On the heels of ordering deep cuts to the county workforce and proposing many more slashes to try to bridge a looming $300 million-plus budget deficit, Nassau County Republicans held onto their majority in the county legislature in an off-year election Tuesday night, according to early tallies, but may have lost one longtime lawmaker, and his seat, in the battle.
With the votes still being calculated at Nassau’s Board of Elections as of 4 a.m. Wednesday, the Republicans’ unofficial count touted by county GOP boss Joe Mondello to supporters celebrating at Mirelle’s Restaurant and Caterers in Westbury several hours earlier had eight-term Legis. John Ciotti (R-Valley Stream) unseated by Democratic challenger Carrie Solages (D-Elmont).
“It’s a great night for the Republican Party!” Mondello boomed to a packed room and loud applause and shouts. “We won the legislature, ladies and gentlemen! We won the Town of Hempstead. We won the Town of Oyster Bay. We picked up one seat in North Hempstead. [There is] bad news. We lost a great, great legislator, ladies and gentlemen. He’s a great guy. And he did a wonderful job in the county legislature. And that’s John Ciotti.”
“But the fact that we kept the legislature means that the people have confidence in us,” he continued. “They want us to make the decisions we’ve been making in terms of taxes and not raising taxes and putting money back in the pockets of the residents of Nassau County.”
At Jericho Terrace in Mineola where the Democrats were camped for the night, Solages said he was ecstatic. “People cannot expect government as a career,” he said, taking a knock at Ciotti.
The race was mired in controversy after video of a campaign worker making a derogatory racial comment during a confrontation with Solages’ sister last month made it onto YouTube. Allegations of voter intimidation in the district surfaced again on Election Day, though Mondello characterized the claims to reporters as “another tactic” used by the Democrats in an attempt to flip the majority their way.
“We hit a little bump in the road during the campaign,” Ciotti told the crowd to chants of “Ci-o-tti! Ci-o-tti!” without completely throwing in the towel. “Tonight, we counted the votes. But there are many, many absentee votes that are still out there to be counted. So don’t count me out just yet.”
The viciousness of this year’s election was a theme repeated by several triumphant Republican candidates throughout the evening, while stressing their opponents’ inability to remove their majority from office.
Freshman Legis. Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence) beat out Adam Moser (D-Hewlett) in the 7th District race.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we had a nasty, dirty, ugly fight this time around,” he told supporters. “And you all know it.”
Legis. Joseph Belesi (R-Farmingdale), also a freshman, defeated Democratic challenger Eva Pearson (D-Farmingdale) in a squeaker—by 51 votes, according to late tally projections.
“All these landslide victories, I’m getting used to them,” Belesi joked to the crowd from onstage.
“There were quite a few forces out there who thought that we would not be able to sustain the terrible, terrible ordeals that many of us have gone through over the past several months,” said seven-term Legis. Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), who defended her seat from both Democratic opponent Patricia Maher and Working Families candidate Joseph Spinola 51 percent to 42 percent and 7 percent, respectively. “However, we have fought and that’s what kept us going,”
Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa), who retained his seat by a large margin, put it more bluntly, openly taunting some of those “forces” while calling for negotiations.
“They tried to stain the efforts of County Executive Ed Mangano in fixing the fiscal disarray that this county is in,” he blasted. “They tried to take out the Republican county legislature. They tried all during this campaign to get these legislators off-message. And this is with unions in the county and their stubborn refusals to negotiate with the county executive flat-out [telling] us they were going to flip the legislature. They were going to make it Democratic. Why? Because the Democrats had promised to raise taxes to fund unsustainable contracts. Well I have a message for those unions and I hope they’re watching on television: We’re still here!”
“I would strongly suggest that you go to the table and sit down with County Executive Mangano and make a deal, because if not, we’re going to continue to implement the programs that have been laid down by the county executive to turn this county around and to do it without raising taxes!” he continued.
The most-watched race in the county was in the race for an open seat between Republican Robert Germino squeaking past Democrat Delia DeRiggi-Whitton by a mere 37 votes in the 18th. Both are from Glen Cove.
DeRiggi-Whitton believed that she came out on top before midnight and dedicated the win to her father, a former Glen Cove city mayor, for his 75th birthday.
In other races, according to the Nassau Board of Elections 2 a.m. update Wednesday:
District 1’s Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead) trounced Republican challenger Rodney McRae (R-Roosevelt) by nearly 87 percent to 13 percent.
In the 2nd District, Democratic incumbent Robert Troiano (D-Westbury) crushed the GOP’s Karin Campbell by an 82 to 18 percent margin.
Legis. Denise Ford (R-Long Beach) fended off Democratic challenger Darlene Tangney by a tally of 54 percent to 46 percent.
Legis. Joseph Scannell (D-Baldwin) beat Christian Browne (R-Rockville Centre) with a 54- to 64-percent count.
Legis. Francis X. Becker (R-Lynbrook) defeated Democratic challenger Anthony Gonzalez (D-Valley Stream) by 69- to 31-percent.
Kopel beat Moser with a 59 percent to 40 percent tally in the 7th.
Legis. Vincent Muscarella (R-West Hempstead) trounced Scott Milano (D-Garden City) 80- to 20-percent.
Legis. Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) crushed Democrat Jason Watson 73- to 27-percent.
Legis. Judi Bosworth (D-Great Neck) defeated Republican challenger Elizabeth Berney by a 59- to 41-percent margin.
Legis. Wayne Wink (D-Roslyn) was triumphant over Republican challenger Eric Zausner (R-Port Washington) with a 62 percent to 38 percent win.
Legis. Dennis Dunne (R-Levittown) crushed Democratic challenger Ethan Irwin 67 percent to 33 percent in District 15.
Legis. Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) won against James Milano (R-Oyster Bay) with a 59-percent to 41-percent tally.
Legis. Rose Marie Walker (R-Hicksville) beat Democratic challenger Frederick Hagemann III by 74 percent to 26 percent.
Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick) defeated Republican challenger Fred Jones 73 percent to 27 percent.