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Minority turnout helped Andrew Cuomo win in Suffolk County

Cuomo, who lost Suffolk to Republican Rob Astorino in 2014, beat GOP challenger Marc Molinaro in the county on Nov. 6 as turnout in minority communities jumped. 

New York State Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and

New York State Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wave to supporters after being elected to a third term on Nov. 6 in Manhattan. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo pulled off a close win on election night.

No, not in New York State, where he bowled over his Republican adversary, Marc Molinaro, to win a third term as governor — but in Suffolk, where Cuomo garnered a slender majority of votes in a county he had lost in 2014.

It took independent, nonaligned voters plus a tsunami of Democratic voters — mostly in Latino and black communities — to give Cuomo a 50.85 percent edge over Molinaro in Suffolk.

In Nassau, Cuomo won with 56.5 percent of the vote.

Four years ago, Cuomo won Nassau by a hefty margin, too. But to the surprise of many, he lost to Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino in Suffolk even as voters in the rest of the state lifted him to a second term.

What made the difference in Suffolk this time around?

Opposition to President Donald Trump, for one, which bought Democrats, independents not aligned with political parties and minority voters out in force, experts said.

That increase, according to a Newsday analysis, gave Cuomo votes enough in many Suffolk precincts — including many in minority communities — to more than make up  his vote deficit in others this time around.

“What this showed us is that immigrant communities on Long Island and across New York were not deterred by fear mongering out of Washington and that the Governor’s brand of results-oriented progressivism resonates,” Richard Azzopardi, Cuomo’s spokesman, said in a statement.

“And yes, the Governor has a strong record on immigrant rights and a worldview that is very much shaped by his grandfather’s immigrant experience,” Azzopardi said in an email. “The same goes for many New Yorkers — it’s what makes us special.”

Communities in Suffolk where support for Cuomo increased significantly included Amityville, Huntington Station, Wyandanch, Bay Shore, Central Islip and Brentwood, unofficial returns show.  

Precincts where support for Cuomo decreased significantly were located in communities including Holbrook, Holtsville, Baiting Hollow, Manorville and South Manor.

Overall, in Nassau and Suffolk, however, Cuomo garnered a net gain of almost 65,000 votes in 2018 — with help from minority precincts in Nassau, including Freeport and Hempstead — compared with 2014.

Richard Schaffer, head of Suffolk’s Democratic Party, agreed that Trump was one factor driving turnout of Democratic voters in black and Latino precincts that rivaled turnout in presidential election years.

Another factor in the communities of Brentwood, Bay Shore and Central Islip was the campaign of Democrat Monica Martinez, who will go to Albany as the first woman, and the first immigrant from El Salvador, to represent her State Senate district, Schaffer said.

Cuomo visited communities in Martinez’s district — and in other Suffolk towns — several times over the past four years.

And Cuomo stood with Martinez, a Suffolk County legislator, when she announced her Senate candidacy.

“It was good to have his support,” Martinez said, “and that of the county executive and the county chairman.”

Michael Dawidziak, a political consultant who works mostly with Republican candidates, said without support from independents and increased turnout among Democrats, particularly minority voters, Cuomo could have lost Suffolk for a second time.

Cuomo “ran against Trump and in some ways it was a referendum on the president in a county where support for and opposition to Trump is almost evenly split,” Dawidziak said.

But the historic take-away from the election, Dawidziak said, was the strength of the Latino vote — which put Martinez in office and gave Cuomo an edge.

“The community flexed its muscle,” he said, “and it . . . helped give Cuomo a lift.”

 

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