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Leslie Kennedy wins Suffolk legislative seat representing the 12 district

Leslie Kennedy, left, pumps her fist at Republican

Leslie Kennedy, left, pumps her fist at Republican headquarters on March 31, 2015 in Smithtown as poll results come in for her special election race for the Suffolk County Legislature seat vacated by her husband John Kennedy, right. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Republican Leslie Kennedy won a special election held Tuesday for Suffolk County's 12th Legislative District seat, succeeding her husband, John M. Kennedy Jr., who was elected county comptroller in November.

Kennedy, who worked as a legislative aide to her husband, beat Democrat Deborah Monaco, 55, said officials with the Suffolk County Board of Elections late Tuesday night. Monaco, who works at the board of elections, did not run an active campaign, Democratic Party officials said.

Kennedy won 86 percent of the votes -- 933 to 149, with all precincts reporting, election officials said. Turnout was slightly more than 2 percent, election officials said.

Leslie Kennedy, 58, of Nesconset, said she has been knocking on doors since her husband left office in January. "We haven't stopped working these past three months," she said.

John M. Kennedy won an upset victory in November for countywide office, leaving open the seat, which will be up again in November. Democrats have a 12-6 legislative majority.

The district covers the southern section of Smithtown, and a northeastern section of Islip and western Brookhaven.

Leslie Kennedy said she'll focus on constituent services and environmental projects.

"We made this an active office with constituent services," she said. "It will always be an active office."

Kennedy worked long hours as an aide to her husband.

"I'd be crazy to work 80-plus hours a week, without extra compensations, if I didn't view the job as a public service," she said.

When John M. Kennedy ran for county comptroller, his opponent, Democrat James Gaughran, criticized him for employing his wife.

This time, the Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association and the Conservative and Independence parties -- all of whom opposed John M. Kennedy in November -- endorsed his wife.

Democratic chairman Rich Schaffer said they would look again at the race after the election to decide whether to mount a strong challenge in November.

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