Political newcomer Taylor Raynor declared victory in her Democratic primary challenge against Deputy Assembly Speaker Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead) in a stunning upset, but the 30-year incumbent did not concede the race.
Raynor had 52 percent of the vote with an about 600-vote margin, according to unofficial early returns provided by the Nassau County Board of Elections late Thursday. It was not immediately clear how many absentee and affidavit ballots still need to be counted in that race.
“Never underestimate the power of the people against the people in power,” said a spokesman for Raynor’s campaign. Nassau Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs called it a “big win for the people of the 18th Assembly District.”
The race was among the most-watched on Long Island ever since Hooper shockingly likened Raynor to a slave to white power brokers. Both women are black, as is much of the district. The comments led Jacobs to back Raynor, a psychologist and community activist, over Hooper, the fourth in command of the state Assembly. Days before the primary it got even uglier.
“Taylor Raynor is not a Democrat and only pretends to be one for this race,” a Hooper backer wrote in an anonymous letter to some Democrats in the district. “She is a blank…wonder what ‘favor’ Jay Jacobs the party chairman got from her to be a Democrat in this race. Do not be fooled by this loose Jezebel that has two kids and no husband! She wants to make us all learn Spanish!”
The letter goes on to tout Hooper’s church involvement, her role in keeping Stop & Shop from leaving Hempstead and warns that “Jesus sees your vote!” Hooper reportedly denied involvement in sending the letter.
Regardless of the primary results, Hooper will still be on ballots in the general election on the Working Families Party, Women’s Equality Party and Reform Party lines. James Lamarre is the Republican and Conservative candidate in that race. The district is largely Democratic.
In the other closely watched races on LI, Family Court Judge Theresa Whelan, the Democratic nominee for Surrogate Court Judge, beat challenger Tara Scully, a Republican whose father is a deputy county executive.
The race has been described by political observers as a proxy power battle between Suffolk County Democratic Chairman Richard Shaffer and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. Since the job involves overseeing wills and handling the estates of those who die without one — cases that can involve appointing administrators to liquidate or disperse millions of dollars worth of assets — it is among the most coveted posts in the local judiciary. Whelan and Scully will face each other again on Election Day.
At the top of the ticket, Gov. Andrew Cuomo beat Democratic primary challenger and Sex and The City actress Cynthia Nixon as the governor advances his bid for a third term. Cuomo’s top deputy, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, won over her challenger, New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn).
In the second-most watched statewide primary of the day, party nominee and New York City Public Advocate Letitia James fended off three challengers: perennial candidate Zephyr Teachout, U.S. Rep. Patrick Maloney (D-Cold Spring) and attorney Leecia Eve.
In other Nassau County primaries, in Long Beach’s 20th Assembly District, business owner Juan Vides beat Democratic nominee and insurance attorney Jack Vobis by about 300 votes, early returns show. Vides will now try to unseat freshman Assemb. Melissa Miller (R-Atlantic Beach).
And in Nassau’s lone GOP primary, retired NYPD detective James Coll lost a challenge to freshman Assemb. John Mikulin (R-Bethpage) in the 17th district, which covers the central portion of the county.
Across the county line, in Suffolk’s lone GOP primary, Assemb. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) trounced challenger Mike Yacubich with 80 percent of the vote on the North Fork. And in central Suffolk, Assemb. Philip Ramos (D-Bay Shore), the deputy majority leader, survived a Democratic primary challenge from Maxima Castro.
Hooper wasn’t the only state legislative leader to face loss at the polls Thursday. State Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Westchester), the former head of the once-powerful and recently disbanded Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC), lost his primary to challenger Alessandra Biaggi. Most of the former eight-member IDC suffered the same fate.
Attention now turns to Election Day, which falls on Nov. 6.
“The governor’s resounding victory is a huge win for the people of Suffolk County and the State of New York,” Bellone said in a statement. “With Democratic turnout at historic levels, our attention now turns to electing a Democratic State Senate this November.”