School board fights stayed in the yard
Mixed school board results mostly favor establishment candidates
The one thing that’s clear from Long Island’s school board races Tuesday is that the region is not a monolith where residents all respond the same way to the same issues.
Voters in the vast majority of districts targeted by groups like the Long Island Loud Majority did not support the LILM candidates, according to an analysis by The Point.
While the LILM favorites in districts like Connetquot, Eastport-South Manor and Sachem won, districts like Smithtown, Three Village and Longwood voted against the LILM-supported candidates.
Of the 13 districts the group highlighted in social media posts in recent days, its candidates lost in nine, won in three, and in one district – Lindenhurst – split its result, with one winning candidate and one losing candidate.
LILM’s leaders, however, noted their “big wins” across the region, saying 15 seats in 11 districts changed hands in their direction, including in districts not on the group’s official list, such as Massapequa, Garden City and Mount Sinai.
“We keep chipping away at these school boards, we build a culture of winning,” LILM co-founder Kevin Smith said Wednesday morning. The group’s episode title for Wednesday’s edition of its podcast, “We Will Not Comply,” was “Big Wins Across Long Island.”
Then there’s Manhasset, which was the site of a deeply contentious battle over everything from critical race theory to all-gender bathrooms. There, candidates Steve Panzik and Nadia Giannopoulos, who as of Monday night were backed by an anonymous text targeted at Republican voters, beat incumbent Christine Monterosso and challenger Allison O’Brien Silva. LILM called that a win, too, despite not publicly endorsing the winners in advance.
On social media, it was the supporters of teachers unions and establishment candidates who were crowing loudest.
The Suffolk County PBA, endorsing in school board races for the first time, did far better than LILM, but supported more incumbents and middle-of-the-road candidates too. All told, the PBA's endorsements won in seven districts, lost in one district, and split, with a mix of wins and losses, in one district.
The two groups worked together in several districts, but were at odds in the high-profile Smithtown race, where the PBA’s picks defeated LILM’s.
The Moms for Liberty organization's Nassau and Suffolk chapters endorsed, too. Together, they lost more than they won, but notched a few victories in districts where other groups didn't weigh in. Of particular note, it seems that in Rocky Point, one of the group's favored candidates won with 515 votes, while the other lost, earning 514 votes.
And unsurprisingly, with the upstart groups mostly losing, it was the organizations backing establishment candidates that fared well. NYSUT, and the Long Island Strong Schools Alliance, a newcomer advocacy group formed in opposition to groups like the LILM and Moms for Liberty, endorsed in many races and mostly notched wins, but the local teachers associations in districts where far-right challengers won are smarting.
— Lane Filler @lanefiller and Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall
Freeport mayor’s school board picks go down
In Freeport, the school board race was extremely hard-fought, but not over the same issues that had so many other communities up in arms. The contest had become entangled in a fight between the village and the board over the ownership of the Cleveland Street playing fields.
The village says it owns the property and wanted to sell it for an Amazon last-mile warehouse and wanted the district to use another parcel, Cow Meadow Park for its recreation needs. The district refused, claiming it owns the fields, and the alternative is further away, and a less appropriate setting.
The argument has sparked a $45 million lawsuit by the village against the board, and a proposed state law to transfer the property to the village. And it spurred Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy to formally endorse two school board candidates who see the issue his way, in a letter to village residents.
Kennedy’s preferred candidates, Jacques Butler (819 votes) and Ben Jackson (810 votes) lost in a cliffhanger to incumbent board president Maria Jordan-Awalom (910 votes) and newcomer Shuron Jackson (856 votes).
— Lane Filler @lanefiller
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Ex-LIer a rare bird in NY redistrict row
Twenty-eight-year-old Gavin M. Wax has lived in Merrick, Bellmore and Lynbrook. These days he resides on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. He heads an organization called the New York Young Republican Club.
Party insiders, who seem to regard him as an irritant and gadfly, underscore that the club really encompasses New York County -- as in Manhattan – as opposed to the much greater city or state of the same name. These days Manhattan is the furthest thing from a Republican stronghold.
Wax has his name in the news because along with a maverick Democrat from upstate named Gary Greenberg he has tried and so far failed to push a step further the successful Republican court efforts to crush a unilateral redistricting by the state Democratic legislative majority.
Wax wants the Assembly lines redrawn as were the House and Senate maps. But it was a GOP decision not to challenge the lower house after its Republican incumbents were protected; seasoned party lawyers focused on where they said they could prove gerrymandering.
The Assembly, where the Democrats now dominate 105-43, was never going to be in play this election year. With new lines coming, the House and State Senate margins will be in play.
So it didn’t go well in the Steuben County courtroom of State Supreme Court Justice Patrick McAllister, himself a Republican, when the plaintiffs accused the GOP in Albany of rigging a dirty deal with the Democrats to leave those lines alone. McAllister tossed Wax, Greenberg and longshot gubernatorial candidate Paul Nichols as intervenors after warnings from ex-GOP Sen. George Winner that they were crossing a line.
But Wax, whose side on Wednesday was still pressing the cause in Manhattan Supreme Court, remains undeterred. He insisted to The Point that he truly believes the Assembly’s GOP minority caved to gerrymandering to “stay in the super-minority as long as they can protect their incumbents’ districts…I think they were lazy, self-interested, and cut a dirty backroom deal [by accepting] illegal, unconstitutional lines.”
“And now they’re spending God knows how much tax money rather than just concede it’s illegal and unconstitutional” when they should be trying to build their numbers in the lower house, Wax said.
Wax’s LinkedIn entry identifies him as global digital marketing director for GETTR, a media site launched last year by Jason Miller, a former aide to ex-President Donald Trump.
For those who follow redistricting, it just goes to show the Democrats hold no monopoly on intra-party boat-rockers.
— Dan Janison @Danjanison