Democratic officials said yesterday they were optimistic they've taken Suffolk County's 6th Legislative District seat in Tuesday's special election, even as Republicans declined to formally concede.
With all precincts counted, Democratic newcomer Sarah Anker led Republican Martin Haley by 224 votes in unofficial returns. Suffolk Board of Elections Commissioner Anita Katz said the 257 absentee ballots will be counted next Wednesday.
County Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer said he was "highly optimistic" about an Anker victory, while Legislative Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook) called it "nearly impossible" for Haley to make up Anker's lead.
Suffolk Republican chairman John Jay LaValle acknowledged Haley's deficit "would be a lot to pick up." But he said that given vote-counting problems last year, the party wanted to see the result of the absentee count.
Democratic leaders said Anker had gotten a boost from labor unions. Energized by attempts to roll back collective bargaining rights in other states and criticism of their pensions and salaries in New York, unions made sure their members turned out to vote, the Democrats said.
Democrats discounted any influence on the race by County Executive Steve Levy. They noted that Levy's announcement last week that he would not seek re-election, over questions about his fundraising, came late in the campaign.
LaValle said "the bottom line is [Democrats] stole the election." He said that in the closing days of the campaign, Democrats in telephone calls and visits to voters' homes attempted to link Haley, a former Suffolk County legislator, with Levy.
Prior to Levy's announcement last Thursday, Republicans had sent mailings highlighting Haley's ties to Levy. However, LaValle said it was unfair to tie Haley to Levy based on party affiliation, noting that Levy had been a Democrat before switching parties about a year ago.
LaValle said party tracking polls showed Haley defeating Anker, 46, a former Mount Sinai School Board member, until Levy pulled out of the race.
Schaffer could not be reached last night to respond to LaValle's allegations.
The winner will fill the vacancy left by former legislative Minority Leader Dan Losquadro, a Republican who was elected to the State Assembly last year.