In an unprecedented set of congressional primaries Tuesday on Long Island, Rep. Andrew Garbarino and Nick LaLota, candidates backed by the Republican Party establishment, defeated a field of challengers who'd claimed they were more aligned with former President Donald Trump.
Among Democrats, former Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen and Democratic National committeeman Robert Zimmerman surged from the pack to win crowded, open contests in Nassau County.
Gillen, the former Hempstead town supervisor, declared victory over opponents Carrié Solages and Keith Corbett. The winner will represent Democrats in the bid to succeed Rep. Kathleen Rice.
In the 3rd Congressional District along Nassau's North Shore, Zimmerman declared victory shortly before 11 p.m. in a tight race. Zimmerman was helped by many union and high-profile endorsers. Former North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman finished second in the race to replace Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who didn't run for reelection.
In Suffolk, the contests shaped up to be a gauge of strength of local Republican Party organizations as well as a measure of whether Trump-centric campaigns that have succeeded in other states’ GOP primaries can do so in New York. In the end, party-backed candidates triumphed.
Garbarino (R-Bayport) defeated two opponents in the 2nd District, which runs mainly along Suffolk's South Shore. In the North Shore-based 1st District, LaLota declared victory shortly before 11 p.m., defeating cryptocurrency executive Michelle Bond and former Brookhaven deputy supervisor Anthony Figliola.
On the Island and across all of New York, Republicans and Democrats were fighting for the direction of the party in a rare election in August, when voter turnout was expected to be so low that almost no surprise could be discounted.
The top elections:
In the contest to replace Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who opted to run for governor instead of reelection, the Suffolk GOP committee backed LaLota, 43, a county legislative official, against two others: Figliola, 42, a lobbyist and former Brookhaven deputy supervisor, and Bond, 46, who heads a cryptocurrency organization and is supported by Long Island Loud Majority, a pro-Trump organization listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as among “extreme anti-government groups.”
With nearly all election districts reporting, LaLota had 47% of the vote; Bond, 28%; and Figliola, 25%.
After declaring victory, LaLota criticized Bond for accepting millions of dollars in campaign donations from cryptocurrency groups and the Long Island Loud Majority for backing her.
Looking toward November, LaLota said: "We want to get the economy on the right track to cut regulations and get people back to work. Less taxes, not more is the right way to fight inflation."
The district runs primarily along Suffolk County’s North Shore but dips south to include the Hamptons.
Garbarino, 37, had served in the state Assembly before being elected to Congress two years ago, notching a conservative voting record.
But opponents David Cornicelli and Mike Rakebrandt tried to cast Garbarino as not sufficiently pro-Trump.
Garbarino had been attacked on two bipartisan votes: one in favor of the massive infrastructure bill and the other on Jan. 6, 2021, to certify the 2020 election, officially ending Trump’s presidency.
Cornicelli, 54, had touted scoring the endorsement of Michael Flynn, a retired lieutenant general and adviser to Trump who was convicted on federal perjury charges. Flynn subsequently was pardoned by Trump.
With about 90% of election districts reporting, Garbarino iced the victory with 55% of the vote. Cornicelli had 36%; Rakebrandt, 9%.
“I’ve always done what’s right for my district and I’ll go down to fight for my district," Garbarino said.
The 2nd District runs along the South Shore, extending east to Eastport and west to include a small bit of Nassau County in Massapequa.
Analysts had called this the “marquee” race on Long Island in part because it sported the largest and hardest field to forecast. It was a race created when Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) decided not to run for reelection but unsuccessfully sought the Democratic gubernatorial nomination instead.
The candidates were activist Melanie D’Arrigo, 41; former North Hempstead supervisor Jon Kaiman, 60; Nassau County Legis. Joshua Lafazan, 28; businesswoman Reema Rasool, 43; and Democratic National Committee member and longtime public relations executive Robert P. Zimmerman, 67.
Lafazan and Zimmerman had raised the most money. Zimmerman had the most union and high-profile endorsements, including Hillary Clinton. Kaiman had the backing of 32BJ, the influential union of building maintenance, janitorial and custodial workers.
With all election districts reporting, results showed Zimmerman with 35%; Kaiman, 26%; Lafazan, 20%; D'Arrigo, 16%; and Rasool, 2%.
"We won by speaking to mainstream Democratic values that reflect the values of this congressional district, many Republicans and independents alike,” Zimmerman said, citing ending gun violence and supporting abortion rights.
The district runs from a sliver of northeast Queens to all of Nassau County’s North Shore and dips south along the Nassau-Suffolk border to Massapequa Park.
This open seat was created when Rice surprised party leaders by deciding not to run again. Four Democrats were seeking to replace her: Gillen; Malverne Mayor Keith Corbett, 43; physician Muzibul Huq, 70; and Nassau County Legis. Carrié Solages, 43.
Insiders had projected Gillen as the strongest candidate leading up to the primary, citing her base in Hempstead. And she scored the night's easy victory, garnering 62% to Solages' 24% and Corbett's 11%. She told Newsday her message resonated with phone calls and meetings with voters.
"They want to make sure they're going to elect someone who is going to protect civil liberties, advocate for women's autonomy over their bodies,” Gillen said, “and protect our democracy."
The district encompasses southwest Nassau.
With Scott Eidler and John Asbury