Taking a look at turnout
Early election results from Suffolk and Nassau counties seem to confirm that early voting did indeed goose turnout numbers.
As of 6 p.m., 20.6 percent of the county’s registered voters already had cast a ballot, either Tuesday or in the nine-day early period. That might not seem like a stellar number, but the tally with three hours remaining before polls closed was better than the 20.2 percent who voted in 2015, which also featured a county executive race.
Interesting footnote: Both years pale in comparison to the 34.2 percent turnout rate in 2017, when the top office being contested was county sheriff. But that ballot also featured a controversial constitutional convention question, which drew the most action of any race that year.
The picture was much the same in Nassau. The 7 p.m. turnout rate there was 22 percent, compared to final turnout of around 22 percent in 2015. But in 2017, when con-con and a hot county executive race were the headliners, turnout was a comparatively lofty 32 percent.
Money to burn
For a sign that Long Island is the political center of the state this Election Day, look no further than state party spending.
The New York Republican State Committee gave a whopping $244,211 to Hempstead Town supervisor candidate Don Clavin, the most to any individual candidate, in the party’s 11-day pre-general filing, the most recent campaign finance filings available.
This October contribution was nearly a quarter of the state party’s total candidate allocations for that filing, and comes on top of another $111,000 from September. If Clavin wins in Hempstead, the center of the universe for the GOP machine, new state party chair Nick Langworthy can claim Republicans still have a pulse.
That may be why those sums to Clavin dwarf the $54,683 sent to Suffolk County executive challenger John Kennedy for his run.
The New York State Democratic Committee also spent big on the Hempstead supervisor race but less than their counterparts, funneling $216,284 and $27,353 to incumbent Laura Gillen in the 11-day and 32-day pre-general filings.
The biggest infusion by Democrats went to incumbent Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who drew $365,464 and $90,118 in those filings, respectively.
Both parties spent tens of thousands on legislative races, with Democrats trying to hold onto the Sarah Anker seat in Suffolk’s 6th Legislative District and William Lindsay in the 8th, while in Nassau the money was a bet that Laura Burns could upset GOP incumbent Willam Gaylor. The GOP also cut a $4,357 check to a Suffolk County legislative candidate under indictment for perjury and more, Rudy Sunderman.
Inexplicably, both state parties spent big on likely winners or incumbents like Republican supervisors Angie Carpenter of Islip ($47,968) and Ed Romaine of Brookhaven (more than $140,000 over two filings) while the Democrats sent more than $90,000 to North Hempstead’s Judy Bosworth in the leadup to Election Day. They also gave $56,290 to James Altadonna, a Republican running on the Democrat line, in his bid for Oyster Bay supervisor.
Better safe than sorry.
—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
David vs. Goliath?
With a great political story and two terms as Dutchess County executive behind him, Marc Molinaro, 44, is one of the players New York Republicans plotting a return to relevance are counting on. His name is at the top of the list when the topic is challenging freshman Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado in the hypercompetitive 19th District.
The question is whether a changing political environment and a 23-point beating by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo last year could cost Molinaro a third term, and a political future.
Just take a look at what happened after former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino took on Cuomo in 2014. He entered the race with a seemingly secure post to fall back on: after all, Astorino won by 15 points in 2009 and 12 points in 2013.
But Astorino lost the governor’s race to Cuomo by 13 points and the mood of Democrats changed after President Donald Trump’s win in 2016. In 2017, Astorino lost to Democrat George Latimer by 14 points in a race many considered a referendum on Trump and a hangover from the daily damage anyone running against Cuomo sustains.
Could Molinaro, who won his county executive races in 2011 and 2015 by 24 points each, face a similar fate in his third-term run? He’s opposed by former New York State Bridge Authority Executive Director Joseph Ruggiero. Ruggiero narrowly lost the county executive race 12 years ago, and Democrats have increased their voter registrations in the county by almost 25 percent since that race, while Republican numbers have shrunk a bit.
Experts dither over whether Ruggiero has a shot. But there is general agreement on what it would mean if Molinaro, who did not support Trump in 2016, loses: Republicans face increasing irrelevance in New York.
For those hoping a Molinaro win can keep hopes of a two-party New York alive, there is an intriguing difference between his and Astorino’s runs at Cuomo. The governor beat Astorino in Westchester by 14 points in 2014. But in 2018 Molinaro defeated Cuomo by 7 points in his home county.
—Lane Filler @lanefiller
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Battle for Glen Cove
The county and town races on Long Island will grab most of the attention, but it’ll be worth keeping one eye on the Glen Cove mayoral election.
It’s a rematch of the brutal 2017 race, when Mayor Tim Tenke, a Democrat, eked out a victory against former Mayor Reggie Spinello, an Independent, by a stunning three-vote margin, with 5,565 votes cast.
Now, Spinello is challenging the incumbent. As of late Tuesday afternoon, Tenke campaign manager Aaron Siegel told The Point that turnout so far seemed higher than anticipated, but most surprising may be that about 20 percent of voters have been “blanks” — unaffiliated with a party.
“Nobody can figure out why, or what’s driving these people in a small local election where the top of the ticket is a non-competitive district attorney race,” Siegel said. “It’s very curious.”
The unaffiliated voters also make the race harder to predict, Siegel said, so the get-out-the-vote effort becomes all the more important in the last few hours.
The campaign has been an ugly battle, and has included mailers that call Tenke “dangerous for Glen Cove.” While the source of the mailers is unclear, Spinello’s camp says they came from his supporters. Tenke’s own mailer criticizes Spinello by saying, “When you’re telling the truth, you’re not afraid to put your name on it.”
Tenke has spent his two years facing off against a Republican-majority city council, and most recently has battled with comptroller Sandra Clarson, whom he fired but who was reinstated by a judge in September.
Glen Cove is too small to poll easily, and candidates usually don’t have the money to poll, so it’s unclear where residents stand in this race. Democrats have a registration edge, but that hasn’t always made the difference. In a city that’s accustomed to tight races, observers said they expect turnout to be about 6,000.
“All of the indicators show there’s going to be a good turnout,” Spinello campaign manager Richard Zyta said.
But it’s likely the vote will be tight. “It’s going to be close any way you slice it,” Siegel said.
If 2019 brings another nail-biter, Glen Cove might not get a definitive result Tuesday night. Two years ago, it took a decision by a state Supreme Court justice to finalize the results — and that didn’t come until Nov. 29.
—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall