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2020 Elections

Rich Schaffer, chairman of the Suffolk County Democratic Committee, said he has long seen Suffolk as “a purple district,” despite Republican wins within the county.

This, he said, was made evident by the final polling results that were released at last after weeks of absentee vote counting. President Donald Trump (R) won Suffolk County by just a little over 200 ballots, a far cry from just four years ago when Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton with 46,619 more votes in 2016.

Rich Schaffer, the Suffolk Democratic chairman, said current polling numbers prove the area is more purple than people realize. Photo from Suffolk Democrats

Suffolk “is more of a get-even county in terms of both the registration numbers as well as the enthusiasm, so most races are competitive,” Schaffer said during a phone interview postelection. “And that was just proven by the results that came out.”

Still, Democrats suffered several defeats for both state offices and for congressional seats.  

The Republicans also flipped the 3rd state Senatorial District seat held by Sen. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood). Northport Democrat Michael Marcantonio lost the 12th District Assembly race against Republican Keith Brown by a little over 2,000 votes.

Yet there were some victories in there as well. State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) held onto his seat against a strong challenge from current Town of Huntington board member Ed Smyth (R). Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), a 28-year member of the Assembly, held out over the long weeks of absentee-vote counting for a 6,825-vote win over Republican Michael Ross.

Schaffer said the much greater turnout not just in Suffolk but nationwide also expressed people’s interest in candidates. He said though some candidates have yet to confirm they will be running again in 2022, people such as Laura Ahearn, who ran against Republican Anthony Palumbo for SD1, and Jackie Gordon, who lost her race for Congressional District 2 while winning Suffolk, have good shots if they continue their political careers. He added Gordon has an especially good shot if CD2 becomes redistricted to become exclusively Suffolk-based based on census results.

Though Biden has already been certified as the winner of the election, Trump supporters and the president himself continue to call the results fraudulent. Schaffer said such a thing is ludicrous.

“I mean, I’m the first guy to say, if you can show us widespread fraud, then I’m on board with making sure that it’s not the case,” he said. “But, again, it’s just been this flailing and throwing things against the wall to see what sticks at it.” 

Schaffer sees Democrats in Suffolk as a kind of coalition that is trying to support suburban values. Republicans, he said, have spent the past year painting their opposing party as such things like anti-police. As Republicans pushed the bail reform bill passed in the 2019 budget as a major part of their campaigns, Schaffer said Democrats in the city hurt their suburban or rural colleagues by not having discussions about it prior to its passing.

“The trick for us is to continue to push our agenda out here and make sure people understand that we’re not in lockstep with New York City Democrats,” he said. “The approach needs to be that we’re talking about what it means to the quality of life in the suburbs, and whether or not it’s something that people out here support, as opposed to what the party is advancing.”

He said that Long Island Democrats need to join up and form a kind of “suburban working group,” not as a rebuff to the party, but as a way of making their thoughts and voices heard.

“Just as the city representatives flex their muscles, the suburban representatives do the same. They need to all stick together,” he said.

At the heart of Suffolk Democrats’ woes is trying to create a coalition between the moderate and more progressive ends of the left. Some progressives have expressed their displeasure with the greater party over what they feel is their views being stifled.

Schaffer said just like any other part of the party, their views are accounted for, but what’s also required is compromise. He added that progressives need to stop demonizing people who don’t fully support their policy positions.

“They present their opinions, they can present their views, they can talk about legislation, but they also have to understand that politics is compromise,” he said. “Those that want to say all our views aren’t being listened to, so we’re going to just take our ball and go home, need to rethink that strategy.”

For 2021, Schaffer said there are multiple important local races, including a special election for Town of Brookhaven as well as Suffolk Legislature seats. 

Schaffer said the committee is going forward with Setauket community advocate Jonathan Kornreich as their nominee for Brookhaven Council District 1, as long as nothing changes in the time between now and election.

Otherwise, with races such as county Legislators Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) up for election this year, it will be about maintaining incumbent seats.

“We’re excited about our incumbents — we think they’ve done a good job locally,” he said. “We’re looking forward to put them out there again for reelection.”

Despite the loss of the presidential election, and with just 18 months on the job, Suffolk County Republican Party Chairman Jesse Garcia is instead looking at big local wins.

Suffolk Republican Committee Chairman Jesse Garcia, center, said the party had big wins in Suffolk despite losses on the federal level. Photo from Suffolk Republicans

The party held onto longtime Republican state Senate seats previously held by Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who’s retiring this year, and Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), who vacated his seat earlier in 2020. Despite a blue wave in 2018 that saw the GOP hold over the state Senate wane, this year Republican Alexis Weik, of Sayville, defeated state Sen. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood), making Suffolk County a solid wall of red against a mostly blue Nassau County and New York City.

