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Glen Cove City Council returns to all-Democrat slate for first time in years

Glen Cove Mayor Timothy Tenke, seen here on

Glen Cove Mayor Timothy Tenke, seen here on Election Night with other Democrats, most of whom won or were re-elected to seats on the City Council, won a second term in office. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Call it the Glen Cove whiplash: In eight years the city has gone from an all-Democrat slate of council members to a Republican majority, and now back to all Democrats.

Last week, Glen Cove Mayor Timothy Tenke, a Democrat, won reelection to his second term and the Democratic slate swept the City Council’s six seats. For nearly two years Tenke has contended with a council dominated by Republicans, who hold five seats.

Tenke said Tuesday that the election “basically is a mandate to get things done and move things forward,” adding that he will focus on the city’s finances and infrastructure.

Democrats said they won this time because the public viewed Republicans as obstructionist. Republicans disputed that, crediting instead good campaigns and an anti-Trump sentiment in a city where registered GOP voters are outnumbered by Democrats.

“Glen Cove has always gone back and forth between Democrats and Republicans throughout its history,” said Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who defeated the city's last Republican mayor in 1993 at the beginning of his political career. “It’s really not partisan politics. It’s really based upon the performance of the elected officials. It forces everybody to keep on their toes.”

Among Glen Cove’s 15,891 registered voters, 41 percent are Democrats, 27 percent are Republicans and the remaining 32 percent are unaffiliated or belong to third parties, according to the Nassau County Board of Elections.

The Garvies Point and Piazza waterfront and downtown development projects have long been political footballs, with members from all parties at times criticizing aspects of the transformative projects and at other times mugging for cameras at groundbreakings or ribbon cuttings over the past eight years.

In 2011, then-Mayor Ralph Suozzi, a Democrat, narrowly held on, but his party lost two seats: one to Republican Anthony Gallo Jr. and another to Independence party member Reginald Spinello, who ran on the Republican line.

In 2013, Spinello narrowly defeated Suozzi in the mayoral race, and with three Republicans elected to the council, he could have expected a smooth ride in office. His biggest opposition, however, came from Gallo and fellow GOP Councilman Efraim Spagnoletti. The council's balance tilted further after the 2014 death of Councilman Nicholas DiLeo, a Democrat, eventually led to Republican Joseph Capobianco winning a special election to replace him. 

Then in 2015, Spinello was endorsed by Republicans and Democrats even as he was challenged unsuccessfully by Gallo and the GOP almost swept the City Council, leaving then-Councilman Tenke as the only elected Democrat in city government.

The voters returned mixed results in 2017, narrowly electing Tenke over Spinello as Republicans fell one seat short of sweeping the council.

Tenke clashed with the Republican majority, which blocked him from appointing his own people to key positions, including city controller.

“The pendulum swings both ways in politics,” Spinello said Tuesday.

Outgoing GOP Councilwoman Pamela Panzenbeck said Democrats' complete control won’t last.

“One-party rule, it’s never good,” Panzenbeck said. “You need an absolute balance on the council.”

Tenke said he expects the council to be independent and “not just rubber stamp” his proposals.

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