By Rashed Mian and Christopher Twarowski
Former Democratic Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi defeated New York State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury) in the most closely watched Congressional race on Long Island Tuesday night, winning the seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington).
Suozzi, a two-term county exec and ex-Glen Cove city mayor, ran on a platform championing the middle class, gun control, job creation and clean energy, painting himself as an environmentalist and ethics reformer who had challenged the status quo in Albany with his so-called “Fix Albany” initiative. He will represent New York’s Third Congressional District, which spans northeastern Queens, the North Shore of Nassau County and northwestern Suffolk.
Suozzi defeated Martins 48 to 44 percent, according to unofficial election results tallied by the New York State Board of Elections. The other four incumbent members of Congress that represent Long Island all won re-election.
Martins, a three-term state senator, former Mineola village mayor and self-professed fiscal conservative, ran on a platform centered around repealing Obamacare, but he also pledged to fight for issues important to Long Islanders, such as protecting the region’s precious waterways. Martins gave up his seat to run, but now, according to news reports, he’s being touted as a likely Republican candidate for Nassau County executive. Replacing Martins in Albany will be Elaine Phillips, Republican mayor of Flower Hill Village, who edged out Democrat Adam Haber.
The four additional Congressional races on LI turned out as expected. U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) handily defeated Suffolk County Legis. DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville), the presiding officer of the legislature; U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) easily overcame a challenge from Democrat Anna Throne-Holst, the ex-Southampton Town Supervisor; U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) successfully won her first re-election bid over Republican challenger David Gurfein; and U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens), whose district includes a sliver of western Nassau County, secured a 10th term over Republican Michael O’Reilly of Queens.
Earlier this year Israel, who had held his seat since 2001, announced his decision to retire so he could pursue a career as a novelist and author. He’s published his first novel, a political satire called The Global War on Morris, in 2014.
While Suozzi was Nassau County executive in 2006, he launched an ill-fated gubernatorial Democratic candidacy against then-New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who later left the governor’s mansion in scandal. In 2009, Suozzi lost his re-election bid in a nail-biter to Ed Mangano, who was a Republican legislator. Then in 2013, Suozzi tried to regain his old post by running against Mangano but this time the incumbent Republican won decisively. Now Mangano is embattled, having recently been arrested with his wife Linda on federal corruption charges in a bribery scheme.
Celebrating his election night victory at the Milleridge Inn in Jericho, Suozzi reportedly told the crowd, “Everybody loves a comeback story.”
More than $1.2 million in outside money had been spent by both sides in this contest, according to news reports.
“The results are in and unfortunately we’ve come up short,” said Martins in his concession statement. “I congratulate Tom Suozzi on a hard-fought victory and wish him well.”