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Zeldin in the crossfire
When it comes to constituencies, Lee Zeldin can get caught between two lovers. The Shirley Republican who has become a darling of cable TV bookers often has to juggle a national party that sees the world one way, and an eastern Long Island voter base with a different take. Right now, the congressman is dealing with two such conflicts.
On the House tax bill that would eliminate federal deductions for state income taxes, cap property tax deductions at $10,000 a year and lower the cap on mortgage deductions, Zeldin has been crystal clear in his opposition to GOP leadership. It’s a plan so damaging to his constituents that supporting it for Zeldin might be the equivalent of announcing he doesn’t want to stay in Congress.
And a full-page ad in Newsday Sunday bought by the New York State Association of Realtors to cheer Zeldin and Rep. Peter King for opposing the tax bill seemed to almost be a warning about just how such ads might read if the two changed their minds and voted yes.
But Zeldin’s path on Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore, accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls, including a 14-year-old decades ago, is far rockier, and he hasn’t been very smooth in trying to explain his stance. Zeldin’s interview on CNN got a ton of attention as the second-term House member refused to say Moore should drop out of the race.
“I think as Roy Moore answers those questions, a lot of people can get a better read on and be able to form their own independent judgment,” Zeldin said Friday evening during an interview with CNN’s Kate Bolduan. As the interview continued and Zeldin became increasing uncomfortable and slow to respond, Bolduan pressed him. Zeldin said “I never said that it’s not true. I never said that it definitely was. There’s an allegation that took place. So I wouldn’t want to be misunderstood.”
The Moore issue has become both a “them versus us” culture war and a very serious political problem because the GOP cannot afford to lose another seat. But Zeldin may have misread the wind on this one: On Monday even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he believed Moore’s accusers.
The public lesson of Tuesday’s election is that women are cresting in Nassau County politics. The takeway from a private dinner in Wantagh Friday night is that this moment is starting off as post-partisan.
Hempstead Supervisor-elect Laura Gillen defeated the vaunted Nassau Republican machine and took down one of the most powerful men in the county, incumbent Supervisor Anthony Santino. The Democrat got a lot of help to get Republicans and Independents to turn out Santino from town board member Erin King Sweeney. A maverick like her father, Rep. Peter King, she took on the supervisor at town board meetings.
King Sweeney never endorsed Gillen, unlike her fellow GOP board member Bruce Blakeman. But she was certainly out there whipping votes for Democrats Gillen and now County Executive-elect Laura Curran.
And on Friday night the Gillens and the King Sweeneys celebrated their victory. The families got together at King-Sweeney’s home and the men got a dinner of roast beef, salmon and vegetables. And, The Point is told, there was plenty of wine for the women to celebrate.
Will Hempstead Board play nice?
The Hempstead Town Board meeting Tuesday could be an early sign of how politics in the town may shift after last week’s election. Or, it could be payback time for the hard-line supporters of Supervisor Anthony Santino, who lost his bid for re-election.
The board is scheduled to revisit a proposal to add playground equipment to a passive park preserve at Wynsum Avenue Park in south Merrick. Board members are being asked to accept a $75,000 grant from Nassau County.
That vote was tabled in a 4-2 vote last month after some residents near the park raised concerns that a playground might draw traffic and rowdy children. Santino — who had previously supported the project — didn’t appear to want a controversial vote before the election.
Another explanation for why the project stalled might be politics: The park is in Hempstead’s 5th Council District, represented by Erin King Sweeney. She has been locked in a long-running feud with Santino. On top of that, the park is surrounded by election districts where Democrats outnumber Republicans.
Last week, all three election districts that border Wynsum Avenue Park went for Democrat Laura Gillen for supervisor, mirroring the result in 2015. But in two of those districts, Santino lost by a substantially greater margin than he did two years ago: His margin of defeat in those two districts was greater by 18 percent and 17 percent, respectively.
Further, Gillen’s vote outperformed the ratio of Democratic registration in the area, suggesting Republicans defected to support Gillen, who backs the proposed playground.
After the election, King Sweeney asked that the vote on accepting the grant be rescheduled, and Monday morning it suddenly turned up on the calendar. Will Santino allies on the board now recognize the support of the community for the playground, or will they deliver another rebuke to King Sweeney?
Above: A map showing how election results in the Town of Hempstead shifted from 2015 to 2017. Areas shaded blue voted more strongly for the Democratic candidate in 2017; areas shaded red voted more strongly for the Republican.