Nassau County GOP chairman Joe Cairo, left, and Suffolk GOP...

Nassau County GOP chairman Joe Cairo, left, and Suffolk GOP chairman Jesse Garcia. Credit: Chris Ware, Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Daily Point

For LI's GOP chairmen, 'a terrible letdown'

For Long Island’s Republican county chairs, Tuesday night’s mixed results were bittersweet in their contradiction.

Nassau County GOP chairman Joe Cairo and Suffolk County GOP chairman Jesse Garcia both piled up triumphant successes at every level of political office in their home counties. But on the state level, they could not get Lee Zeldin (or any other statewide candidate) over the finish line, even in a year that seemed to advantage them as much as any election can in one of the nation’s most truly blue states.

Early Wednesday morning, as the Nassau GOP’s watch party at the Coral House in Baldwin wrapped up, Cairo told The Point he was excited about the wins. The party went 2-for-2 on congressional seats that had an advantage in Democratic registration: George Santos in CD3 and Anthony D’Esposito in CD4. Then there were State Senate defeats of Democratic incumbents by Steven Rhoads and Jack Martins and an open seat won by Patricia Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick, a likely Assembly pickup by Brian Curran, and in-county wins for every statewide Republican office-seeker.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of the organization, of the work that went into this, of our candidates, and of tonight's successes,” Cairo said.

But Lee Zeldin’s loss in the gubernatorial race weighed heavy on Cairo, whose organization had committed about $1.5 million and tremendous effort.

“It’s a terrible feeling like … you’re a Yankees fan, you have Aaron Judge, he hits 62 home runs, the team looks great, through setbacks and wins, and you’re rooting and cheering and fighting and … they lose, and it’s all over,” Cairo said. “You just … it’s a terrible letdown.”

And in Suffolk, the heart of Shirley resident Zeldin’s effort, Garcia was similarly conflicted when he spoke to The Point Wednesday.

“Look, I’m very proud of the race we ran, here and across the state,” Garcia said. “We went into the lion’s den of New York City and got 30%. Any Republican, statewide, it’s going to be difficult, but his campaign provides us a path. It shows us what can be done. And there are four congressional seats across the state where Republicans won with just a point or two of margin, and they did that because Lee Zeldin got the voters out to get them over the top. They could be the difference in who controls the House of Representatives, and that would mean this campaign did that.”

None of those eked-out wins were in Suffolk County. Nick LaLota won by 11 points and Andrew Garbarino, in an overweighted GOP district, won by 21 points. In addition, Garcia’s organization had a State Senate win with Dean Murray claiming an open seat and all incumbents earning return tickets to Albany. In Assembly races, all of Garcia’s incumbents won, and a likely victory by Edward Flood over Democratic stalwart Steve Englebright would be a big upset. So would a potential win by Christopher Sperber over Kimberly Jean-Pierre, who was winning by just 136 votes Wednesday afternoon.

But even so, Garcia acknowledged that losing such a hard-fought gubernatorial race was a difficult pill to swallow. He took solace in what Long Island, and Suffolk in particular, did for the statewide candidates.

“Look, Joe Pinion, Paul Rodriguez, Michael Henry and Lee Zeldin all won Suffolk County by big margins, and Lee’s campaign, the success it did have, provides us a path. The message resonated, on crime and the economy, and it shows us how we fight this fight.”

— Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

Outlier Island

In so many ways, Long Island appears to have bucked the national narratives forming about the 2022 midterm cycle. Let us count the ways.

Pundits are crowing about candidate quality in Senate races in New Hampshire, Georgia and Pennsylvania, where the Republican contenders had flaws like allegations about paid abortions or sketchy pasts that severely damaged their chances. And there were victory laps for the struggles that some high-profile GOP election deniers faced at the polls. Yet Tuesday night featured an easy victory in New York’s 3rd Congressional District for George Santos, who has said he was at the Ellipse on Jan. 6 and “wrote a nice check” for people with legal challenges from that violent day. Santos’ dimly probed background, including affiliation with an investment firm that “bilked millions of dollars from its customers,” according to the Daily Beast, raised eyebrows even for some in his party — but neither were significant challenges to his coast to Congress.

While some abortion champions such as Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer triumphed, the hot-button touchstone did not end up having enough electoral power on Long Island. Bridget Fleming, Democratic candidate in the 1st Congressional District, repeatedly raised abortion as a campaign issue, saying it was “on the ballot this November,” and running ads saying she was the “only candidate running in this race who will protect your right to choose and keep abortions safe and legal.” Yet she lost to Republican Nick LaLota by more than 11 points, according to unofficial results so far.

By Wednesday, all four Democratic congressional candidates on LI had conceded in their races. And Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who often cites an imaginary Nassau County family, the Baileys, to explain his policies, lost the Island, too.

There are various reasons for Long Island’s very red wave, including frustration with state Democrats on crime and COVID-19. The Republican surge started at the top of the ticket, with Gov. Kathy Hochul losing the Nassau and Suffolk combined vote by 150,000.

And some of the ways the region differed from areas where Democrats won were easy to spot even before Election Day. The youth vote, for example, was key and strong in other races, with one exit poll showing voters age 18-29 with an oversize preference for Democrats. Similar information wasn’t immediately available for the LI races, but recent history does not suggest a blue youth explosion here: In the June primary, voters 50 and older represented almost 90% of the turnout in Suffolk, and almost 80% of the total in Nassau, according to an analysis of county voting records commissioned by AARP New York. And that age group makes up a majority of registered voters in both counties.

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

The winner

Credit: Stiglich

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Final Point

Schumer loses LI

While every statewide race went to the Democrats Tuesday night, you wouldn’t know it by looking at Long Island’s results.

Beyond favoring Republican Lee Zeldin, Nassau and Suffolk counties voted Republican down the line for every statewide office, including attorney general, state comptroller and, yes, even for U.S. senator.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who has one of the most recognizable political names, lost locally to Republican newcomer Joe Pinion, garnering 242,104 votes, or 48% of the vote, in Nassau and 239,031 votes, or only 43.7% of the vote, in Suffolk, according to the latest available election results.

It marked an unusual split. Schumer previously won six-year terms on the Island by wide margins in 2016, 2010, and 2004. In 2010, the last nonpresidential year that found Schumer on the ballot, he garnered nearly 60% of the Nassau vote and 58% of Suffolk’s. But that year, turnout on the Island was lower, leaving Schumer with fewer votes — 230,103 in Nassau and 224,677 in Suffolk.

But a Schumer loss on Long Island isn’t unprecedented. When Schumer first ascended to the Senate, toppling incumbent Alfonse D’Amato in 1998, Long Island didn’t go along for the ride, instead sticking with the hometown Republican. At the time, Schumer earned about 45% of the region's vote — amounting to fewer than 200,000 votes in each county.

But that was a very different election year. After all, at the top of the ticket, Republican Gov. George Pataki easily won his second term, and Long Island backed him, too. So, while Schumer’s win marked a split in the ticket for the state as a whole, Long Island then, like now, stuck with the Republican line, albeit with very different statewide results.

But despite Long Islanders’ collective vote, Schumer won’t be going anywhere.

Said Schumer spokesman Angelo Roefaro: “Chuck Schumer will continue to be in Nassau and Suffolk multiple times a month, working for Long Islanders, meeting them, greeting them and more.”

— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall


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