The Nassau County Republican Party was courted by presidents, launched the career of a U.S. senator, ruled the State Legislature, dominated Nassau County and outright owned the Town of Hempstead.
But the party’s reputation as the one of the strongest GOP machines in the nation ended Tuesday night.
A party corroded from within by corruption and battered from the outside by modern expectations of accountability and inclusive government was resoundingly rejected by Nassau voters, who demanded a new era and turned to two women.
Democrat Laura Curran, a little-known two-term legislator, became the first woman and only the third member of her party to become Nassau County executive. Laura Gillen, a lawyer and political unknown, became the first Democrat to elected Hempstead Town supervisor in a century.
It’s a stunning turn of events, and both women deserve congratulations. Their hard work and their party’s clear vision earned them a place in Long Island political history.
Their victories, as in all upsets, had many mothers. The turnout was partly propelled by the determined campaign to defeat a state proposition on the ballot; more women than ever before in the county were drawn to grassroots political activity by the election of Donald Trump as president last year; and many Republicans took a pass on the election because of their disgust with a string of federal corruption indictments and divisive national politics.
Gillen was especially helped by Hempstead GOP faithful rejecting the power trip of an incumbent supervisor whose dictatorial tactics and public feud with another woman, town board member Erin King Sweeney, cost him the support of key supporters in the party. Democrats benefited Tuesday from these voices expressing local and national angst about the state of our politics.
Republicans should listen.