Election Day may have been last Tuesday, but one Long Island contest — for the 8th State Senate District seat — could last longer than this year’s Thanksgiving turkey.
A mound of absentee and provisional ballots — more than 8,000 in all — still need to be counted in the contest in which challenger John Brooks, a Republican running on the Democratic line, has a surprise 33-vote edge over GOP state Sen. Michael Venditto, who is seeking a second term.
All sides will be in state Supreme Court in Mineola on Monday before administrative Judge Thomas Adams, who on election night signed a court order to protect the ballots in both the Nassau and Suffolk parts of the district. The outcome is key to giving a narrow GOP Senate majority needed breathing room.
The contest turned topsy-turvy when Venditto’s father, veteran Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto, was indicted on federal corruption charges on Oct. 21.
Prosecutors also charged Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano. They alleged that Venditto and Mangano traded government contracts and official favors for bribes. John Venditto and Mangano have pleaded not guilty.
The scandal prompted a last-minute deluge of campaign cash on both sides and made underdog Brooks, 66, a former Seaford school board member and deputy fire chief, a serious contender.
Up until two weeks before the election, campaign finance filings showed Brooks had spent only $8,400. But in the campaign’s final days, records show, he got an infusion of $46,500 while Senate Republicans and their backers poured nearly $173,000 into Venditto’s campaign.
While the younger Venditto, 35, was in no way implicated in any wrongdoing, critics say he suffered voter backlash in part because his public career owes much to his prominent family name.
“When you live by the sword you also perish by it,” said Jay Jacobs, Nassau Democratic chairman. “The indictments set the whole thing on fire.”
But John Ciampoli, the state’s leading GOP election lawyer, said “Michael’s been a hardworking senator. While the events of the moment may have buffeted him, I believe he will be left standing.”
Ciampoli a year ago represented John Venditto, who ended election night 68 votes behind after the town had come under fire for its dealings with indicted restaurateur Harendra Singh. After a recount, Venditto won his 11th term by 99 votes.
The Nassau portion of Michael Venditto’s Senate district as of Thursday had 5,947 absentee and provisional ballots left to be counted, according to Keith Corbett, the Nassau Democrats’ top election lawyer. A breakdown by party was not available.
The Suffolk part had 1,363 absentees and 1,001 provisional ballots. Of those absentees, 573 were cast by Democratic voters compared with 407 by Republicans, with 300 coming from voters not aligned with any party. That number could rise because the deadline for absentees to arrive is Tuesday.
Democrats say most of the party’s 10,000-voter edge comes from Suffolk, where 167 more Democrats have filed absentee votes.
“Right now, the paper is looking pretty good,” Corbett said.
Republicans, however, say they believe many absentees voted before the recent indictments became public. They also say they doubt the Suffolk voters are concerned with the Nassau scandal.
Venditto declined to comment, but Scott Reif, GOP Senate spokesman, said, “When all is said and done we are confident Sen. Venditto will be re-elected.”
Said Brooks: “I decided to run for office based on ideas, not throwing rocks. . . . Now, people are listening.”