Anthony D’Esposito will be going to Washington. His Democratic opponent wasn’t quite ready to concede the 4th Congressional District on election night as results remained close, but as Laura Gillen woke on Wednesday to find D'Esposito leading by roughly 10,000 votes, she conceded defeat.
“We’re going to wait until every vote is counted,” Laura Gillen told supporters in Freeport late Tuesday night. “It’s an extremely close race. There’s still a lot of ballots out there.”
Yet, as she spoke those words, unofficial election returns from Nassau County showed D’Esposito leading Gillen by 8,000 votes, with 87 percent of precincts reporting. However, a half-hour later, Nassau County completed counting, increasing D’Esposito’s lead to 10,000 votes. It was 51.9 percent for D’Eposito out of the more than 266,000 votes counted, compared to Gillen’s 48.1 percent.
Seeing those results on Wednesday, Gillen finally conceded around noon.
“We ran a campaign to be proud in a challenging political environment. Together, we motivated thousands of Long Islanders to make their voices heard, to stand up for common sense leadership, and to vigorously defend fundamental rights from assault," said the former Town of Hempstead Executive.
In the end, D'Esposito, the former New York Police Department detective from Island Park, eked out a victory, and in the process flipped a seat from Democratic to Republican control.
“I want to thank each and every one of you in this room,” D’Esposito told supporters in Baldwin. “You’ve worked hard and you’ve knocked on doors. You’ve made the phone calls. You’ve dug into your pockets, to get us across this finish line. We took a seat that’s been in Democratic hands for 25 years.”
D’Esposito will succeed Kathleen Rice representing most of southern Nassau County at the federal level, putting a Republican in the office for the first time since Daniel Frisa lost re-election to Carolyn McCarthy in 1996. McCarthy served nine terms before retiring in 2015, and Rice has represented the district ever since.
Above all, Republicans have attacked their Democratic opponents on the issues of crime and inflation, linking what they described as “liberal” bail reform laws on recent rises in crime, and blaming Democrats for the dogged inflation that continues to affect the economy.
D’Esposito focused his congressional campaign on affordability, promising more funding to local schools, increased access to health care, eliminating the cap on state and local tax exemptions, and combating congestion pricing.
Throughout his race for congress, D’Esposito also stressed the importance of a limited, fiscally responsible government. He said numerous times that he will cut wasteful spending in Washington, and that a small government approach will help correct inflation.
The campaign trail was not free of jabs back and forth. Democratic campaign literature portrayed D’Esposito as an extremist on issues like abortion and guns, claiming he might support a nationwide ban on abortion and allow weapons of war on New York streets.
D’Esposito denied to the Herald he would ever support a national abortion ban, but did attack New York laws the he claimed allowed free access to late-term abortion. On guns he asserted that the focus of government should not be writing new laws, but cracking down on illegally possessed weapons.
Republicans meanwhile linked Gillen to a number of national issues on which they portrayed Democrats as weak. Mailers from the New York Republican State Committee declared that Joe Biden and Laura Gillen were raising taxes, responsible for the recent national rise in crime, and allowed fentanyl to flood into Nassau County.
Gillen countered by citing her record as town supervisor, during which time she claimed to have cut taxes. Gillen has also insisted that a tough on guns approach can help to curb crime.
While Rice herself endorsed Gillen, D’Esposito boasted his own support from a long list of law enforcement groups and police unions.
Additional reporting by Jim Bernstein, Brendan Carpenter, Karina Kovac, Andre Silva, Mallory Wilson and Jordan Vallone.