Early voting numbers in Suffolk could portend a big victory Tuesday night for County Executive Steve Bellone — or not, depending on what the numbers mean.
Besides the overall county totals decisively favoring Democrats and the expected heavy Democratic turnout in Bellone’s hometown of Babylon (1,023 vs. 407 for the Republicans), the party also did well in Republican strongholds Smithtown and Brookhaven. In Brookhaven, the county’s largest town, 1,675 voters registered as Dems went to the polls early, compared to 1,227 Republicans. In Smithtown, perhaps the county’s reddest town, 534 Democrats turned out versus 482 from the GOP.
It’s not clear whether the turnout signals some sort of blue wave of Democrats who couldn’t wait to register cathartic disapproval of President Donald Trump since Bellone seems to have made a strategic decision not to engage in the national debate. Bellone also had an early-vote ground operation that might have run up the numbers.
Building upon his turnout strategy, Bellone has made it a point over the past year to be a presence in the two solid GOP towns.
In the seven-day period that ended Saturday, Bellone did both a post-storm update and a downtown revitalization tour in St. James in Smithtown and touted an endorsement by the Smithtown News, going right at GOP rival John Kennedy’s strength in his hometown as he has throughout the campaign.
“On Tuesday night, we will better understand if Smithtown Republicans’ early voting deficit was caused by a Blue Wave or was merely indicative of a lackluster GOP ground game,” a GOP source emailed The Point.
Bellone also did at least five events in that period in Brookhaven, including touting an affordable housing development in Medford and a historic home renovation in Yaphank, and attending an early voting rally in East Patchogue. One mailer quoted Billy T., identified as a lifelong Republican from Brookhaven, as voting for Bellone.
Bellone also called in some big-timers' chits with weekend robo-calls from Sen. Chuck Schumer and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who appealed to both the national and local motives for Democrats. The top state officials were more willing to make Suffolk County a national bellwether.
In Schumer’s call, New York’s senior senator cast Bellone as someone who “led the fight to stop the Trump administration’s assault on middle-class taxpayers, working with me to restore our state and local tax deductions which have hurt so many in the middle class.” Schumer finished with an appeal “to elect strong Democrats like Steve to help lead the charge.”
DiNapoli invoked Bellone’s fiscal leadership. “Working diligently to improve county finances without exceeding the state tax cap, Steve has reduced the deficit and the budget gap and is putting in place common-sense fiscal reforms to protect Suffolk County taxpayers,” DiNapoli said.
That call was rich with irony. DiNapoli also recently announced that Suffolk experienced more fiscal stress than any county in the state in 2018. Funny, but DiNapoli did not mention any miracle turnaround. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo did not do a call for Bellone but Bellone does have an Election Day rally at Stony Brook University, the election district that gave Cuomo his biggest margin on Long Island last year.
If the early numbers hold, and that admittedly is a big if, will Bellone bring anyone else along with him? In the county legislative races, for example, in the 8th LD where incumbent William Lindsay is in a tough fight?
New York State’s first experiment with early voting concluded on Sunday, and Nassau County led the way with more than 30,000 people voting.
Suffolk County wasn’t far behind either, coming in sixth with more than 17,000 votes cast.
Both counties were ranked a bit lower if you count by turnout percentage, though that includes counties with much smaller population sample sizes.
Democrats say their ground operation was successful in getting out those less-than-prime party members who may show in an off-year contest. The Nassau GOP was using an app that allowed party members to remind friends and family to vote but it’s unclear whether their increased numbers reflect party regulars taking advantage of a more convenient process.
In Nassau County, Republicans are up overall in early-voting turnout, 13,107 to 12,171.
The most early votes by far were cast in Hempstead, site of a supervisor race in which incumbent Democrat Laura Gillen seized control of the town in 2017 after a century of GOP rule. Statewide, the GOP has its eyes on Hempstead to see whether a comeback is possible for the storied local party machine. There also are some closely watched county legislative contests. Republicans are up 9,265 to 8,177 in the town, with 2,419 blanks bringing up most of the balance.
On the other hand, Suffolk County features Democrats well ahead of Republicans 8,307 to 5,115. The places with the most early votes cast, and the largest turnout percentage, were the 1st and 2nd legislative districts, even though the 1st district is hardly competitive. The Republican candidate there isn’t actively campaigning.
Those districts include the North Fork, the Hamptons, and Shelter Island, homes to many weekend residents. Democrats lead in both.
And if you’ve enjoyed all this early vote data-crunching this year, just wait until 2020 — when according to the state Board of Elections there will be 27 days of the treat overall, between presidential, state and federal primaries, and a big general election.
—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
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What Trump didn't do in NYC this weekend
More than 256,000 New Yorkers embraced the inaugural opportunity to vote early this year, but President Donald Trump was not among them. Trump announced last week a change in residence from New York to Florida, though as of Monday he is still registered to vote here.
Trump didn’t cast a ballot on the nine early voting days, including the time he was in NYC over the weekend, according to NYC Board of Elections spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez. Neither did his wife, Melania, his familial White House co-workers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, or his adult sons Eric and Donald Jr.
The White House did not immediately answer questions about Trump’s voting plans. It has been a sleepy off-off year election in NYC so far, with ballot proposals being some of the bigger draws. But skipping out on early voting meant Trump skipped the chance to cast an early ballot for one of his biggest New York supporters: Staten Island Councilman Joe Borelli, who is running for NYC public advocate.
The president also didn’t endorse in the race, according to Borelli.
Little love for NYC.
—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
Look for a special Election Day edition of The Point tomorrow night in your inbox, where we'll be discussing the latest ballot numbers and analyzing early results in Nassau and Suffolk counties.