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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

DiNapoli results a warning for Nassau Dems

Undated file photo of State Comptroller Thomas P.

Undated file photo of State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Much as he is a Nassau native son, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has left behind the profile of a Long Island-based politician. Vote counts posted on election night, and some of the small corrections in those results that dripped out since, show why.

Democrat DiNapoli, of Great Neck Plaza, represented the 16th Assembly District in the Town of North Hempstead for 20 years before his 2007 appointment to the vacant comptroller's post.

In New York City on Nov. 2, in his first race for the office, he beat Republican Harry Wilson by about 21/2-1, according to final results - 240,232 votes to 99,817.

Not so, however, in his old Assembly district, where the well-seasoned DiNapoli came tantalizingly close to tying or losing to Wilson.

And what Nassau Democrats call DiNapoli's "underperformance" in his old stomping grounds signals their problem - not the comptroller's.

According to unofficial results, DiNapoli polled 19,680, or 50.3 percent, in the 16th A.D., to Wilson's 19,323. Final numbers, delayed by the recount in the larger 7th Senate District, won't change the picture much, both sides say.

To hear Sen. Craig Johnson's camp, North Hempstead Democratic strongholds, including the 16th A.D., proved to be weak-holds. They say listless Democratic turnout made the race what it was - a photo-finish of which Republican Mineola Mayor Jack Martins is the court-certified winner pending a last-ditch appeal. In case you doubt that local makes global, the Johnson-Martins outcome sets the difference between a GOP Senate majority and a 31-31 deadlock between the major parties.

Michael Tobman, a Johnson adviser, recalls last year's GOP-friendly election results in the town. Accountant Lee Tu, the Republican candidate, ran strongly against the favored incumbent, Democrat Jon Kaiman, who won with 20,333, or 54 percent, to Tu's 17,800.

Also last year, Democratic County Comptroller Howard Weitzman, former mayor of Great Neck Estates, unexpectedly lost to Republican neophyte George Maragos, and Democratic County Executive Thomas Suozzi lost to GOP Legis. Edward Mangano.

"What we thought was an aberration is now a trend," Tobman declared.

He said Johnson got the numbers he sought elsewhere in his 7th S.D. "We could not have been happier with the turnout numbers in New Cassel, Westbury, Elmont. We got the numbers we need in the southern [Republican] part of the district - got a third, held our own. The disappointment was in the north."

DiNapoli's successor, Michelle Schimel, won the Assembly race decisively last month. But about 5 percentage points of her 58 percent came from her cross-endorsement on the Working Families and Independence parties. Strictly as a Democrat, she got 20,220 votes to Scott Diamond's respectable 14,389 on the Republican line.

Strategists see an incremental change in the local demographics among new residents. In addition, North Hempstead Republican leader Frank Moroney says, "We've tried real hard to build roads and bridges to new communities. We've tried hard to run credible candidates with roots in the Great Neck peninsula, to reach out to Asian-Americans and other nontraditional Republican constituencies to build our base. It's starting to pay dividends."

For his part, Jay Jacobs, the state and Nassau Democratic chairman, said: "The results of the past two elections have been a wake-up call. And we are certainly going to pay a lot of attention to both communicating with voters and making sure we're very well organized and active in North Hempstead."

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