Red Wave Brings Political Sea Change on Long Island

Bruce Blakeman declares victory in the race for Nassau County Executive on Nov. 2, 2021. (Photo by Bruce Adler)

Republicans reclaimed elected positions across Nassau and Suffolk counties on Election Day, but while some Democrats saw the heavy losses as reason for soul searching, others set their sights on higher office.

As Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini— both first-term Democrats — prepare to vacate office at the end of the month to Republicans Bruce Blakeman and Ray Tierney, respectively, U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) in November threw his hat into the New York State 2022 Democratic gubernatorial primary race. And that’s only some of the executive-level races — even more changes further down ballot happened this cycle and are possibilities for next year if the so-called red wave of surging GOP voter turnout continues into the congressional midterm elections.

“I think that people are concerned about Covid in the economy, they’re concerned about property taxes, they’re concerned about income taxes, they’re concerned about crime,” Suozzi said while announcing his bid for the Democratic line against Gov. Kathy Hochul, New York State Attorney General Letitia James, and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. The winner of the primary will presumably face another LI congressman: U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), the GOP frontrunner in a race in disarray after ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned this summer amid allegations that he sexually harassed 11 women.

The GOP also flipped this cycle open seats in the Nassau district attorney and comptroller races, as Republican voters surged across New York State and the nation a year after Democrats won the White House and Congress.


Besides Curran being ousted, Republicans also flipped two open executive level seats in Nassau that were previously held by Democrats but the incumbent did not seek re-election.

Republican Anne Donnelly, a longtime county prosecutor, won the race for Nassau County District Attorney over New York State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach). Donnelly, who had worked in the Nassau County District Attorney’s office for 32 years before retiring in September, would be the first Republican to hold the Nassau District Attorney seat in 16 years, when Dennis Dillon left office. Acting District Attorney Joyce A. Smith has held the post since former Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas was appointed to the state Court of Appeals earlier this year.

“I am excited to get to work and make a difference,” Donnelly said on election night. Kaminsky plans to run for re-election as senator next year.

And Republican former state Senator Elaine Philips also won the Nassau comptroller’s contest against Democrat Ryan Cronin for the seat held by Jack Schnirman, who declined to run for re-election.

Further down the ticket, first-time candidate Republican Mazi Melesa Pilip unseated four-term Nassau Legislator Ellen Birnbaum (D-Great Neck), bringing the GOP’s legislative majority to 12-7, one seat shy of a supermajority. And Jennifer S. DeSena, a Democrat who ran on the Republican line for the Town of North Hempstead supervisor, gave the GOP its first win in three decades for that town’s top post after incumbent Democrat Judi Bosworth declined to run again.


Sini’s upset was even more surprising than Curran’s, given district attorneys’ tendency to hold office longer than most elected officials.

“I will fight every day to keep the citizens of Suffolk County safe,” Tierney told cheering supporters. “I will be fair and I will reach out to the community to develop relations so we can all have faith in our district attorney’s office.”

Tierney and Sini sparred on the campaign trail over hot-button issues such as how best to prosecute the MS-13 street gang, the ongoing opioid epidemic, and the impact of the state’s bail reform.

Adding to the drubbing was the fact that Republicans also flipped control of the Suffolk Legislature from Democratic hands for the first time in 16 years. Most startling, Presiding Officer Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) lost re-election to Republican challenger Dominick Thorne. Suffolk Legislator Susan Berland (D-Dix Hills) was unseated by Republican Manuel Esteban Sr. and the GOP’s Stephanie Bontempi beat Democratic Huntington Town Councilman Mark Cuthbertson in the race to replace outgoing Legislator Dr. William Spencer (D-Centerport), who declined to seek re-election after being arrested for allegedly trading pills for sex.

Republicans also flipped the Shelter Island Town board from Democratic hands, but on the North Fork, Democrats tied the six-member Southold Town Board by picking up two vacant GOP seats there, something that hasn’t happened in decades. 

“Southold has been becoming increasingly Democratic in the past few years, but we also engaged the electorate,” says Kathryn Casey Quigley, who chairs the Southold Town Democratic Committee.

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