Blue Wave Hits Tricky Political Waters on Long Island

A A driver participates in a pro-Trump demonstration on Long Island. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

The blue wave of Democratic victories pundits projected for Election Day became a slowly rising tide amid the snail’s pace of counting an unprecedented number of absentee ballots mailed in due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While the blue tide buoyed Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s victory and sank Republican Donald Trump’s bid for a second term in the White House, on Long Island the inflow fell short, as the GOP washed away one local Dem. 

“There were rumors of a blue wave and perhaps it occurred in some areas, but the state Democrats ran head first into a red brick wall here in Suffolk County,” said Jesse Garcia, chairman of the Suffolk County Republican Committee.

Election results on LI were not unlike those nationwide, which resulted in Democrats losing a few seats in their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and coming up short in flipping the U.S. Senate from GOP control — although a pair of run-off elections in Georgia come January will prove pivotal.

On the Island, New York State Sen. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood) was unseated by former Republican former Islip Town Tax Receiver Alexis Weik. Newly re-elected State Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) noted that Martinez’s seat was one of two statewide that the GOP flipped.

“No other county in the state has more than one Republican state senator,” Boyle added. “Suffolk has four.”

Weik, who said she “didn’t think it was going to happen,” listed her priorities as repealing bail reform, reinstituting the recently repealed state law that shielded police disciplinary records from public scrutiny, and supporting local businesses.

In the race to replace retiring longtime state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Stony Brook), state Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) beat Democrat Laura Ahearn, the executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Parents For Megan’s Law and The Crime Victims Center.

“With all the votes counted, it appears that our campaign to turn SD1 from red to blue for the first time in over 100 years will come up just short,” Ahearn said. “Though disappointed by the result, I am heartened to know that our work over these past months will ensure that the issues facing our community will continue to be front and center as we all strive to make Suffolk County the best place it can be.  I am very proud of the work we all did together as we were just 2.7 percentage points away from flipping this seat, by far the closest this race has been in decades.”

In the 2nd Senate District race to replace retired state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), the former GOP minority leader, Republican Mario Mattera, a plumbers union official, beat Democrat Michael Siderakis, a former state trooper and police union official.

State Sen. James Gaughran (D-Northport), state Sen. Kevin Thomas (D-Levittown), and U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) all saw heavily Democratic-leaning absentee ballots reverse GOP wins in the early returns on election night. And state Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino (R-Sayville) beat former Babylon Town Councilwoman Jackie Gordon, a Democrat, to keep the seat of retiring U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) in Republican hands.

In state Assembly races across the Island, incumbents were re-elected, despite some close calls from state Assemblyman Steve Stern (D-Huntington), state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), and state Assemblywoman Judy Griffin (D-Rockville Centre). Republicans also held open GOP Assembly seats with Riverhead Town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio winning Palumbo’s seat, Garbarino’s chief of staff Jarett C. Gandolfo winning his boss’s seat, and attorney Keith Brown winning a seat vacated by former state Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-Huntington). 

Democrats held an open Assembly seat when Gina Sillitti, who’s worked in Nassau and Town of North Hempstead government, beat Republican GOP yogurt business owner Ragini Srivastava to win the post held by retiring state Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso (D-New Hyde Park).

Despite the tricky political undercurrents at play in races on LI, Democrats surged in the State Legislature. State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) said Albany’s upper chamber will have a supermajority, meaning it has the power to potentially override Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s veto.

“In 2021, we will begin our session with a historic supermajority,” Stewart-Cousins told reporters on Nov. 23. “And it will also be the biggest Senate majority conference in the history of New York state.”

Republicans remain optimistic that they can turn the tide and regain the state Senate majority in the next election cycle for state legislators. 

“In two years I hope we can get the Senate back,” Palumbo said.

Chairman Garcia agreed, predicting more flipped Democratic seats.

“Monica Martinez is the first of many to fall on Long Island,” Garcia said. 

But Democrats maintain voters will soon return Martinez to Albany.

“Monica Martinez will be back, if I have anything to do with it,” Jay Jacobs, who chairs the New York State and Nassau County Democratic committees, told the Press. “Her district has lost a great senator — for now.”

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Democrat Gina Sillitti, not Republican Ragini Srivastava, won the seat held by retiring state Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso (D-New Hyde Park).

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