Suffolk Closeup: A look back, a look ahead

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO

What a midterm election — in Suffolk County and the nation!

When I entered my polling place, a poll-watcher commented about how it had been an extremely busy day. That was true of voting across the nation. For years, voter apathy has been bemoaned. Perhaps the 2018 midterms will mark a change.

The biggest contest in Suffolk was in the lst Congressional District — which includes Shelter Island — where Republican Lee Zeldin of Shirley held his own and won a third term. However, Democrat Perry Gershon of East Hampton waged a strong, well-organized campaign. Indeed, this newcomer to politics, in receiving 46 percent of the vote, did better against Mr. Zeldin than Democrat Anna Throne-Holst in 2016 with 41.8 percent and Tim Bishop, the Democratic incumbent, in 2014 with 44.5 percent.

Will Mr. Gershon pull “another Otis Pike?” Democrat Pike initially lost his race in 1958 against lst C.D. four-term Republican incumbent Stuyvesant Wainwright of Wainscott. Mr. Pike of Riverhead then embarked on a two-year marathon of going to virtually every meeting of civic and community groups in the district, mixing with residents at every opportunity, not stopping his campaign.

And in 1960 he defeated Wainwright. Mr. Pike held the lst C.D. seat for 18 years, longer than anyone in history, since it was first represented by Declaration of Independence-signer William Floyd of Mastic.

Is it possible that Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman will be the Democratic candidate to run in two years in the lst C.D. considering his mighty showing against incumbent County Comptroller John M. Kennedy Jr.?

Even though Mr. Schneiderman of Southampton has lived his adult life on the East End — and candidates from the relatively lightly populated East End have not been seen as doing well in countywide races — he came 1 percentage away from upsetting Republican Kennedy from Nesconset.

Mr. Kennedy, the incumbent comptroller, was Suffolk County legislator for five two-year terms (his wife, Leslie, now holds the seat) and was an official at many other levels in Suffolk government. Still, Mr. Schneiderman did very well and at this writing was not conceding with thousands of absentee ballots still not counted.

If Mr. Schneiderman, long an Independence Party member, had received the Independence line with the 6,490 votes it pulled in — it was outrageous with his Independence background he did not — he’d have won. A former East Hampton supervisor and six-term county legislator, he need not leave his Southampton supervisor’s post to go for Congress in two years.

Will Mr. Kennedy run as the GOP candidate next year for Suffolk County executive?

Long Island had a key role in Democrats gaining a majority in the New York State Senate in Election 2018. From Suffolk, Democrat James Gaughran of Northport, a former Suffolk County legislator who is chairman of the Suffolk County Water Authority, unseated 11-term Republican incumbent Senator Carl Marcellino of Syosset.

Longtime Senate incumbent Republican Kenneth LaValle of Port Jefferson, whose district includes Shelter Island, won by a good margin to his 22nd (!) two-year term. But his important chairmanship of the Senate’s Higher Education Committee might be collateral damage. Mr. LaValle has been ideal as chair of that committee as a former teacher and school administrator.

I’ve been a guest lecturer in the class he taught at what was Dowling College — and the guy can teach. He knows education personally. But the New York State Legislature is super partisan. I know this from having, for years, been in Albany to cover the closing week of its sessions when I reported and wrote a column at the daily Long Island Press. If you are a senator or assemblyperson from the minority party, you are relegated to being a near political outsider. Will the Senate under Democratic control allow Mr. LaValle to continue as committee chair? That’s unlikely.

Finally, Andrew Cuomo won re-election to a third term as governor by a solid 59 percent margin, but it’s considered doubtful he will run for a fourth four-year term. And, before that, it’s likely he will try to be the Democratic candidate against President Trump in 2020.

Who might be the Democrat to potentially be his successor? I’d say State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, a Long Islander who won re-election last week by a bigger margin — 66.5 percent — than even Mr. Cuomo — or any candidate for a state government administration post.

Mr. DiNapoli is remarkably independent, a straight-shooter strong on ethics, affable and thoroughly competent.

He’s quite the environmentalist, too, serving as co-chair of the Suffolk-based State Legislative Commission on Water Resource Needs of Long Island. A resident of Great Neck Plaza, he served 10 terms as a state assemblyman before being appointed to an open term as state comptroller and then was elected twice to the position. He would make an extraordinary governor.

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