Republican Ed Romaine defeated Democrat Dave Calone to become the first new county executive in 12 years and the ninth in the county’s history. Credit: Newsday

Republican Ed Romaine defeated Democrat Dave Calone Tuesday night in the race for Suffolk County executive as voters went to the polls to elect the first new county executive in 12 years and the ninth in the county’s history.

Romaine, the Brookhaven Town supervisor, declared victory shortly before midnight.

“We painted this county red,” Romaine told cheering supporters at Stereo Garden in Patchogue.

“As your county executive-elect, I intend to bring all of Suffolk together for a common-sense agenda that moves us forward. That keeps our taxes low. That keeps us affordable. That makes sure that we're safer, that our law enforcement has the tools they need to do the job. Thank you. This has been a great campaign.”

Calone had conceded the race about a half-hour earlier, saying he was "proud of the ticket we put together. We put together a Suffolk-forward agenda because we believe we can solve the issues of Suffolk county — safety, affordability and opportunity."

"I had a chance to call Ed Romaine and congratulate him on his victory and I wish him the best as the next county executive," Calone said. "His success will be our success in Suffolk County. Local government is about working together to solve the issues we're facing."

With all election districts reporting, Romaine defeated Calone by a margin of 57% to 43%, according to the Suffolk County Board of Elections.

Romaine and Calone had run to replace Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a Democrat who is term-limited after 12 years. The job carries a four-year term, and under the proposed county budget for 2024 the recommended annual salary is $241,409.

Romaine, the first Republican elected as county executive since Robert Gaffney in 1999, touted his 40-plus years of government experience on the campaign trail while Calone, a businessman who has worked as a prosecutor, stressed his outsider perspective and years spent in law enforcement.

During the nine-day early voting period, 167,284 voters had cast ballots, including 68,131 Republicans and 57,305 Democrats, according to the elections board.

The county executive controls a $3.9 billion budget and oversees about 10,000 county employees.

As the new county executive, Romaine will take over a government whose finances have improved in recent years, largely buoyed by an infusion of federal pandemic aid and higher than expected sales tax revenue. The county also still is recovering from a September 2022 cyberattack on its computer systems.

Romaine also will negotiate municipal union contracts with the Suffolk Association of Municipal Employees, all seven law enforcement unions and the Smith Point Lifeguard Association union that expire in 2024. He also will have a say in the use of about $700 million in reserves and could potentially oversee implementation of a multibillion-dollar plan to upgrade wastewater treatment throughout the county, if voters approve it.

The 2023 race was hard fought, with Romaine and Calone spending a total of more than $4 million as of late October, according to the state Board of Elections.

Calone, 50, of Setauket, spent more than $2.8 million since declaring his candidacy in July 2022, according to his most recent campaign finance report on Oct. 27. Romaine, 76, of Center Moriches, spent $1.38 million after declaring his candidacy in February, according to his campaign filings.

Big outside campaign contributors included The Long Island Law Enforcement Foundation, the Suffolk Police Benevolent Association’s political action committee, which spent $524,139 between Oct. 3 and 23. About $97,000 of that went to the Romaine campaign, according to the BOE. The rest of the PAC's spending went to Suffolk County Legislature and Brookhaven Town candidates, or was not specified.

The issues of public safety, affordable living, the Brookhaven landfill and drinking water protection took center stage during the campaign as Romaine and Calone sparred over the topics in public debates and forums and in negative campaign advertisements.

Ads paid for by the New York Republican State Committee and Romaine's campaign repeatedly called Calone a "Hochul Liberal” and tried to paint him as soft on crime. Calone stressed his experience working for the U.S. Department of Justice after law school and said a top priority was to provide more resources to county law enforcement officers.

The “Hochul Liberal” messaging tried to tie Calone to Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat who drew criticism on Long Island for her affordable housing proposal that would have allowed the state to override local zoning. Calone also criticized Hochul's housing plan, which failed at the state level this year.

