Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin and Rep. Peter King won re-election in bitterly fought multimillion-dollar challenges as the Long Island candidates defied a nationwide Democratic surge in districts that favored President Donald Trump two years earlier.
Zeldin (R-Shirley) defeated Democrat Perry Gershon, an East Hampton commercial real estate lender, in eastern Suffolk's 1st Congressional District. Gershon conceded Tuesday night.
"This race offered a clear contrast of results or resistance," Zeldin said during his victory speech. "We were campaigning on results and that's what won at the end of the day."
King (R-Seaford), a 25-year incumbent, battled Liuba Grechen Shirley, a first-time candidate from Amityville in the South Shore 2nd Congressional District, which straddles the Suffolk-Nassau border.
"I did win a solid victory tonight, but the entire margin of victory came from Nassau County," King said in remarks at the Nassau County GOP victory party.,
Both the 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts voted for Trump in 2016, and both Zeldin and King easily won reelection that year.
But Gershon and Grechen Shirley cited opposition to Trump as their motivation to run and tapped into a fired-up Democratic base to win contested primaries against establishment candidates.
Despite some signs that gave Democrats optimism — heavy turnout in their primaries, a special election victory in a heavily Republican seat and a surge in activism — Tuesday's election provided the first test of Trump's popularity in a Long Island general election.
Gershon in his concession speech said, "We showed the Democratic Party has heart."
King earlier in the night predicted victory. “I feel good,” he said, citing high turnout in GOP-strongholds of Seaford and Massaepequa. He said more Democrats than Republicans were coming out, but it will be “close enough” so there “shouldn’t be a blue wave on LI,” he said.
In the 3rd Congressional District, Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) beat Republican challenger Daniel DeBono, a former Navy SEAL from Northport. "Is this a great night for Democrats?" he said. "I'm feeling pretty good we're going to be in the majority come Jan. 1."
In the 4th Congressional District, Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) defeated Ameer Benno, a lawyer from Bellmore.
“I can’t tell you how important this time is, and to be elected in such an atmosphere is really humbling,” Rice said at Nassau Democrats' party in Garden City.
In the 5th Congressional District, which is mostly in Queens with nearly 60,000 Nassau County voters, Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) ran unopposed.
Zeldin, 38, who has been a staunch defender of Trump on cable new shows and social media and held events with controversial administration figures, had hit Gershon for switching his registration last year from Manhattan to his family's second home in East Hampton to run for office. Zeldin had touted himself as the "only Long Islander" in the race and dubbed Gershon "Park Avenue Perry."
Zeldin had also touted his record of local accomplishments on the environment, service in the U.S. Army and legislation to help veterans.
Zeldin had been confident of the results in the race's final weeks.
"We have a homegrown candidate who's done a tremendous job, and we have someone who's imported from Manhattan," Suffolk Republican Chairman John Jay LaValle said Tuesday night, predicting victory for Zeldin.
After Gershon, 56, emerged from a five-way Democratic primary, he switched from an anti-Trump message to touting his willingness to work with the other party. Gershon hit Zeldin for votes on health care and women's issues, including Zeldin's position against abortion.
Kate Browning, who lost the Democratic primary, was on the ballot under the Women's Equality Party line, though supported and campaigned for Gershon.
King, 74, had a national profile as the former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and a frequent guest on Sunday morning and cable news talk shows. He fashioned himself a “blue collar conservative” who has worked well with presidents and lawmakers of both parties.
Grechen Shirley, 37, of Amityville, who has worked in the nonprofit sector in economic development, is among a record number of female candidates running for office this year against President Donald Trump and Republican policies.
Her campaign garnered national attention in May after the Federal Election Commission granted her request to use campaign funds to pay for child care. She won a bitter primary against Suffolk Legis. DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague).
Grechen Shirley said she spent the day knocking on doors in Wyandanch and meeting residents at the Deer Park and Babylon train stations.
“We knocked on more than 250,000 doors, now we just have to wait and see what happens,” she said Tuesday as results rolled in. “This is what a grassroots movement looks like.”
With Scott Eidler, Rick Brand, Rachelle Blidner, Khristopher J. Brooks, Rachel Uda and Christine Chung