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In Glen Cove, political fortunes favor GOP after most recent election

"One-party rule really is not good," said Glen

"One-party rule really is not good," said Glen Cove Mayor-elect Pamela Panzenbeck. "We all love it when all of our candidates win, but it's really about having a blend of different people on the council." Credit: Linda Rosier

Glen Cove’s political seesaw will take a new swing on Jan. 1 when the city’s first Republican mayor in almost three decades will be sworn in.

Pamela Panzenbeck will take the city’s helm backed by a Republican majority city council, ending two years of one-party rule by the Democrats.

If the story sounds familiar, it is. Ten years ago a Republican and Independence party candidate won council seats and ended one-party governance by Democrats. Building on those footholds, Independence party member Reginald Spinello, who ran on the Republican line, was elected mayor in 2013 and the GOP won half the seats on the six-member city council.

The following year the GOP won a majority on the council in a special election, but the momentum soon started to turn: Spinello lost by three votes to Democratic Councilman Timothy Tenke in 2017. Mayor Tenke struggled with a Republican majority until he led Democrats to a complete sweep in 2019. Last month, Panzenbeck defeated Tenke and four Republicans won council seats.

"One-party rule really is not good," Panzenbeck said. "We all love it when all of our candidates win, but it’s really about having a blend of different people on the council."

Panzenbeck said she’s ready to work across the aisle.

"I’m the kind of person that can work with just about anybody," she said. "It’s a small town. We all know each other and I think we’re going to get on fine."

Republican victories in Glen Cove came despite Democrats having a large advantage in voter registration. Among the city’s 16,846 registered voters, 41% are Democrats, 25.6% are Republicans and the remainder are unaffiliated or belong to third parties, according to Nassau County Board Election figures.

The Democrats’ advantage in registration in Glen Cove means "if everyone votes their party, we lose," said Republican Joseph Capobianco, who is returning to the city council after having lost reelection in 2019.

The Republican victories are part of a "Red Wave" that reflects local concerns over taxes and bail reform and national concerns over the direction of the country, he said.

"The pendulum is swinging more to the right," Capobianco said.

Lawrence Levy, executive dean at the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University in Hempstead, said that suburbs like Long Island are "economically, racially… diverse places, but in Nassau and Suffolk, most communities are segregated one way or another."

"Very few of them reflect that big-picture individually," Levy said. "Glen Cove is an exception."

Glen Cove’s diversity makes it a bellwether for larger political trends, he said.

Glen Cove is a city where Gold Coast mansions, single-family homes and apartment buildings fit within its boundary. U.S. Census data from 2020 shows that 52.1% of the population is white, the third-smallest proportion of whites to minorities among Long Island cities and towns.

"Glen Cove is a very independent place," said U.S. Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who succeeded the city’s last Republican mayor, Donald DeRiggi, in 1994.

Suozzi said Glen Cove voters pay more attention to what their officials do than to party labels.

A competitive race "forces the politicians to be responsive to what the people want regardless of their political stripes," he said.

MAYORAL TIMELINE

These are the city’s mayors, whose terms are 2 years each, since 1988:

Donald DeRiggi, Republican, 1988-1993

Thomas Suozzi, Democrat, 1994-2001

Mary Ann Holzkamp, Democrat, 2002-2005

Ralph Suozzi, Democrat (defeated Holzkamp on a third-party line), 2006-2013

Reginald Spinello, Independence Party (ran on Republican line), 2014-2017

Timothy Tenke, Democrat, 2018-2021

Pamela Panzenbeck, Republican, 2022-

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