TODAY'S PAPER
Good Morning
Good Morning
Opinion

A surprising turn of events

Daily Point

Spencer’s arrest throws wrench in Suffolk Dems’ plans

The arrest of Suffolk County Legis. William "Doc" Spencer, a Democrat, after he allegedly provided Oxycodone pills in exchange for sex from a prostitute in the parking lot of a Goodwill store was so shocking to Suffolk’s political establishment that the personal tragedy of the news stalled the political fallout of his predicament for a few hours.

But just a few.

Suffolk County Republican chairman Jesse Garcia called it "an astounding betrayal of trust" and called on Spencer to resign immediately. "This alleged act was an attempt to abuse his position of power and trust, prey on women, and take advantage of those he believed were prisoners of addiction. His legislative record of sponsoring dozens of resolutions focusing on health and drug abuse make this alleged drug-for-sex trade all the more evil, because he clearly knew the consequences of his behavior on his intended victim."

However, Suffolk County Democratic chair Rich Schaffer pointedly did not call for him to step down, and gave Spencer some breathing space to decide. Schaffer also hit back, noting that GOP Legis. Rudy Sunderman of the 3LD is under indictment for perjury and ethics violation but is still on the job. "These are very serious, troubling charges and he should be afforded the same courtesy we give everyone, including Legislator Sunderman, who is charged with a crime: the opportunity to present a defense and answer the District Attorney's allegations," Schaffer said in a statement. "I will have further comment at the time that he is found guilty, pleads guilty or is found not guilty of these charges."

Democrats also don’t have a likely candidate. Spencer still has one more year on his current legislative term, and is eligible to serve until the end of 2023 before being term-limited. Under usual political cycles, fresh faces for the seat would not have emerged until after the 2021 legislative races.

Several sources told The Point that Spencer could trade a resignation as part of a plea bargain deal, but they also added that he needs some time to decide about continuing medical coverage and other needs for his family.

If or when Spencer resigns also is a political calculation. Doing so would trigger action by Suffolk County Legislature, which must set a date for a special election to fill his seat within 60 to 90 days of the official resignation date. And winning LD18, which runs on the North Shore from Cold Spring Harbor to East Northport, could determine control of the legislature.

Right now, Democrats have a 10-7 advantage but that likely will return to a 10-8 margin after November’s election. That’s when voters in LD4 will choose a replacement for Republican Thomas Muratore, who died in September and whose successor will be chosen on the general election ballot. Muratore was a popular vote-getter and the seat in central eastern Brookhaven Town leans Republican. But with it being on the ballot in a presidential year with a higher-than-usual expected turnout, the outcome is a bit uncertain.

If Muratore’s seat stays GOP, Democrats must hold on to Spencer’s seat. Otherwise, there would be a legislative deadlock of 9-9 and the Suffolk charter empowers the county clerk, a position held by Judy Pascale, to appoint the presiding officer. Pascale, a Republican, who was also endorsed by the Conservative Party, defeated former Legis. DuWayne Gregory for a four-year term in 2018.

—Rita Ciolli @ritaciolli

Talking Point

East End still hot, hot, hot

The anticipated slowdown in pandemic-fueled East End real estate sales still hasn’t happened, as judged by revenue continuing to pour into the Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund.

The CPF, which is fueled by a 2% tax on East End real estate sales, took in $12.42 million in September, according to Assemb. Fred Thiele, one of the architects of the legislation that created the CPF. Not only did that beat the $11.16 million taken in during August, but also it was the third-largest monthly haul in the fund’s 21-year history.

For the first nine months of 2020, the CPF has received $84.68 million, 45.5% more than the $58.2 million collected during the same period last year.

Chances are the report for October will finally reflect a settling of the market that turned red-hot when residents of New York City and elsewhere looked to the Hamptons as a refuge from the coronavirus.

But if there is another resurgence of the virus … well, records were meant to be broken.

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie

Pencil Point

Those meddling kids

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/cartoons

Final Point

Does third-party polling popularity pan out?

It’s impossible to say exactly what effect votes cast for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein had on the 2016 presidential election, which might explain why so much energy has been expended trying. And for supporters of Hillary Clinton in particular, it’s hard to look past the fact that in many of the closest state races that gave the White House to President Donald Trump, both drew more votes than the Republican's winning margin.

That leads to a discussion of what effect the candidacies of Green Howie Hawkins and Libertarian Jo Jorgenson will have this time around, and how accurate pre-election polling of such support will match up with the real votes.

The issue remains a hot one largely because in five key states in the 2016 election, Stein and Johnson combined for a higher percentage of votes than Trump beat Clinton by: Arizona (.6%), Florida (1.6%), Michigan (4.4%), Pennsylvania (2.0%) and Wisconsin (3.7%).

But the two minor-party candidates still badly underperformed polls taken in the week before the election. On Nov. 8, the RealClearPolitics average of support nationally for Johnson was 5%, but he got only 3.3% of the vote. And Stein, projected the day before the election to pull in 2.0%, received only 1%.

Experts say this kind of support always faces the kind of melt it did in 2016, as voters resign themselves to the binary nature of the contest and grudgingly pick a Democrat or Republican. Or, if they still cannot stand to do so and feel a third-party vote is futile, stay home.

And what does that portend this time around?

Jorgenson and Hawkins are far less known nationally than Johnson and Stein, both of whom were also standard-bearers for their parties in 2012. And the 2020 candidates have raised exponentially less, with Jorgenson pulling in $1.4 million against Johnson’ $11 million, and Hawkins raising $300,000 compared with Stein’s $3 million.

It seems clear the Greens and Libertarians will pull in even fewer votes this time around than in 2016, which was a record for both parties. Hawkins is not even on the ballot in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and the latest four-way poll, an IBD/TIPP tally released Wednesday, shows Jorgenson with 2.6% support and Hawkins with 0.7%. If that were to melt away by half, their final tallies would likely be close to the 2012 results for third parties, in which Johnson got 0.99% and Stein got 0.36%.

And yet, that does not mean these parties won’t have an effect. It’s state results, not national ones, that matter, and since any state can be won by a single vote, a candidate who pulls 10,000 or 20,000 in a swing state could be decisive.

But the parties won’t get as many votes as four years ago. And they almost certainly won’t get as many votes as pre-election polls claim they will. But they do have an impact. That Wednesday IBD/TIPP poll also shows that in a head-to-head matchup Democrat Joe Biden is beating Republican Donald Trump by 1.8 points, but when the question is asked with all four candidates as options, Biden’s lead grows to 2.5 points.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Columns