Democrats will maintain their majority in the Suffolk County Legislature after winning at least 12 of 18 seats -- including some originally considered toss-ups -- late Tuesday night.
The election results ensure that County Executive Steve Bellone, a Democrat, will continue to enjoy limited resistance to his agenda the next two years, as he approaches the end of his first term in office. He also will keep his veto-proof majority.
Democrats and their minor party allies now enjoy a 12-5 advantage, with one vacancy. One race to determine whether that majority rises to 13-5, or settles at 12-6, remained too close to call late Tuesday night.
"We're cautiously optimistic," Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer said. "It's going to be close, but I definitely expect that we will keep our majority, if not all 13 seats."
Most notably, Democrats retained one of two hotly contested South Shore seats that their incumbents have vacated, or will vacate. In the 8th District, where longtime Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook) served until his death in September, his son, William J. Lindsay III, a Bohemia insurance broker, beat Republican Anthony Musumeci, an engineering company manager.
But in the 14th District -- which includes Bellone's home -- Democrat Thomas E. Dolan, a financial planner, trailed Republican Kevin J. McCaffrey, Lindenhurst's deputy mayor, by about 500 votes to succeed departing Legis. Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon).
"I know we're still counting the votes, but they're coming in our way," McCaffrey said. "We haven't had this seat since 1987."
Other battleground districts -- where just 2 percentage points separated candidates in 2011 -- went to Democrats more handily this time.
In the North Shore's 6th District, Legis. Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) outlasted Republican attorney Jennifer Juengst, 48, of Shoreham. Both candidates had touted work as civic leaders and environmental activists.
And Freshman Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) beat back a GOP challenge in the South Shore's 7th District from attorney John Halverson, 44, also of Patchogue.
Huntington's 18th District had Legis. William "Doc" Spencer (D-Centerport), a pediatric surgeon, defeating Republican Robert Conte, 48, of Huntington Station. Conte is the brother of the late Assemb. James D. Conte, and had said his experience running a small business would help him examine county finances. Spencer had pointed to accomplishments bolstering environmental protections.
In another race of note, Democratic newcomer Monica Martinez ousted longtime Legis. Rick Montano (D-Brentwood) to represent the 9th District. Martinez, 36, a school administrator, had already beat Montano in September's Democratic primary, though the incumbent remained the Working Families Party candidate.
Because Montano is often critical of Bellone, he accused county Democratic leaders of engineering the successful primary challenge from Martinez, who is the sister of a Tony Martinez, a Babylon Town Board member with ties to Bellone.
Republicans, meanwhile, held on to their 13th District seat, which covers GOP-heavy northern Smithtown and is being vacated by term-limited Legis. Lynne Nowick of St. James. Suffolk police officer Rob Trotta, 51, of Kings Park, who won September's GOP primary, bested plumbers union agent Mario R. Mattera, 50, of St. James (who had the Independence Party line) and Democratic attorney Elaine A. Turley, 56, of Fort Salonga.
In less competitive races, Democrats kept the seats of Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk); Al Krupski of Cutchogue; Kate Browning (WF-Shirley); Kara Hahn of Setauket; DuWayne Gregory of Amityville; and Lou D'Amaro of North Babylon. Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) ran unopposed.
Republicans kept the contested seats of Thomas Muratore of Ronkonkoma and the legislative minority leader, John M. Kennedy Jr. of Nesconset. Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) and Thomas Barraga (R-West Islip) ran unopposed.
"We have to take that house back," said Suffolk GOP chairman John Jay LaValle. "We haven't had it in eight or nine years."
With Rick Brand and Mitchell Freedman