Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by two percentage points on Long Island, but the tight margin masked vastly different results in Nassau and Suffolk counties and even from town to town, an analysis shows.
Trump, the Republican president-elect, got 48.6 percent of the 1.24 million votes cast in Nassau and Suffolk. Clinton, the Democratic nominee, got 47 percent — or about 20,000 fewer total votes.
Both relied heavily on their bases, county election board tallies show.
Trump got 50,000 more votes in Suffolk — his largest plurality in the state — giving him an eight-point margin in a county President Barack Obama won in 2008 and 2012.
Clinton won Nassau by five points, or 31,000 votes.
The turnout on Long Island, 60 percent of all registered voters, was similar to 2012 but slightly lower than in 2008. Political analysts said the relentlessly negative campaign between two candidates with high unfavorable ratings kept some people home.
“Negative campaigning is designed to depress the vote, and if both sides are doing it, you’re going to see it more,” said Michael Dawidziak, a Bohemia political consultant who works primarily with Republicans.
Within each county, the candidates’ performances sometimes swung wildly, mirroring results in many swing states.
Trump dominated Brookhaven, Suffolk’s largest town, beating Clinton by 18-points, powered by working class hamlets such as Shirley and Rocky Point. He won Smithtown, a GOP stronghold, by 28 points. He ran up a 20-point margin in Riverhead, and won Southold, on the North Fork, by 10 points.
Trump’s strength in Suffolk extended to more Democratic areas such as Huntington, where he edged Clinton by half-a-percentage point. His only Suffolk losses came in Babylon, a Democratic area, where he fell 3/10ths of a point short, and in Southampton, where Clinton won by two points, and East Hampton, where she had a 28 percentage point margin.
“Pockets of Suffolk County haven’t recovered as quickly as other areas, and I think it was Trump’s economic message that carried the day for him,” said Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer, comparing the county to previously Democratic states such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that broke for Trump. “It’s a scene that played out in other states where he allegedly wasn’t supposed to win.”
In Nassau, Trump won the reliably Republican Oyster Bay by 12 points, but fell to Clinton in Hempstead, North Hempstead and in Long Beach and Glen Cove. Clinton fared best in Long Beach, where she won by 17 points, and North Hempstead, where she got 57 percent of the vote compared with Trump’s 43 percent.
But county Republicans viewed Trump as helpful in keeping several down-ballot incumbents in office, given that he ran closer to Clinton than expected.
“As far as I’m concerned, I think his candidacy was very, very beneficial to our local races,” Nassau Republican chairman Joseph Mondello said of Trump.
Republicans held three of their four state senate seats that are based at least in part in Nassau. The race in the 8th District, where Sen. Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa) and Democrat John Brooks are essentially tied and subject to a count of outstanding absentee ballots.
Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs said internal polls last month had shown Clinton leading in the county by a significant margin. That was before an Oct. 28 letter to Congress from FBI Director James Comey announcing that additional emails had been found that could be relevant to the closed investigation into Clinton’s handling of emails on a private server. After reviewing the new emails, Comey said they didn’t warrant changing the FBI’s decision not the charge Clinton with a crime.
Clinton’s late slide, “definitely hurt” other local Democratic candidates, said Jacobs. He noted that internal polls had Clinton 12 to 15 points up in most state senate districts before the Comey letter, but only by 5 to 6 points afterward.
State Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset), whose district stretches into Huntington, may have Trump to thank the most. Marcellino narrowly lost the Nassau portion of his district, but won by 5 points in Suffolk, enough for what appeared to be a 2 point victory overall.
“Donald Trump had such a tremendous positive effect here in Suffolk County,” said Suffolk GOP chairman John Jay LaValle, a Trump campaign surrogate. “I can’t thank him enough.”