Although the results are far from official, Nassau County Democrats say that John E. Brooks unseated freshman New York State Sen. Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa), the son of Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, who recently pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges.
The outcome is significant because it would give the Democratic Party a slight majority in the State Senate. As of now, both parties have 31 seats in the 63-seat chamber. But in actuality, state Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) already caucuses with the Republicans, which keeps State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Smithtown) in control by a one-vote margin. Also in play is the seven-member Independent Democratic Conference, a group that often sides with the GOP but has yet to say which way it will align next year.
When the election ended Nov. 8, Brooks led by 33 votes. After the paper absentee ballots were counted Wednesday night—some 6,100 in Nassau and 1,300 in Suffolk—his margin had increased to 41.
The next step will be taken in Nassau State Supreme Court before Judge Thomas Adams, who will rule on challenges to the remaining ballots. The Republicans say that 750 Democratic ballots are invalid, while the Democrats are objecting to 360 Republican ballots.
“This is only one part of the process and there are still more than a thousand ballots to be examined beginning next week under the supervision of a judge,” said Scott Rief, a Senate Republican spokesman, in a statement. “Despite an effort by the Democrats to shut this down prematurely, this race is far from over.”
Democrats remain confident they won.
“Everything that could have been counted was counted,” claimed an official in the Nassau Board of Elections who was not authorized to speak, noting that the Democrats’ challenges were “significantly lower” than the Republicans’. “The number that Republicans objected to is too huge. When all was said and done, Mr. Brooks was ahead. And that’s the direction the race is headed in.”
The Democratic nominee didn’t wait for the results to be finalized before declaring victory.
“I am humbled and honored to be the next State Senator from the 8th District,” said Brooks in a statement. “For far too long, elected officials have used their positions to line their pockets at the taxpayers’ expense.
“In our campaign, we focused on reforming the way public education is funded, eliminating corruption and alleviating the excessive property tax burden now being faced by far too many New Yorkers,” he continued. “I will work hard each and every day putting the needs of Long Island families above everything else.”
Nassau Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs seconded his affirmation.
“With counting of absentee ballots now nearly concluded, it is clear that John Brooks will be the next State Senator from New York’s 8th District,” said Jacobs in a statement. “I urge the Board of Elections to move swiftly to certify the results so that the people of the South Shore in Eastern Nassau and Western Suffolk are properly represented in Albany. The time for campaigning and politics is over, and it is now time to govern.”
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens), the Senate Democrats’ chief political strategist, was confident the results would hold up—and he’d soon be joined by a new colleague in Albany.
“He’s up by 41 and the objections were twice as many on the Republican side as on the Democratic side,” Gianaris told The Press, “so there’s virtually no chance that the Republicans can catch up at this point. In fact, Brooks’ lead is likely to grow when this gets to court.”
But what does Brooks’ unofficial victory really mean for his party’s control? Gianaris demurred.
“It means we have 32 Democrats elected to the state Senate, which is a majority of the senate composition,” he replied. “That’s all I’m going to say right now. The people have made it clear they want a Democratic majority in the senate by electing 32 Democrats.”
Meanwhile, Democrats’ hopes of picking up another Republican seat from Long Island seem much dimmer. State Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Oyster Bay) holds a lead of more than 1,500 votes over his Democratic challenger, James Gaughran, the Suffolk Water Authority chairman. That recount is just getting underway.