Republican Anthony Palumbo and Democrat Laura Ahearn, who are both running for state senator in the 1st District, cast their votes on Tuesday. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas; Randee Daddona

ALBANY — Republicans gave three Democratic senators a stiff challenge and led in early returns Tuesday which, if the GOP leads hold in the count of absentee ballots, would put a dent in the moderate "Long Island six" in the Democrats’ progressive majority.

In the 3rd Senate District, Sen. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood) was trailing Republican Alexis Weik of Sayville, the former Islip town receiver of taxes. Republicans had poured money and effort into trying to flip the seat.

Republican Edmund Smith, a Huntington councilman, was also leading Sen. James Gaughran (D-Northport) in the 5th Senate District.

Sen. Kevin Thomas (D-Levittown), who was also targeted by Republican donors, was trailing in his first re-election bid against Republican Dennis Dunne Sr. of Levittown, a Hempstead town councilman.

And in a fight for the open 1st Senate District seat, Democrat Laura Ahearn was trailing former Assemb. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) in a district that had long been represented by Republicans. Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) who retired this year after 44 years in the Senate.

In addition, Republicans were in a position to hold GOP seats. In the 2nd Senate District, Republican Mario Mattera, a union leader from St. James, was leading Democrat Michael Siderakis of Nesconset, a former state trooper. The seat was long held by former Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport), who retired this year.

In the 4th District, Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bayshore) was leading in his race against Democrat Christine Pellegrino of West Islip, a former Assembly member. Boyle is the last of the "Long Island Nine," a powerful bloc for years in the Senate.

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For Democrats, Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck) was leading over Republican David Franklin in the 7th District and Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) was leading Republican Victoria Johnson. Both seats had been in Republican control for decades before 2018.

In the Assembly, Assmb. Steven Englebright (D-Setauket) was facing a strong challenge from Republican Michael Ross of Setauket, a lawyer in his first political race. Englebright has been in office since 1992.

In the open seat in the 9th Assembly District, Republican Michael Durso was leading Democrat Ann Brancato in the seat that was held by Republican Michael LiPetri, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress.

The votes were from early voting and from Tuesday’s machine votes, but won’t include more than 120,000 absentee ballots mailed in by Suffolk County voters and another 140,000 mailed in by Nassau County voters. They won’t be counted for at least seven days under state law. Official results could be weeks away in close races, election officials said.

"It's a waiting game," said state and Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs at his party's socially distanced election night event in Jericho. But I'd rather be us than the other guy."

An October poll by the Siena College Research Institute found Republican President Donald Trump was found to be deeplyunpopular in the state dominated 2-to-1 by Democratic voters.

Democrats seek wins to build on a landmark progressive record over the last two years of all-Democratic control of the legislature. Among the successful Democratic measures long blocked by the former Republican Senate majority were allowing immigrants in the country without property documentation to obtain driver’s licenses; strengthening abortion laws and eliminating bail in most cases.

Senate Democrats also seek to expand their 40-23 seat majority by a net of two more seats. That would give them a veto-proof majority in the legislature and could also strengthen Democrats’ election advantage for the next decade through redistricting. Next year, majorities in the Senate and Assembly begin to redraw the lines of election districts based on the U.S. Census, subject to a governor’s veto.

Meanwhile, Republicans argue they need to provide a check on all-Democrat control of state government and what they call a big-spending, liberal agenda.

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