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Edging out the old guard

Kevin Thomas, shown at the Garden City Hotel.

Kevin Thomas, shown at the Garden City Hotel. Photo Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

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Daily Point

Long Island’s biggest upset

So who is Kevin Thomas, and how did he apparently beat Kemp Hannon, the Republican state senator from Garden City?

Hannon served in the Assembly for 13 years, in the Senate for 28 years, and is considered that chamber’s expert on health care law. He has vast institutional knowledge about lawmaking, which the editorial board cited when it endorsed him.

Hannon was so formidable that Thomas benefited from none of the hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign spending that saturated the airwaves in, say, the epic Carl Marcellino-James Gaughran battle in the 5th District. There were no Thomas ads on TV. He never cracked $100,000 in fundraising and sent only a few mailers, not the full wheelbarrows most Long Islanders in competitive districts received.

And he didn’t have a built-in constituency. He only recently had moved from Elmont to Levittown with his wife when they decided to start a family (their baby is due in December), and he entered the race because of a 2016 post-Trump urge to get involved in politics. The legal-services lawyer really wanted to run for Congress against Peter King, he told the editorial board in his endorsement interview.

Nassau County Democratic chair Jay Jacobs talked him out of entering the primary for that seat, suggesting the State Senate as a first shot at elective office. Jacobs, who said it is a major effort every two years to find a challenger to Hannon, thought Thomas was a good fit. He is a first-generation Indian, an ethnic group that’s quite politically active, and he is an attorney involved in social justice causes.

“When there is a wave, not every incumbent loses,” Jacobs told the Point. “The wave creates the opportunity, but the candidate still has to have something to offer the public. He has to come across as a solid alternative.”

Clearly, Thomas’ imposing presence and welcoming demeanor fit the bill. The party provided the basics, such as signs and literature.

Turnout mattered, too. The county operation focused a get-out-the-vote effort in the Hempstead area, but not for Thomas. Earlene Hooper, the area’s longtime Assembly member from the 18th District, was defeated in September’s Democratic primary by newcomer Taylor Raynor, who had the party’s backing. There was evidence that in the past, Hooper directed Democratic votes through a network of Hempstead Village churches to Hannon, who consulted with her on how to direct funding grants. There also was talk of a write-in campaign for Hooper. So not taking anything for granted about Raynor, the GOTV effort concentrated in that Assembly district, which overlapped Hannon’s Senate district.

Hannon had comfortably defeated past opponents by at least 10,000 votes. In the blue wave, in a district where Democrats have a 10,000-vote registration advantage, Thomas is ahead by only 1,300 votes. If that holds, it was the upset of the night on Long Island.

Rita Ciolli

Talking Point

Brooklyn’s smack down

What kind of Democrat is Andrew Gounardes, the 33-year-old who appears to have taken down a Republican institution in the State Senate, Brooklyn’s Marty Golden.

He’s no Julia Salazar, the Democratic Socialists of America member elected on the Bushwick side of the borough.

Unofficial results show Gounardes with a lead of approximately 1,000 votes, though Golden has not conceded. Gounardes has run for the seat in the past and has long worked within Brooklyn politics, most recently as counsel for Borough President Eric Adams. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo rallied with Gounardes on separate occasions.

The district is a heavily gerrymandered stretch of Brooklyn’s southwestern shore that connects Bay Ridge to the more suburban and conservative sections of the borough like Marine Park and Gerritsen Beach represented by former cop Golden since 2003.

Gounardes says he won in that territory partially by focusing on “everyday issues” like pedestrian safety, subways and buses, and the high costs of housing and health care.

He used that message, which he calls less “partisan,” to hold losses to a minimum in places like Dyker Heights, while winning big in Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst, where there are more immigrants and young voters.

On fiscal and MTA issues, Gounardes supports congestion pricing — which would likely toll vehicle entry to Manhattan’s business district to raise money and get cars off the road — with the caveats that all funds go to mass transit and to lower outer-borough bridge tolls. (The Brooklyn side of the Verrazzano Bridge is in his district.)

And he thinks that a congestion-pricing plan is “more sustainable” than a millionaire’s tax on high-income city earners, but “everything’s on the table.”

Mark Chiusano

Pencil Point

Riding the wave

Reference Point

A different kind of circus

An observation following a heated election, courtesy of Newsday’s editorial board:

“Other countries have looked on in amazement while we put on a slug fest of name calling, vituperation and violence in the middle of the biggest war in history.”

And what war is that? No, it’s not the red-vs.-blue battle currently riving our nation, nor the never-ending culture war. The board was referencing World War II as the backdrop to the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt to a fourth term as president, and the editorial appeared on Nov. 8, 1944.

The board called presidential elections in general “the greatest show on earth,” a phrase largely duplicated in the name of the Showtime series that chronicled the 2016 presidential campaign, “The Circus: Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth.”

And the board made the case that the rest of the world cannot understand that Americans are different because “we are a people who can fight with enthusiasm and make up with just as much enthusiasm.”

Times, perhaps, have changed.

But Newsday’s board back then theorized that our enemies in Germany and Japan would have been disappointed by the election because “they must have been hoping, hoping so fervently, that this show we have just put on was indicative of a division in the American people.”

Seventy-four years later, the division is real and so wide that one wonders whether an actual war is the only thing that could give us a common purpose.

Michael Dobie

Columns