Republican Lee Zeldin Tuesday night soundly defeated six-term Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop in a closely watched, heavily funded race for eastern Suffolk County's 1st Congressional District.
Bishop, of Southampton, and Zeldin, a state senator from Shirley, had been locked in by far the most competitive political battle among the five House seats that cover Long Island -- with $15 million spent by outside political groups alone.
In Nassau's 4th District race to succeed Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola), Democrat Kathleen Rice, the Nassau district attorney, narrowly defeated Republican Bruce Blakeman, a former presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature.
But the Bishop-Zeldin vote spread was never close. Bishop, 64, called Zeldin, 34, shortly after 10:30 p.m. to concede and offer congratulations.
"It's a very important job and the people of this district deserve that it be done at the highest possible level," Bishop said in describing how he will cooperate with Zeldin in the transition.
Speaking from the Emporium bar in Patchogue, with his wife and twin daughters by his side, Zeldin began by exclaiming: "Victory is sweet, isn't it?"
"We can't change Washington unless we change who we send to represent us," he continued, to supporters' cheers, "and that's what we did tonight."
Some observers had predicted early Tuesday that it could be days or weeks until a winner was declared -- much like Bishop's 2010 victory over Republican Randy Altschuler, which wasn't certified until more than a month after Election Day.
Rice didn't declare victory in the 4th District race until after midnight. Blakeman conceded minutes before she took stage.
"Positivity and ideas defeated fear-mongering and dirty campaigning," Rice said to supporters at the Garden City Hotel.
Blakeman said at Mirelle's Restaurant in Westbury: "We started this race against all odds and we lost at the wire, but those things happen."
Rice, 49, of Garden City, was among the most prolific fundraisers for nonincumbents, with more than $3 million. Blakeman, 59, of Long Beach, loaned his campaign $1 million to try to keep pace.
Polls had showed the race tightening in recent weeks, from 18 points in favor of Rice to 10 points, giving Blakeman hope he could pull off an upset by relentlessly tying Rice to Democratic President Barack Obama, whose ratings have fallen. But Rice stressed her "political independence" as district attorney.
The polls in the Bishop-Zeldin race, on the other hand, indicated that it was a toss-up heading into Election Day. After Bishop held a 10 point lead in one September poll, he was trailing Zeldin by 5 points in a follow-up survey last week.
"The sweetest victory we'll see this evening and, I believe, for many years to come." Suffolk GOP chairman John Jay LaValle said of Zeldin's win.
Also Tuesday night:
In the 2nd District, which covers South Shore areas in Suffolk and Nassau, Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), won his 12th term over Democrat Patricia Maher, an activist from East Meadow, and Green Party candidate William Stevenson of Amityville.
In the 3rd District, which covers the North Shore from Suffolk into Queens, Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, secured his eighth term by defeating Republican Grant Lally, an attorney from Lloyd Harbor.
In the Queens-based 5th District, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) had no Republican rival but defeated Allen Steinhardt of Rockaway Park, a contractor who ran on a ballot line named after himself. The district covers a portion of Nassau County.
With Sarah Armaghan,
Rick Brand, Will James
and Bridget Murphy