Third Congressional District candidates Republican Mazi Melesa Pilip, left, and...

Third Congressional District candidates Republican Mazi Melesa Pilip, left, and Democrat Tom Suozzi. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Daily Point

Early reviews from the campaigns

The pre-spin started early for Long Island’s Super Bowl-sized political event Thursday night.

The only debate between Republican Mazi Melesa Pilip and Democrat Tom Suozzi in the Long Island House race that is attracting national scrutiny will be aired at 8:30 p.m. on News12. However, it was taped earlier Thursday afternoon and Democrats were quick to claim victory and eager to shape the narrative about what took place.

By 3:27 p.m., Suozzi’s campaign shot out a news release labeling Pilip’s performance “erratic” and contending that she was “knocked off her game from the very beginning.” It summarized her performance as “defensive, flustered and unprepared …”

At 5 p.m., the Republican’s campaign issued a short statement promising a full release later on. It said Pilip’s debate debut “exposed” Suozzi as Joe Biden’s “accomplice” in creating the migrant crisis.

Apparently, the exchanges about abortion were contentious with Suozzi aggressively challenging Pilip on an issue that is polling well for him and pressing her on why she accepted the ballot line from the Conservative Party, which is opposed to abortion. The GOP statement said Pilip held Suozzi “accountable” for lying about her position.

While we wait to see the tape, one thing we know for sure: Billy Joel wasn’t in a luxury box.

— Rita Ciolli rita.ciolli@newsday.com

Talking Point

CD3 by the numbers so far

After five days of early and absentee balloting in the 3rd Congressional District special election, there are enough tea leaves to do some reading: Democrats are ahead on the early numbers but will traditional Republican turnout on Election Day, Feb. 13, overtake those numbers? And how many voters are jumping their line to favor the other party?

The most recent tally of early voting, which continues through Sunday, reveals numbers much like the Newsday/Siena College and Emerson College/PIX11 polls released Thursday. Every indicator is that neither Democrat Tom Suozzi or Republican Mazi Melesa Pilip can feel comfortable, although representatives for both parties say publicly that they are happy with what they are seeing.

The 3rd Congressional District lies mostly in Nassau County with 25% of the district’s registered voters living in Queens. Board of elections data for both counties show that Democrats represent 47% of the early and absentee voters who cast ballots through Wednesday. Those registered as Republicans have turned in 32% of the ballots total. And “blanks” represented 18% of the voters.

The Emerson poll found that those voting early favored Suozzi 59% to 41%, while those who said they would wait until Election Day lean toward Pilip 51% to 49%.

Key things to watch:

Will Suozzi get more Republican voters switching parties than Pilip gets Democratic ones?

More significantly, how will the blanks break and what percentage of the final vote will they represent? The Newsday-Siena College poll of voters showed that Suozzi was leading among blanks by 2%, with 9% undecided.

The greater the number of blank voters in the final count, 20% or higher, will be considered a plus for Pilip. Currently, blanks are 29% of the total registration in the Nassau County part of the district and make up 19% of the early vote.

— Rita Ciolli rita.ciolli@newsday.com

Pencil Point

How about impunity?

Credit: The Buffalo News/Adam Zyglis

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

Reference Point

Misgivings about lowering the voting age

The Newsday editorial and cartoon from Feb. 8, 1954.

The Newsday editorial and cartoon from Feb. 8, 1954.

The minimum age for voting is 18. But it wasn’t always that way. For most of the nation through most of its existence, 21 was the standard, set by individual states in the absence of any requirement in the U.S. Constitution.

The movement to reduce the age to 18 began in 1941 with a call by West Virginia Sen. Harvey Kilgore and an endorsement by first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. In January 1954, Dwight D. Eisenhower became the first president to publicly support the idea in his State of the Union address. Shortly after that, Newsday’s editorial board added its voice to what was becoming a vigorous debate.

The piece appeared on Feb. 8 with a title that signaled the board’s position: “Too Young to Vote.”

“It is far easier to support the proposed constitutional amendment to give the vote to 18-year-olds than to oppose it,” the board wrote. “The arguments based on emotion are more impressive than those based on rational common sense. Be that as it may, we do not believe that 18-year-old citizens are ready to vote.”

The board listed reasons for extending suffrage to 18-year-olds including the primary argument that if you’re old enough to fight for your country, you’re old enough to vote for its leaders. That was Eisenhower’s contention in his State of the Union speech, when he said, “For years our citizens between the ages of 18 and 21 have, in time of peril, been summoned to fight for America. They should participate in the political process that produces this fateful summons.”

Eisenhower’s view, of course, was shaped by his experience as a general and leader of the Allied forces in Europe in World War II. Nevertheless, Newsday’s board termed comparisons between fighting and voting as “faulty.”

“The Army found in Korea, for example, that the men did not know why they were fighting,” the board wrote. “They knew about machine-guns, but not about democracy. They were picked for military service because of their physical fitness, not their mental maturity.”

The board’s point was buttressed by a cartoon that day that showed Uncle Sam contemplating a soldier with the caption: “He’s Big Enough to Fight — But — ”

A decade-plus later, the horrors of the Vietnam War gave that argument added strength. With thousands of service members dying overseas in a war many Americans did not understand, the movement to lower the age picked up steam — despite opposition in Congress from powerful political leaders like New York City’s Emanuel Celler, longtime chair of the House Judiciary Committee, who said young people lacked “the good judgment” needed to be good citizens.

Celler’s now-notorious comment was presaged by Newsday’s board in 1954, when it wrote, “The time may come, with better schools and the quickening pace of life, when youngsters reach mental maturity at an earlier age. When it comes, a lowering of the voting age will be desirable. But the time is not yet here.”

But soon it would be. Six years after the board’s opinion, the nation entered the 1960s, one of the most eventful decades in American history. Civil rights and Vietnam War protests, peaceful and violent, were fueled and carried out largely by America’s young people standing up and demanding change. Whether that constituted the mental maturation Newsday’s board hoped to see, the nation adopted 18 as the voting age for all elections in 1971.

The Senate passed what became the 26th Amendment on March 10, the House followed on March 23, and the required 38 states ratified it by July 1. For all those old worries about youthful impetuousness, that ratification was a record for fastest approval of a constitutional amendment.

— Michael Dobie michael.dobie@newsday.com, Amanda Fiscina-Wells amanda.fiscina-wells@newsday.com

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