charged in connection with that case.

Besides the possibility of Brooks unseating Venditto, Democrats are hopeful that they can unseat 10-term State Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset), 73, who has a slim 2,425-vote lead over James Gaughran, the 59-year-old Suffolk County Water Authority chairman from Northport. Marcellino’s fifth state Senate district includes the North Shore of western Suffolk and eastern Nassau.

There is currently only one Democratic State Senator representing the region. State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), 38, is a former state Assemblyman and ex-federal prosecutor who replaced disgraced State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) in April. Skelos, who represented State Senate district nine in the southwestern corner of Nassau, was expelled from office last year upon his corruption conviction, which he’s appealing. Kaminski was re-elected with 48 percent of the vote over Republican Chris McGrath, a 57-year-old lawyer from Hewlett who was seeking a rematch from the special election, results show.

Flanagan, 55, succeeded Skelos as head of the chamber’s GOP caucus. Flanagan won his eighth term with 58 percent of the vote to fend off a challenge from Democrat Peter Magistrale, a 25-year-old accountant from Saint James, and Libertarian candidate Stephen Ruth, 42, of Centereach, who is known as the “Red Light Robin Hood” because he’s facing prison time for vandalizing red light cameras in Suffolk. Flanagan represents State Senate district two, which includes the North Shore of central Suffolk.

There were no surprises in the other five state Senate races on LI. State Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), 77, won his 21st term with 61 percent of the vote to beat 58-year-old Gregory-John Fischer, a perennial candidate from Calverton running on the Democratic line. LaValle’s first state Senate district includes the entire East End and part of Brookhaven town.

Freshman state Sen. Tom Croci (R-Sayville), 44, won his second term with 53 percent of the vote over Democratic challenger John DeVito, a 25-year-old law student from Mastic Beach, and Joseph Fritz, 71, a former Brentwood school board member who ran on the Women’s Equality Party line. Croci’s represents the third state Senate district, which includes the South Shore of central Suffolk.

State Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore), 53, won his third term with 56 percent of the vote over Democratic challenger John Alberts, a 32-year-old Suffolk elections clerk from North Babylon. Boyle’s fourth state Senate district includes the southwest corner of Suffolk.

And finally, State Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City), 70, won his 16th term with 49 percent of the vote over Ryan Cronin, a 35-year-old lawyer from Garden City who sought a rematch after trying to unseat Hannon four years ago. Hannon’s sixth state Senate district includes central-western Nassau.