Suffolk Close-Up: Final Count Gives GOP the Nod

Finally, the results are in. It turned out to be an Election Month, not the normal Election
Day with a night on which results are available. But the COVID-19 pandemic has caused havoc
in all human activities. In Suffolk like all over the United States, it took weeks to count the
absentee ballots mailed in or dropped off by voters who didn’t want to go in-person to polling
places on Election Day.

Still, weeks later, an analysis of the finally final results in Suffolk provides messages.
There was no “blue wave” here—a landslide that Democrats hoped for. Still, nationally,
Donald Trump’s loss in the popular vote was significant. In Suffolk, his margin was 232 votes. It
was 381,021 for Joe Biden for president and 381,253 for incumbent Trump, basically a tie here.
“A huge difference,” commented Southampton Town Democratic Chairman Gordon Herr, “from
2016 when he led by 50,000 votes” in Suffolk.

Did that impact the votes of others running on the Democratic line in Suffolk?
You wouldn’t know that from returns for the four State Senate seats—all won by
Republicans. Winners (newcomers first) were: in the lst Senatorial District, Anthony Palumbo of
New Suffolk; in the 2nd Mario Mattera of St. James; in the 3rd Alexis Weik of Sayville; and then
re-elected in the 4th , Phil Boyle of Bay Shore.

With the victories of the four, Suffolk Republican Chairman Jesse Garcia declared, the
Suffolk delegation “comprises 20% of the State Senate GOP Conference.”

The biggest surprise in the State Senate contests was Ms. Weik’s win over Democratic
incumbent Monica Martinez of Brentwood, a former teacher, assistant school principal and for
five years a member of the Suffolk Legislature. With her election in 2018, Ms. Martinez became
the first woman from Suffolk to ever have become a member of the State Senate. Now Ms.
Weik, who has been Islip Town receiver of taxes, becomes the second.

The loss in the 1st Congressional District of Democrat Nancy Goroff of Stony Brook
against three-term Republican incumbent Lee Zeldin of Shirley—there were 205,715 votes for
Mr. Zeldin and 169,294 for Dr. Goroff—casts questions about that race.
The central theme of Dr. Goroff, a chemistry professor at Stony Brook University on
leave as chair of its Chemistry Department, was her being a scientist. Her campaign literature
and posters heralded the word scientist—as in Vote for Scientist Nancy Goroff. Science is
extremely important, critical on the climate crisis and COVID-19 pandemic.

She got the nomination by narrowly winning a Democratic primary over Perry Gershon
of East Hampton and Suffolk Legislator Bridget Fleming of Noyac.
Mr. Gershon had run against Mr. Zeldin two years ago and came close. He received
127,991 votes against 139,027 for Mr. Zeldin, 47% of the vote compared to 51.5% for Mr.
Zeldin. Dr. Goroff this year received 45.1% and Mr. Zeldin upped his vote percentage to 54.9%
Upon losing in 2018, Mr. Gershon’s embarked on a strategy that worked well in the lst
C.D. in the past. Otis Pike of Riverhead never stopped running after he lost to incumbent
Stuyvesant Wainright of Wainscott back in 1958. For two years, he went to numerous civic and
community group events in the district aiming to get people to know him. And in 1960 Mr. Pike
defeated four-term GOP incumbent Wainright, and held the position for 18 years, longer than
anyone since the lst C.D. seat was established in 1789.

Mr. Gershon had been working hard to pull “another Otis Pike”—but then came the
primary this June. In the three-way contest, he was edged out after months of meeting people and
holding a series of town meetings in the district. Would it have been more effective for
Democrats to go with Mr. Gershon and his face-to-face, personal strategy?
Ms. Fleming also could have been a strong candidate. Elected to the Suffolk Legislature
in 2015 after five years as a Southampton Town Board member, she is known in a good portion
of the lst C.D. And her background includes being an assistant DA in Manhattan, a member of
the DA’s Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit and chief of its unit focusing on fraud in public programs.

There was an outcome in a race for Southampton Town justice that ran against the grain
of what’s become conventional political strategy in Suffolk. Karen M. Sartain of Westhampton,
appointed this year to fill a vacant judgeship, won her first election running on just the
Democratic line. She beat GOPer Patrick J. Gunn who ran on the Republican, Conservative,
Working Families and Independence Party lines. A political belief in Suffolk for decades has
been that it’s critical in winning for a major party candidate to also have minor party lines. Ms.
Sartain showed this is not always true.


Leave a Reply