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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Mondello: African-American vote key in 9th Senate District race

Nassau GOP leader Joseph Mondello, left, with Republican

Nassau GOP leader Joseph Mondello, left, with Republican state Senate candidate Christopher McGrath on Tuesday, April 19, 2016, as they waited for results after the polls closed. Photo Credit: Daniel Goodrich

“The African-American vote, Joye, knocked us on our ass,” Joseph Mondello, Nassau’s Republican Party chairman said Wednesday. “And if you write anything other than that, you would not be telling the truth.”

High turnout in the heavily African-American and immigrant communities of North Valley Stream and Elmont — where Bill Clinton made a stop at a popular Haitian music and food venue last week to campaign for his wife, Hillary — made a key difference in the 9th State Senate District race, where Democrat Todd Kaminsky declared victory over Republican Christopher McGrath.

“Hillary brought out a lot of votes,” Mondello said. “The turnout there was very heavy and it made a difference.”

In Elmont, according to Jay Jacobs, the county’s Democratic chairman, Kaminsky got 1,354 more votes than McGrath; in North Valley Stream, he gained a 1,705-vote advantage, according to unofficial results.

Contrast that with Skelos’ community, Rockville Centre, where Kaminsky lost to McGrath by 1,127 votes. The combined votes from the mostly minority communities — along with Long Beach, where Kaminsky pulled in 2,797 more votes than McGrath — muted the Republican’s advantage.

Kaminsky, with a lead of 780 votes, declared victory on primary night. McGrath, as of Wednesday, had not conceded.

But Mondello, who has a reputation for thoroughly studying election tables, said he believes Kaminsky’s lead will hold. In fact, he said, “I am surprised we came in as close as we did.”


There was the large turnout of minority voters, which, Mondello said, was fueled in part by Bill Clinton’s local appearance where the former president also endorsed Kaminsky, along with robocalls from President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s being on the Democratic primary ballot.

Then there was the composition of the district itself, which is now majority Democrat, the result of the GOP’s stripping away pieces of former state Sen. Dean Skelos’ strong Republican district over the years to shore up neighboring Senate districts. “Good, solid Republican portions went to Jack Martins and Kemp Hannon,” Mondello said.

“Even with the registration edge, Skelos easily would have been re-elected because of the personal relationship he built within the district,” Jacobs said. “Skelos was invincible until the unthinkable happened,” he said, referring to the convictions of Skelos and his son, Adam, on federal corruption-related charges.

The Skelos scandal hurt the GOP in the race to replace the former state senator, who was forced to step down after his conviction. “I am not a head-in-the-sand kind of guy; this was a tough SOB for us,” Mondello said. “It put us in a real difficult spot.”

Kaminsky’s slim lead indicates that district voters support his promise to deal with state government corruption — over McGrath’s contention that tipping the balance of power to Democrats in Albany would favor New York City over Long Island. Should Kaminsky’s victory to complete Skelos’ term stand, he would have to run again in November.

So what happens to the Long Island Nine, the cadre of local Republican senators who, with breakaway Democrats, now share power in the state Senate?

“You mean the Long Island Eight,” Mondello corrected.

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