One big winner ran no race
While most Long Island Republicans had a good night Tuesday, one who was particularly buoyed by the races didn’t even run: Lee Zeldin.
Zeldin got a big boost to his gubernatorial hopes as the returns in New York, as well as in gubernatorial races in blue New Jersey and Virginia, gave credence to a Republican governor’s mansion revival.
Zeldin, who would be giving up his seat in Congress to run, was the first Republican in the pool for the race next November, and has momentum and the endorsements of a majority of county Republican chairs.
No Republican has won statewide office in New York since George Pataki in 2002, giving rise to the view that a Republican looking to win statewide had better be extremely moderate.
But the Republican wins on Long Island and elsewhere included a lot of conservative candidates, and a lot of emphasis on conservative causes. The races were contested on solid GOP issues like policing, what they believe is an overemphasis on diversity in schools, climate policy, federal and state control over local issues, spending and social issues.
Zeldin told The Point he was "extremely pleased" with Tuesday’s results. "When I decided to get into the race, who was in the White House and who was in power at every level was a big question: To have single-party rule in every chamber and role in Washington and Albany is highly unusual."
Zeldin also said the issues that Republicans are winning on are ones where his stances resonate, too — like our exit from Afghanistan, the southern border, and trillions in new proposed spending.
Suffolk County GOP chairman Jesse Garcia said Tuesday night that the results were a great indicator for 2022, and particularly for Zeldin.
Zeldin still has time to quit the gubernatorial race and seek reelection but he also has a quandary: As a Republican House member in New York, the only elective promotions are Senate and governor, and any such races will always be a long shot.
But in this one, at least, his odds seemed a lot better Wednesday morning than they had 24 hours earlier.
— Lane Filler @lanefiller
The enthusiasm gap
It was a "horrific" night for Nassau County Democrats, by the accounting of one party source, as even legislative districts that should be solidly blue seemed to turn into losses, and the entire top of the ticket appeared to fall into Republican hands.
Besides the "red wave" that washed over Long Island Tuesday, bail reform played a role across the board in Nassau County.
But there was something harder to quantify, one source said. The party, the source said, had "lost touch … with its core constituency." And that led to record-low turnout in some spots, especially in minority districts, the source told The Point. Multiple sources said the concern went beyond bail reform, to broader messaging and efforts to get out the vote.
As of Wednesday afternoon, it seemed to be an uphill struggle to overcome the existing gap between incumbent County Executive Laura Curran and Republican challenger Bruce Blakeman — a gap of more than 11,000 votes.
There was more of a possibility that one or two legislative races, currently neck-and-neck, could end up in the D column. But even for that, everything would have to break right.
Take the 16th District. Long held by the late Judy Jacobs, a popular Democrat and the legislature’s former presiding officer, the seat is currently up for grabs between incumbent Arnold Drucker and Republican challenger Daniel Alter. With all precincts reporting, Alter is ahead by 253 votes.
The tight race may in part be due to Drucker’s controversial role in helping to write state legislation that would have allowed owners of new construction a lengthier exemption in assessment increases — an exemption that could help Drucker, who lives in the Plainview Country Pointe development. The bill is still pending in Albany, and Alter hit Drucker on it during the campaign.
According to data provided to The Point, the district had 1,261 returned absentee ballots as of Monday. Of those, 834 were from registered Democrats and 238 were from registered Republicans, giving Drucker a potential edge. But then there are the 156 "blanks" — and it’s unclear where those will go.
Democratic sources told The Point that Drucker likely has more of a chance in his race than does incumbent Josh Lafazan, who has a 249-vote deficit to overcome with Republican challenger Paolo Pironi in the 18th District. That’s in part because the absentee breakdown in Lafazan’s district is not quite as favorable to the Democrat. As of Monday, 1,067 absentee ballots had been returned for the district, with 551 from registered Democrats, 322 from registered Republicans, and 153 from blanks.
What could help Lafazan: Some Republican ballots might go his way. Lafazan, an independent, supported a controversial bill that would have given first responders, including police officers, the right to sue protesters or others when they faced "discrimination." Curran ended up vetoing the bill, but Lafazan’s position might have given him some Republican support.
One Nassau race that’s certain not to change after absentee ballots are counted: Democrat Legis. Ellen Birnbaum’s loss to challenger Mazi Melesa Pilip in Great Neck. Pilip is up by more than 2,000 votes in the 10th District, where only 1,566 absentee ballots had come in as of Monday, a shift reflecting increasing conservative views by new residents in what once had been a liberal bastion.
— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall
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Suozzi finding a path
Tuesday’s Republican tsunami may have washed Tom Suozzi onto more solid ground as he contemplates running for governor. Suozzi, who would need to carve out a path as a suburban moderate, issued a news release Wednesday that looked like his primary road map through New York City and on to Buffalo.
Saying he was proud to have supported mayoral candidates Eric Adams and Byron Brown, the Suozzi release took a poke at other gubernatorial rivals but not by name. "Democrats need to listen to the voters: they don’t want fence-straddlers, they don’t want pie in the sky philosophical debate, they don’t want scorched earth tactics. They want elected officials who will be straight with them and get things done," the release said.
While Suozzi may have pulled a few good cards by his early primary support of Adams and the write-in candidacy of Brown, he still may have difficulty pulling the inside straight. That’s the getting-things-done part. Suozzi has defined his mission as fully restoring the state and local tax deductions, known as SALT, a 2017 Trump tax change that pinched the pockets of many New Yorkers.
Eliminating the current $10,000 cap and restoring the deduction would be a keystone of any gubernatorial campaign but it is hitting another last minute wall of opposition in Washington. Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders blasted the plan put forward by Suozzi, Sen. Chuck Schumer and other blue state representatives that would have restored the full deduction for five years. "This is beyond unacceptable," said Sanders.
The revised proposal being floated on Wednesday is a $72,500 cap for 10 years.
A Senate source who declined to provide specifics said a new, modified deal "may be closer than ever." But would a compromise work for Suozzi who has made "No Salt, No Deal" his mantra? Suozzi has lobbied for full restoration on the grounds that these high earners whose taxes fund New York will leave for low-tax states. But blowing up the Democrats' signature legislation, especially after the party’s inability to pass the infrastructure and social spending bills are being partially to blame for Tuesday’s debacle, could look obstructionist.
Suozzi didn’t tip his hand, telling The Point that while he still wants full repeal, he’s glad "everyone is still negotiating."
— Rita Ciolli @ritaciolli