By electing Democrat James Gaughran, of Northport, to the State Senate’s 5th District seat, North Shore voters played a major role in stripping Republicans of their Senate majority and handing control to the Democrats for the first time in nearly a decade. By a margin of over 10 percentage points, Gaughran ousted 23-year Republican incumbent Carl Marcellino, of Syosset.
“I’m so honored to be here with the new Senate majority that’s going to finally break that gridlock in Albany,” Gaughran, 61, told his supporters at the crowded Democratic watch party at the Garden City Hotel on Tuesday night. The crowd cheered and chanted, “Jimmy! Jimmy!” which reverberated loudly through the ballroom. “And I’m so excited that I’m going to be a part of history in Albany, when we break that glass ceiling with our new Senate majority leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins.”
Democratic U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, 56, will return to Congress. A former Nassau County executive and mayor of Glen Cove, he won handily over Republican challenger Dan DeBono, a former U.S. Navy SEAL and first-time candidate.
“I’m genuinely honored to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, and I’m feeling pretty good that we will be in the majority come Jan. 1,” Suozzi said. “The bottom line is that this country has been pulled apart. It’s important that we elect leaders that know how to govern, and get things done, and work together for a vision for the future of this country.” His remarks were met with resounding applause.
Surrounded by his wife, Helene, and their three children, Suozzi said that politics has become “too small and too petty,” and added that a government needs to be created “that lives up to the American promise.”
Democratic State Assemblyman Charles Lavine, 71, of Glen Cove, defeated Republican Andrew Monteleone by a large margin. A lawyer and retired public school educator, Lavine has represented the Assembly’s 13th District since 2004.
“I am extraordinarily grateful and humbled to have been re-elected, and I am so appreciative of everyone who voted and who worked so hard to protect our American democracy,” Lavine said in an emailed statement to the Herald Gazette. “I look forward to getting back to work and serving Nassau County residents for another term.”
GOP falls short in Senate
At the Republicans’ election-watching headquarters, Mirelli’s in Westbury, party officials scanned their smartphones as the results rolled in. There were audible groans as the networks announced that Democrats would take control of the House, some clapping as several tight governors’ races were decided in the GOP’s favor, and much hushed, somber chatter. One party elder said he knew the news was bad because Nassau County Republican Committee Chairman Joseph Cairo had yet to speak when half of the county’s precincts were reporting their vote totals.
When he finally took the stage, at 10 minutes to midnight, Cairo called the election “a challenging night for the State Senate.”
In the race for the seat in the Assembly’s 15th District, Republican incumbent Michael Montesano, who narrowly beat first-time Democratic challenger Allen Foley, said that even though his party was no longer the majority, he would remain focused on preserving Long Island’s recent successes. “Believe it or not,” Montesano said, “when you look at the whole state, we’re doing very well. The question is, how do we keep it that way, and make sure it’s not just a flash in the pan?”
Montesano called his party’s loss of the Senate a “dramatic” one that the public would need time to absorb. He recalled the last time Democrats controlled the Senate — soon after he was first elected eight years ago — and said, “The public realized we can’t have this. There are no checks and balances. You can’t have everybody from the same party.”
An energized electorate
The election took place amid increasingly high political tension at the local, state and national levels. In the run-up to Tuesday’s vote, Democrats, invigorated by their opposition to the Trump administration, foresaw a “blue wave,” a claim that Republicans characterized as wishful thinking.
In 2014, between 10 and 20 percent of the North Shore population cast ballots in the area’s various races. This time around, the turnout was about 35 percent.
Was it a “blue wave,” or simply an energized electorate across the board? In the two North Shore Assembly races, the Republican candidates received 3,000 and 5,000 more votes than in the previous midterm, while 11,000 to 13,000 more votes were cast for the Democratic candidates.
In this year’s race in the 5th Senate District, Marcellino saw an increase of 30,000 votes. Gaughran’s, on the other hand, was more than 47,000.
Alyssa Seidman contributed to this story.