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Drama in CD1
How tight is the race for New York’s 1st Congressional District? Tuesday morning, Brookhaven Town Republican Committee chairman Jesse Garcia took to social media to questionably cry foul about an attempted break-in at the Brookhaven GOP headquarters.
“Clearly, whoever did this knows that the key to today’s winning ticket is behind this door,” said a quote from Garcia on the town party Facebook page. He said the timing and targeting made it “clear that this was not a random occurrence or someone seeking physical valuables. To me, this looks like a ‘Bungled Blue Burglary.’ ”
Suffolk County police put it differently, saying in a statement that it was investigating two burglaries and one attempted burglary at the address including the GOP HQ. A doctor’s office and real estate office were burglarized, according to the statement, and cash was stolen from the real estate office. At GOP HQ? Just a damaged door and no entry.
The incident is under investigation, but what seems clear is that the GOP is a little on edge about an unexpectedly tight race.
Rep. Lee Zeldin won the district by 16 percent in 2016, but challenger Perry Gershon remains hopeful. A Gershon senior campaign official said the campaign has “long believed” that if the overall number of votes tops 250,000 in CD1, then the East Hampton Democrat wins. Republicans have a consistent core base, said the campaign official, so more turnout would mean “surging Democrats.”
About 177,000 votes were cast in CD1 in 2014, according to the state Board of Elections. So Gershon’s campaign is looking for at least a 40 percent increase from last midterms.
Gershon’s campaign also is looking for presidential-year turnout from Mastic-Shirley, a stronghold for Zeldin. Big turnout there might mean minority voters are coming out enough to offset Zeldin’s supporters.
The Democrats are also keeping an eye on Patchogue. In 2014, Zeldin flipped Patchogue, which previously had supported then-Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop. They’re hoping for a flip back this year.
It’s all about the turnout
Again and again, the pundits repeat how it all comes down to turnout. And it certainly looks like Tuesday’s turnout may hit some records statewide and especially on Long Island.
Nassau County saw dramatic increases Tuesday, particularly in areas with heated State Senate contests. By 6 p.m., election districts from Great Neck to Massapequa and Plainview to Merrick had seen turnout more than double compared with 2014. At the high end, East Meadow, Hicksville and Glen Cove all saw turnout at 130 percent or more above 2014 levels, and Massapequa Park was a stunning 205 percent higher than the last midterm’s turnout. At East Lake School, 334 votes were cast in 2014. As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, 692 votes were cast.
By 5 p.m., Suffolk’s turnout already had bested 2014 totals, particularly as you move farther east. Overall, the county reported a 38.5 percent turnout as of 4 p.m. — far higher than its 2014 midterm election turnout as of the same time, of 24 percent, but considerably lower than the 2016 turnout, when more than half of Suffolk voters had cast ballots.
Turnout this year has been particularly high in Southold, where 46.7 percent of voters cast ballots as of 4 p.m. Riverhead was at 43 percent and Smithtown at nearly 41 percent — both far higher than the last midterms’ 4 p.m. reporting. Among the State Senate districts, the 1st and 5th districts — where Republicans Ken LaValle and Carl Marcellino are up for re-election — were above 40 percent turnout by 4 p.m.
Here’s some context.
There are 12.7 million people registered to vote in New York, with just over 2 million of them on Long Island, about evenly split between Nassau and Suffolk counties.
If just half of the state’s registered voters — or about 6.4 million — turn out Tuesday, that would be considered a very strong showing for a midterm-election year. It hasn’t happened in any of the non-presidential elections since 1994, when the state Board of Elections’ online records start. The United States Elections Project, which offers state turnout figures dating to 1980, shows that the highest midterm turnout for New York State was in 1982, when 5.4 million people voted.
But since 1994, a time when Republicans had a case of anxiety, the midterm turnout hasn’t been higher than the 5.3 million who cast ballots that year. Nassau and Suffolk saw their highs that year, too: 407,189 Suffolk voters and 462,076 Nassau voters went to the polls.
So, those are the numbers to beat.
The last time Suffolk came close was in 2010, when 401,272 residents voted. That was the last time the State Senate changed hands — returning control to Republicans, the year when Rep. Tim Bishop eked out a victory against Randy Altschuler, an election count that dragged out until December before the winner was certified.
But today there’s a bigger benchmark to reach for: presidential race territory. It’s not expected to eclipse 2016’s 7.8 million New Yorkers voters, but the level of interest is so high, it could come close to 1996’s total — when 6.4 million New Yorkers voted. The low-interest 1996 race between President Bill Clinton and Republican challenger Bob Dole and congressional matches where all but one House incumbent won re-election across New York State sparked a relatively low turnout for a presidential year — with 511,774 Suffolk voters and 552,047 Nassau voters. That’s clearly beatable this year.
But if you use 1994 as your guide, consider this: That election represented its own wave — a red one. It was called the “Republican revolution,” the year of Newt Gingrich and the “Contract for America.” Closer to home, it was the year Gov. George E. Pataki defeated Gov. Mario Cuomo, thanks in part to an especially high turnout upstate. It was also the year Long Island turned redder, with the election of Michael Forbes over incumbent George Hochbrueckner in CD1, plus newcomer Daniel Frisa, and incumbents Rick Lazio and Peter King, rounding out the delegation.
Gary Ackerman, who represented the bluest part of Nassau County, was left the lone Democrat representing any of Long Island.
Randi F. Marshall
Rock the vote, young Skywalker
Trying to measure the Long Island vote
Will Long Island be a bellwether in this national election? Will the results of our congressional races have any bearing on who controls the House?
But what is certain is that Newsday’s editorial board has tried to figure out the significance of the Long Island vote for decades.
Must be something in the aquifer.
Our interest goes back to the 1944 presidential race, only the second such contest in Newsday’s early existence. In the final days of the campaign, the board congratulated residents of Nassau and Suffolk counties for finishing first and third, respectively, in the state in the number of new voter registrations since 1940, the year Newsday first published.
The board theorized that those increases would be pivotal in the contest between incumbent Franklin D. Roosevelt, seeking a record fourth term, and challenger Thomas E. Dewey — a battle between New York governors past and present.
Citing input from GOP leaders in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester, the board wrote that “the pluralities in their traditionally Republican bailiwicks may well be the deciding factor in which direction go New York’s important 47 electoral votes — and therefore, perhaps the nation.”
The theory was that GOP voters in those counties would offset FDR’s presumed advantage in the Bronx, and that Republicans in the rest of the state, including Queens and Staten Island, would eclipse FDR’s totals in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Given that, the board concluded, “Long Island may well be a president maker in this election.”
So how did the board fare as seer and soothsayer?
About as well as an LIRR commuter in a snowstorm.
FDR won the state — albeit by a smaller margin than the nation — by 5 percentage points, beating Dewey 52.3 percent to 47.3 percent. Nationally, FDR won by 7.5 percentage points (53.4 percent to 45.9 percent), took 36 of the 48 states and romped in the Electoral College, 432-99.
It was a time, at least, when teams red and blue were more of a jump ball in New York.
Live election blog
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