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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Parsing the Nassau and Suffolk primary results

Margaret Cohn, of Mineola, cast her ballot in

Margaret Cohn, of Mineola, cast her ballot in the primary election on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Let’s look back on last week’s primary elections, one more time. But this time, let’s use geography — more specifically the mapping of two countywide races in Nassau and one in Suffolk — to tease out some idea of what could come up in November, during the general election.

First, let’s look at the Nassau Democratic primaries for county executive and comptroller.

Legis. Laura Curran of Baldwin knocked the stuffing out of challenger George Maragos, the county’s Republican-turned-Democrat comptroller, who lost his fight to be the party’s nominee for county executive.

The distribution of votes across the county says it all:

Curran won 1,017 election districts.

Maragos won 50.

In the remainder of the 1,202 districts, the candidates tied or no votes were tallied. (Fun fact: Eisenhower Park — where no one lives — has two election districts.)

A significant number of the 50 districts won by Maragos were in immigrant, Latino and black neighborhoods, including Hempstead, Uniondale, Roosevelt and New Cassel.

If campaigns were judged solely by strategy, Maragos accomplished a portion of what he set out to do — energize neighborhoods that, in off election years, tend to stay on the sidelines.

But perhaps the best measure of his campaign’s influence in the neighborhoods comes with a look at the race for comptroller, where Ama Yawson, a small-business owner from Freeport, made her first run for office as part of Maragos’ slate.

According to unofficial election results, she received significantly more votes — 11,945 to Maragos’ 6,265.

Jay Jacobs, head of Nassau’s Democratic Party, said Thursday he believed Yawson’s showing was partly attributable to placement on the ballot — which did not clearly delineate who was running on the Maragos or Curran tickets.

But the districts that supported Yawson were pretty much the same as those that voted for Maragos.

With the population in Nassau — and Suffolk — rapidly diversifying, the ability to excite the widest possible range of voters is becoming more essential. In former Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice’s 2014 race for Congress, for example, the votes she received in black and Latino communities created the margin for her win.

Will Curran and her Republican opponent, state Sen. Jack Martins of Mineola, find success wooing those voters? The general election will tell, but for now let’s turn to Suffolk and a look at the Republican primary for sheriff — where newcomer Larry Zacarese scored an upset win over state Sen. Phil Boyle.

Here are the numbers:

Zacarese, assistant chief of the Stony Brook University Police, won 658 election districts, scattered the length and breadth of Suffolk.

Boyle won 315 districts, including most of the area covered by his Senate district.

The candidates were tied, or no votes were tallied, in the remaining 79 of Suffolk’s 1,052 districts.

To put things mildly, this was not supposed to happen.

But it did.

Was it a Kate Murray effect?

Murray, a popular Republican supervisor in Hempstead Town who had no law enforcement experience, lost in 2015 to Democrat Madeline Singas, a prosecutor and first-time candidate for office. In that lopsided contest, voters expressed a clear preference for the candidate with prosecutorial experience.

Last week’s primary turnout in Suffolk — although larger than anticipated in some communities, including Smithtown, which had a hot, hot, hot town supervisor’s race — probably was too small to chart voter preferences on experience in the sheriff’s race.

Still, the question could arise again in the general election, with Zacarese on the Republican ballot and Boyle still in the race on minor party lines — unless Richard Schaffer, who heads the Suffolk Democratic Party, decides to cross endorse and back Boyle.

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