Calone criticized Romaine’s handling of the Brookhaven Town landfill, accusing him of siding with the waste management industry and noted allegations that the landfill may have accepted toxic ash.

Citing internal emails filed in a “whistleblower” lawsuit, Newsday has reported that employees of Covanta Hempstead suspected practices at its Westbury trash incinerator were risky, imprecise and contrary to what they represented to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The company dumped the incinerator waste at the town landfill.

Romaine said the town had no role in testing the ash and said he has called for an investigation into the company’s practices.

Romaine also stressed that he had opposed a plan to raise the landfill's height from 270 feet to 325 feet, and instead put it on a path to stop accepting construction and demolition debris in 2024. 

Both candidates said they would support advancement of a ballot referendum on a measure to raise the Suffolk sales tax by .125% to fund a sweeping expansion of sewers and septic upgrades through the county. The Republican-controlled county legislature earlier this year balked at putting the issue before voters during the general election.

On the issue of affordable living, Calone said he would appoint a chief housing officer to oversee efforts to identify sites with roads and wastewater treatment connections that could support affordable housing developments.

Romaine said he would suspend the county portion of the sales tax on utilities such as electricity and heating oil that already are exempt from state sales taxes.

Late last night, Suffolk Democratic chairman Rich Schaffer said: "This was just one of those nights things didn’t just go your way. Obviously, we wanted to be on the winning side tonight, but we’re up against the atmosphere in Albany and Washington and that has hurt us as a brand in Suffolk County. Until Washington and Albany listen to what suburbs need, we’re going to have these issues in Suffolk County."

With John Asbury and Robert Brodsky 

Republican Ed Romaine defeated Democrat Dave Calone Tuesday night in the race for Suffolk County executive as voters went to the polls to elect the first new county executive in 12 years and the ninth in the county’s history.

Romaine, the Brookhaven Town supervisor, declared victory shortly before midnight.

“We painted this county red,” Romaine told cheering supporters at Stereo Garden in Patchogue.

“As your county executive-elect, I intend to bring all of Suffolk together for a common-sense agenda that moves us forward. That keeps our taxes low. That keeps us affordable. That makes sure that we're safer, that our law enforcement has the tools they need to do the job. Thank you. This has been a great campaign.”

Calone had conceded the race about a half-hour earlier, saying he was "proud of the ticket we put together. We put together a Suffolk-forward agenda because we believe we can solve the issues of Suffolk county — safety, affordability and opportunity."

"I had a chance to call Ed Romaine and congratulate him on his victory and I wish him the best as the next county executive," Calone said. "His success will be our success in Suffolk County. Local government is about working together to solve the issues we're facing."

With all election districts reporting, Romaine defeated Calone by a margin of 57% to 43%, according to the Suffolk County Board of Elections.

Republican Ed Romaine delivers his acceptance speech after defeating Democrat Dave Calone in the race for Suffolk County executive as voters went to the polls to elect the first new county executive in 12 years. Credit: NewsdayTV/Drew Singh

Romaine and Calone had run to replace Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a Democrat who is term-limited after 12 years. The job carries a four-year term, and under the proposed county budget for 2024 the recommended annual salary is $241,409.

Romaine, the first Republican elected as county executive since Robert Gaffney in 1999, touted his 40-plus years of government experience on the campaign trail while Calone, a businessman who has worked as a prosecutor, stressed his outsider perspective and years spent in law enforcement.

During the nine-day early voting period, 167,284 voters had cast ballots, including 68,131 Republicans and 57,305 Democrats, according to the elections board.

The county executive controls a $3.9 billion budget and oversees about 10,000 county employees.

As the new county executive, Romaine will take over a government whose finances have improved in recent years, largely buoyed by an infusion of federal pandemic aid and higher than expected sales tax revenue. The county also still is recovering from a September 2022 cyberattack on its computer systems.

