Democrat Steve Bellone handily won the Suffolk County executive race Tuesday night, beating Republican Suffolk Treasurer Angie Carpenter, who had sought to become the first female county executive on Long Island, by more than 30,000 votes.
Bellone pledged to make Suffolk "an economic powerhouse" and, referring to the polarization of controversial current County Executive Steve Levy, vowed to become a county "that brings people together."
That task figures to be easier as Democrats appear to have retained a 12-6 advantage in the County Legislature, though two races - in the 7th District and the 18th - were each decided by fewer than 200 votes, according to the Suffolk Board of Elections. Those results were with all 1,047 districts reporting, but do not take into account absentee ballots.
In the 7th District, Democrat Robert T. Calarco led Republican John Giannott, 6,051 to 5,948, a spread of 103 votes, while in the 18th Democrat William "Doc" Spencer led Republican Elizabeth C. Black, 7,885 to 7,706, a spread of 179 votes.
The good news for Suffolk Dems didn't come without at least one stunner. That was in the Town of Islip, where incumbent Democratic Supervisor Phil Nolan appears to have fallen to Republican challenger Tom Croci in a neck-and-neck race decided by little more than 400 votes -- 24,056 to 23,637. In fact, Islip, a longtime Republican stronghold, a balance which had shifted to the Democrats in the wake of the scandal involving former Town Supervisor Pete McGowan that launched Nolan into power, shifted back again Tuesday night as the Town Council is back under GOP control.
With more than 1,700 absentee ballots requested, a recount in the town supervisor's race seems likely. Croci was leading with all districts reporting. Nolan had not conceded.
"We're extremely proud of the hard work we did throughout the campaign," Croci, a former naval intelligence officer and aide to state Sen. Lee Zeldin, said Wednesday. "We took our message directly to the voters, and they believed in us."
Republicans John Cochrane Jr. and Anthony Senft Jr. beat Democrats Gene Parrington and Renee Ortiz for seats on the Town Council; Republican Olga H. Murray defeated Ginny A. Fields for town clerk; Republican Alexis Weik beat Diane L. Rossi-Fontana for receiver of taxes; and Republican David A. Morris beat Democrat Robert J. Curran for district court judge.
"The bottom line is we ran on our very good record," Nolan said. "But at the end of day, Islip has been a Republican town for a very long time . . . and apparently voters may have been returning to their Republican roots."
Of the seven supervisor races in play across Suffolk, four went to Republicans -- Islip, Riverhead, East Hampton, Southold -- while two, Brookhaven and Southampton, went to Democrats. Shelter Island went to Conservative Glenn W. Waddington over Democrat James Dougherty by 61 votes. In Southampton, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, a Democrat, defeated write-in candidate Linda Kabot.
In Nassau County, control of the legislature appeared to remain in Republican hands Wednesday, the party retaining an 11-8 advantage over the Democrats with all 1,160 districts reporting. However, Republican Robert A. Gemino Jr. led Democrat Delia M. DeRiggi-Whitton by just 37 votes, 6,040 to 6,003, in the 18th Legislative District, while in the in the 14th District Republican Joseph V. Belesi led Democrat Eva M. Pearson, 5,622 to 5,571 - a margin of 51 votes. It was not immediately clear how absentee ballots might come into play, if they would.
Nassau GOP chairman Joseph Mondello conceded that Democrat Carrie Solages had beaten Republican incumbent John Ciotti in the 3rd District, though Ciotti did not concede. Those two were separated by little more than 400 votes after all precincts reported. In the 4th District, Republican Denise Ford had 51 percent of the vote, with Democratic challenger Darlene Tangney taking 48 percent with almost 60 percent of the districts reporting - but went on to win by almost 1,000 votes after all districts had reported, according to the Board of Elections.
Local voters also returned all three town supervisors in Nassau -- in North Hempstead, where Democrat Jon Kaiman defeated Republican Lee Tu, and in Hempstead and Oyster Bay, where incumbent Republicans Kate Murray and John Venditto were re-elected. Democratic Glen Cove Mayor Ralph V. Suozzi, father of former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, defeated Republican challenger Paul L. Meli, 2,915 to 2,798, a total of 117 votes. Voters in Long Beach were electing three members to the five-member City Council, which selects the city manager. The three top vote-getters there were all Democrats: Len Torres, Fran Adelson and Scott Mandel.
Still, little doubt remained that the biggest win of the night belonged to Bellone.
Both Bellone and Carpenter were running in the shadow of Levy, the lame duck who in the past year switched parties, made a losing bid for governor and shocked the local political world by deciding not to seek a third term. Instead, he turned over his $4 million campaign fund to the district attorney after prosecutors raised questions about his fundraising.
Addressing cheering supporters at a union headquarters in Hauppauge, Bellone, the Town of Babylon supervisor, said: "Because of your hard work, the voters of Suffolk County have given us a huge victory." He pledged to work with county lawmakers to "create jobs and opportunities," and promised more efficient government in his administration. "When we create that government and opportunity," he said, "it will be accessible to every resident of our county."
Carpenter conceded shortly before midnight.
Later, in a statement, she said: "We fought the good fight and remained firm in our belief that fiscal sanity must be returned to Suffolk County government and that Suffolk County government must be returned to the people. Tomorrow is a new day and the sun will shine. I will return to my job as treasurer and will continue to do the best job possible for the taxpayers of our county."
With Rick Brand, William Murphy, Paul LaRocco, Aisha Al-Muslim, Emi Endo, Sarah Crichton, Patrick Whittle, Sophia Chang, Stacey Altherr, Carl MacGowan, Nicholas Spangler, Emily C. Dooley, Gary Dymski and Erin Geismar