People “responded to our message of taking back New York State from one-party rule, and raised the voices of Long Island in Albany,” Garcia said in a phone interview a few days after the majority of absentee ballots were counted. All races in Suffolk have now been officially called.

Garcia came into the position in April 2019 from his previous post as chairman of the Brookhaven Town Republican Committee. The Suffolk post was previously held by John Jay LaValle, who had been ardent in his support for President Donald Trump (R) in 2016.

The retirement of multiple high-level Republicans in Suffolk, including LaValle and Flanagan as well as U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-NY2), brought a new urgency to this election beyond the politicking of a presidential election year, even if 2020 wasn’t one of the most divisive elections in recent memory.

Trump squeaked out a win in Suffolk County by just a little over 200 ballots, with 49.40% of the vote compared to Democrat Joe Biden’s 49.37%. This is compared to 2016 when Trump carried Suffolk by close to 47,000 votes. 

Still, Garcia praised the county’s steadfast support of Republicans. Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) defeated Democrat Laura Ahearn for LaValle’s seat, and St. James Republican Mario Mattera defeated Democrat Mike Siderakis to pick up where Flanagan left off. 

As for Congress,, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) held an over-36,000 vote lead against Democrat Nancy Goroff by the time all absentee votes were counted. Republican Andrew Garbarino, of Sayville, defeated Democrat Jackie Gordon for King’s seat, though more votes went blue on the Suffolk side of the district.

Garcia also cited a victory when voters rejected Suffolk County’s proposition 1, which would have increased the terms of legislators from two years to four, something he called “an incumbency protection program.”

Despite Biden’s win on the national stage having been upstaged by Trump’s continued unverified claims that the election was stolen in key states, the campaign has presented little to no evidence of widespread voter fraud — although a Nov. 18 Reuters/Ipsos poll reported nearly half of Republicans nationally say the election was stolen because of voter fraud. 

The Republican chairman said changes to this year’s election process due to the pandemic were as a result of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) “weaponizing a pandemic for his political purposes,” and that the governor used COVID-19 as a way to “scare voters away from the polling places.”  Garcia blamed the governor for moving back the dates of primaries, though Republicans only hosted one primary this year, that being for the 2nd Congressional District held in June.

The chairman also brought up his share of claims of impropriety in the past election, though he did not cite any specific examples of widespread fraud. He said there was a lack of checking to confirm who people were when requesting an absentee ballot and cited the example of a Water Mill man who was indicted by District Attorney Tim Sini (D) for allegedly requesting two mail-in ballots for his deceased mother.

“I know that there are a number of other questionable applications that we hope are under investigation, because that’s what fair and transparent elections are all about,” he said.

Despite their wins, the Republicans still remain a minority in both houses of the state Legislature. Garcia said the Democrats who hold seats in the suburban parts of New York are going to need to “deal with choosing to vote for Long Island taxpayers, against their party and against the governor … or they’re going to join with our delegation to fight for more school aid, the repeal of the catch-and-release bail reform act.” 

As for the near future, the Suffolk County Republican head is looking forward to 2021. Early next year, the Town of Brookhaven will be holding a special election to replace Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), who is leaving to become a state Supreme Court judge. Garcia said they have been doing interviews for candidates and will be announcing their pick as soon as the town supervisor announces a date for that vote.

On the Suffolk side, a large number of seats are coming up for vote once again. Democrats in the county Legislature hold a single-member majority against their GOP counterparts.

“We’re going to look to flip the Suffolk County Legislature into the government into the Republican column the first time since 2005,” Garcia said.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright and her aide Jenn Martin were at Saturday’s PJS/T Chamber Santa event handing out hot chocolate packets and hand sanitizer. Photo by Kyle Barr

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) could be seen as the maverick of the Town Board. Of the five other councilmembers and the supervisor, she is the only Democrat. Beyond that, she was the first Black person elected to the board in the town’s history.

And by next year, Cartright will move on to the New York State Supreme Court. In a Zoom interview with TBR News Media, the councilwoman said that while she will try to remain involved in the community, it will no longer be in an official capacity. 

“It has really given me a different perspective on what governance of a municipality truly means.”

— Valerie Cartright

Cartright said she was tapped to run for Supreme Court justice this year after the results of the state Senate District 1 primary. After she was asked, she took some time to think about the move.