Romaine also will negotiate municipal union contracts with the Suffolk Association of Municipal Employees, all seven law enforcement unions and the Smith Point Lifeguard Association union that expire in 2024. He also will have a say in the use of about $700 million in reserves and could potentially oversee implementation of a multibillion-dollar plan to upgrade wastewater treatment throughout the county, if voters approve it.

Hard-fought race

The 2023 race was hard fought, with Romaine and Calone spending a total of more than $4 million as of late October, according to the state Board of Elections.

Calone, 50, of Setauket, spent more than $2.8 million since declaring his candidacy in July 2022, according to his most recent campaign finance report on Oct. 27. Romaine, 76, of Center Moriches, spent $1.38 million after declaring his candidacy in February, according to his campaign filings.

Big outside campaign contributors included The Long Island Law Enforcement Foundation, the Suffolk Police Benevolent Association’s political action committee, which spent $524,139 between Oct. 3 and 23. About $97,000 of that went to the Romaine campaign, according to the BOE. The rest of the PAC's spending went to Suffolk County Legislature and Brookhaven Town candidates, or was not specified.

Key issues in the race

The issues of public safety, affordable living, the Brookhaven landfill and drinking water protection took center stage during the campaign as Romaine and Calone sparred over the topics in public debates and forums and in negative campaign advertisements.

Ads paid for by the New York Republican State Committee and Romaine's campaign repeatedly called Calone a "Hochul Liberal” and tried to paint him as soft on crime. Calone stressed his experience working for the U.S. Department of Justice after law school and said a top priority was to provide more resources to county law enforcement officers.

The “Hochul Liberal” messaging tried to tie Calone to Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat who drew criticism on Long Island for her affordable housing proposal that would have allowed the state to override local zoning. Calone also criticized Hochul's housing plan, which failed at the state level this year.

Calone criticized Romaine’s handling of the Brookhaven Town landfill, accusing him of siding with the waste management industry and noted allegations that the landfill may have accepted toxic ash.

Citing internal emails filed in a “whistleblower” lawsuit, Newsday has reported that employees of Covanta Hempstead suspected practices at its Westbury trash incinerator were risky, imprecise and contrary to what they represented to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The company dumped the incinerator waste at the town landfill.

Romaine said the town had no role in testing the ash and said he has called for an investigation into the company’s practices.

Romaine also stressed that he had opposed a plan to raise the landfill's height from 270 feet to 325 feet, and instead put it on a path to stop accepting construction and demolition debris in 2024. 

Both candidates said they would support advancement of a ballot referendum on a measure to raise the Suffolk sales tax by .125% to fund a sweeping expansion of sewers and septic upgrades through the county. The Republican-controlled county legislature earlier this year balked at putting the issue before voters during the general election.

On the issue of affordable living, Calone said he would appoint a chief housing officer to oversee efforts to identify sites with roads and wastewater treatment connections that could support affordable housing developments.

Romaine said he would suspend the county portion of the sales tax on utilities such as electricity and heating oil that already are exempt from state sales taxes.

Late last night, Suffolk Democratic chairman Rich Schaffer said: "This was just one of those nights things didn’t just go your way. Obviously, we wanted to be on the winning side tonight, but we’re up against the atmosphere in Albany and Washington and that has hurt us as a brand in Suffolk County. Until Washington and Albany listen to what suburbs need, we’re going to have these issues in Suffolk County."

With John Asbury and Robert Brodsky 

Man accused of explicit chats with girls … Gov. Hochul rating low among voters … Spring All-LI teams Credit: Newsday

Hot start to summer ... Man accused of explicit chats with girls ... Stabbing at HS graduation ... What's up on LI

Man accused of explicit chats with girls … Gov. Hochul rating low among voters … Spring All-LI teams Credit: Newsday

Hot start to summer ... Man accused of explicit chats with girls ... Stabbing at HS graduation ... What's up on LI

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