Democratic challenger John Brooks has won the 8th Senate District seat. Brooks, of Seaford, defeated State Sen. Michael Venditto in Nassau County by more than 200 votes, according to election officials.
It was unclear what the final vote tally was in Suffolk, where part of the 8th District is located. Republicans, however, said Brooks’ lead was mathematically impossible to overcome, and Brooks was officially declared the victor on Thursday.
In winning the race, Brooks captured a seat held by a Republican for decades.
In the weeks after the election, Brooks held a lead of fewer than 45 votes in the tightest race on the South Shore. Weeks of ballot challenges followed. In the end, Brooks prevailed after 8,000 paper ballots were reviewed, officials said.
On his Senate Facebook page, Venditto, of Massapequa, conceded late Thursday night, writing, “The campaign is over and all of the votes have finally been tallied. I would like to congratulate Senator-elect John Brooks on his victory. I ask all residents of the 8th Senatorial District to join with me in supporting Senator-elect Brooks during his upcoming term.
“Together,” Venditto said, “we can make our great district even better. On a personal note, it has been a privilege and a pleasure to serve as your state senator for the past two years. During my tenure, I have learned that the 8th Senatorial District is a very special place. While government does its part, our district is so special because of the people who live here. I am grateful for the opportunity that I was given, and I look forward to what the future brings.”
In a count right after the Nov. 8 election, Brooks held a 33-vote lead over Venditto. In total, roughly 129,000 ballots were cast in the 8th District, which covers much of eastern Nassau County, including Massapequa, Wantagh-Seaford, Bellmore-Merrick, Freeport and part of Baldwin, as well as part of western Suffolk County. That lead grew by eight votes in early counting.
Brooks had declared victory early on, saying that he was “honored and humbled” to be the 8th District’s next state senator.
“For far too long, elected officials have used their positions to line their pockets at the taxpayers’ expense,” he said. “In our campaign, we focused on reforming the way public education is funded, eliminating corruption and alleviating the excessive property-tax burden now faced by far too many New Yorkers. I will work hard each and every day putting the needs of Long Island families above everything else.”
Traditionally, Republicans have won the 8th District with more than 60 percent of the vote. This year, however, Venditto’s father, John, who is the Oyster Bay town supervisor, is facing federal corruption charges, along with County Executive Ed Mangano and Mangano’s wife, Linda. All three have pleaded not guilty.
David Weiss, the Bellmore Republican Club leader, said Friday that he believed that if not for the indictment of Venditto’s father, the election would “not have even been close.”
“I congratulate Brooks — he was in the right place at the right time,” Weiss said. “It’s happened before and it’ll happen again. I just wish it was more on the merits of what [Venditto] has done as a public servant and not carryover of the problems that his father has. I think Michael is a phenomenal public servant and he will continue to be.”
“But Brooks won fair and square, and he’s my senator now, and we’ve got to accept it,” he added.
Lisa Tyson, director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, agreed that the elder Venditto’s indictment played a large role in Brooks’s victory, but said that she looked forward to Senate Democrats coming together to hold their party’s line against President-elect Donald J. Trump.
“This is going to be a very scary time … and we need New York to be on solid ground to be sure that we protect all the people here, as well as continue to combat global climate change and work on health care reform and all the things that we’ve been working for,” she said. “People are angry at corruption. They said enough is enough, and they want a change, and that’s why this happened. Also, look at the economic issues that the Town of Oyster Bay has now due to this corruption — people are horrified.”
David Gugerty, Democratic commissioner of the Nassau County Board of Elections, estimated that there was a 62 percent voter turnout for the election and that Brooks had a 258-vote lead before other ballots were ruled upon in Suffolk County — “and that lead will only increase,” Gugerty said. “This election reminds us all of the importance of voting— every vote counts.”
Venditto was also writing legislation that would bring additional charges against an individual who hurts an animal during a crime. This legislation was being written in response to a Freeport resident’s advocacy on behalf of animals. Her dog was beaten to death when her house was robbed a few years ago. It was supposed to be a companion piece to Democratic Sen. Todd Kaminsky’s recent legislationto add penalties for people involved in dog fighting.
Brooks’s victory gives Democrats a 32-vote numerical majority in the State Senate. Brooklyn Democrat Simcha Felder, however, caucuses with Republicans, which means they will likely retain control.