One door closes …
CD3 Republican candidate George Santos conceded to Rep. Tom Suozzi Tuesday morning as newly opened mail-in ballots put the incumbent Glen Cove Democrat firmly ahead despite continued counting in Suffolk County.
The election night totals had been positive enough for Santos, a newcomer from the Queens part of the district, that he went down to D.C. for new-member orientation last week. But as in some other New York races, there was a Democratic counterweight to come in uncounted paper ballots.
"It’s been an interesting journey," Santos told The Point, adding that he’ll now be heading back to New York by train and that he plans to quarantine for 14 days.
He also said that he had other plans for the more distant future.
"I am running again in two years."
—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
Down to the wire in SD5
The winner of the State Senate contest between incumbent Democrat Jim Gaughran and Republican Ed Smyth is likely to turn on whether the well-known Huntington town council member is able to get a lion’s share of the non-affiliated absentee ballots, as well as some Democratic cross-overs in the Suffolk County part of the district.
As of Tuesday, Nassau County had the final results for its portion of a district that straddles both counties. Gaughran netted 43,346 votes and Smyth got 40,375.
The Suffolk County website showed Smyth ahead with 34,575 votes and Gaughran with 27,132 but counting is not complete and expected to continue in Suffolk on Wednesday.
Democrats believe the trend of independent voters going with Democrats will continue in Suffolk and that Gaughran will return to Albany. But Republicans note that the Suffolk part of the district encompasses all of the Town of Huntington and said that those same non-affiliated voters will be more heavily GOP.
Suffolk County GOP chairman Jesse Garcia told The Point Smyth is a high-profile member of town government, and that part of the campaign’s strategy was to reach out to independent voters to tell them that Smyth played a key role in saving taxpayers from being hit with a negative court ruling in the tax case between LIPA and Huntington town."
"Smyth is an active and popular councilman who has a distinguished reputation," said Garcia. He said canvassing before the vote showed Smyth had support from independents as well soft Democrats.
So what happens when the outcome is based on a small margin?
This past weekend, a firm called Advance Research called Huntington voters for an "exit poll." The firm asked for a specific registered voter and then asked that person who he or she voted for in the State Senate race as well as the Assembly contest between Democrat Steve Stern and Republican Jamie Silvestri, mentioning by name all four major party candidates. The pollsters then asked the caller whom he or she chose for president. The Point learned the research was being done on behalf of the GOP to determine which absentee ballots should be challenged.
Garcia, who said he was not aware of the exit polling, added that the party had identified voters using a "series of methodologies and tools," during the campaign cycle to determine which absentee voters might be challenged. That involved using databases that looked at voting history, and whether a voter had previously cast ballots out of town. That helped determine which votes might be challenged as improper, along with more traditional criteria as mismatched signatures and late postmarks.
"These things are done with large back offices assembled to help figure out what to use and go after at the tables, and often whoever has the most information wins," said one veteran insider involved in many such vote challenges.
—Rita Ciolli @ritaciolli
Into the sunset
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The MTA’s budget dilemma
It’s safe to say that Wednesday’s meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board will bring more bad news. Officials are set to present an agency budget at a time when the authority continues to bleed billions of dollars as ridership remains far below pre-pandemic levels.
The MTA has projected a budget deficit that could reach more than $16 billion by 2024.
The board won’t vote on any budget proposal Wednesday. Such a vote won’t come until at least December.
It’s unclear whether the MTA will know anything more by then as to whether it’ll get help from a lame duck Congress, or whether it will have to wait to see what 2021, and the results of two Senate runoff elections, bring. So, while the authority continues to hope that $12 billion in federal stimulus funding will come through, executives are preparing for a scenario in which that money never comes. MTA officials have detailed proposals that could include service cuts that would mean Long Island Rail Road trains run only once an hour — or even once every two hours — while subway and bus wait times would increase as well. The LIRR also could end up stopping service on one or more branches entirely.
Such a scenario also could include cutting jobs and raising fares.
The MTA’s budget isn’t expected to be specific in terms of exactly which branches would be impacted, or the other cuts being contemplated. Some pieces of a proposed plan, such as fare hikes, will require public hearings and other steps. It’s likely that any changes won’t take effect until the end of the first quarter of 2021.
"There are no good alternatives," said MTA board member Kevin Law, who heads the Long Island Association. "Every option will create some pain and suffering to various stakeholders, primarily the commuters."
At the heart of the MTA’s budget conundrum: The lack of a federal stimulus plan. While transit advocates are hopeful that a Biden administration could help, they noted that it won’t mean much without action from Congress, which so far has been stalled by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
"The election of President-elect Biden is terrific news for the MTA, given his decades of support for mass transit and his status as a daily customer on Amtrak for decades," MTA chief executive Pat Foye told The Point Tuesday. "But Washington is still an uncertain place, given the issues in the United States Senate and the Georgia runoff."
—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall