My political career started in the early 1960s, when I was a young reporter and then a speechwriter for political candidates. My hometown of Long Beach was one of only two Democratic areas on all of Long Island. Once you ventured outside the city, it was all Republican in every town, village and hamlet. In my first of 13 campaigns for the State Assembly, without Long Beach Democrats my margin of victory would have been small, or I would have lost.
Time goes by quickly, and a snapshot of our county shows that the vaunted Republican machine is facing its strongest challenge in over 100 years. Enrollment numbers have changed drastically. According to the state Board of Elections, Nassau has 345,787 Democrats and 321,852 Republicans. Once upon a time, any new residents of the county were encouraged to register Republican if they wanted their streets snow-plowed in the winter. Those days are gone.
More and more New York City dwellers with no political affiliation are crossing the Queens-Nassau border. Some don’t want to be associated with any political party, so they leave their forms blank. That accounts for the fact that there are over 200,000 registered voters with no party enrollment. But over the past 10 years, the Democratic Party has attracted more voters than the Republicans, and their number is growing.
It’s true that, year after year, the Nassau Republican Party has achieved numerous successes at the ballot box. Other than judicial nominations, Republican candidates for office have done quite well. But 2017 is a different year, and the tea leaves show that there’s much for the party to worry about. Indictments of Nassau and town officials contributed last year to the loss of a State Senate seat, and this year there are many more contested positions, which means there’s a need for tons of money and lots of foot soldiers.
With Republican County Executive Ed Mangano leaving office, there are two newcomers seeking that powerful position. Former State Sen. Jack Martins is the Republican candidate, being challenged by Laura Curran, a Democratic county legislator. Money won’t be an issue for the Democratic ticket, with well over $1 million in hand and money coming in at a rapid pace. No doubt the Republicans will raise significant money as well, but there’s a dark cloud over the GOP campaign that doesn’t help.