“It was clear to me that, you know, based on all of my experience as an attorney — I’ve been a civil rights attorney for 17 years or so now — and I’ve been fighting for fairness and equity within our judicial system during that time,” she said. “Those have always been paramount concerns for me. So it was a natural progression to some degree.” 

Based on all counted ballots, Cartright received the most votes of all Suffolk supreme court candidates, though voters did have little choice to which justices were on the ballot due to cross party endorsements. Justices serve for 14-year terms, and though she still intends to live in Port Jefferson Station, by the nature of her office, she will have little to no involvement in politics. Instead, she said her focus on the bench will be toward justice within the legal system.

“When you’re in court, it’s the last-mile marker of the justice system — you’ve tried everything else,” she said. “I’ve found some of the judges that I’ve sat before or have come before that they were not listening to both sides of the argument — they were not giving people their day in court as I would have liked.”

It’s been an interesting seven years on the Town Board, ones which included initiatives to revitalize Port Jefferson Station and combat homelessness in the area, environmental issues and water-quality issues with local bays and harbors, and the ever-present contest between developers and those looking to preserve land. And then 2020 came along with all the issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the spark of protests that ran all across the country plus the backlash to those protests. Council District 1 has been home to a multitude of rallies and protests from both sides.

Cartright said the key has been to listen and become intimate with the various local groups in her area. CD 1 is home to a diverse population in areas like Port Jefferson Station and Terryville, as well as the more opulent areas on the North Shore. It maintains several unique historic areas in Setauket and Stony Brook, various civic groups and chambers of commerce. It also contains four independent incorporated villages, all with their own small forms of government.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, right. File photo by Elana Glowatz

The varying levels of municipal and civic groups make it a challenge for anybody looking to get their feet wet in governing, but Cartright called it “a pleasure” getting to know all the different organizations and governing bodies. Being able to see things from both a macro and micro level, one thing she looked toward was taking small ideas and introducing them to the town on a wider basis. 

“It has really given me a different perspective on what governance of a municipality truly means,” she said. 

As the lone Democrat on the board, Cartright has had no other option than work with her Republican counterparts. While she said that the board has frequently worked together despite politics, Cartright has often enough been a lone voice of dissent on several issues. Just recently, at a December Town Board meeting, she and Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) went back and forth over plans to add parking meters at several town parks and beaches. The board passed that impending change, where Cartright also voted “yes.”

The upcoming Supreme Court justice said it has long been an effort to increase transparency. Such efforts include a community connection campaign, where she pulls information relevant to the district and sends it in an email blast to community members. She also lauded her roundtable discussions she’s had with civic and chamber leaders, as well as the town planning and law departments, as well as her own office to discuss pending applications for new development.

“I know there are times when I don’t vote the way that some of my community wants me to vote, but all of those votes, all those decisions that I make, are informed decisions,” she said. “And they’re done based on all of the community input that I can receive.” 

It is something she hopes the next person to represent CD1 will continue. She said the three biggest issues coming up for whomever takes over the seat are going to maintain diversity representation so that “the board has a diverse body representing the community itself, the town itself.” 

The second big issue would be the landfill, which the town plans to close by 2024. Capping the landfill will represent a big blow to town finances and will likely mean a new kind of waste crisis for the entirety of Long Island. The other aspect to that is the environmental impact, as the town is now considering putting in a new ashfill site at the landfill, which some groups have opposed. Whoever takes over her seat, she said, will need to consider all sides and help build consensus.

“We need to push outside of what is customary, so that we can actually help those that are being impacted by these things like food insecurity and homelessness.”

— Valerie Cartright

The third issue, she said, is going to be quality of life. Especially because of the pandemic, more and more people are experiencing food insecurity. Lines at food pantries and soup kitchens are increasing, which are only exacerbated by an ongoing homelessness crisis in the area.

“I think that we need to do more and we need to be creative,” she said. “And we need to push outside of what is customary, so that we can actually help those that are being impacted by these things like food insecurity and homelessness.”

What happens now, she said, is a transition phase for her office. She is developing a comprehensive list of what’s going on with her staff, while bringing in all the local civic, chamber and governing groups to compile that info on all large projects.

“What is going to happen is when the new elected official steps into office, there’s going to be community organizations and individuals that are already going to be armed with what needs to move forward — so the community will be able to hold [the new councilperson] accountable as to some of these initiatives,” she said.

Englebright/Palumbo/Mattera Claim Victory in Respective Races

Lee Zeldin. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

*This post has been updated to include updated information about other area races.

With the number of absentee ballots counted so far, the GOP commissioner of the bipartisan Suffolk County Board of Elections told TBR News Media that U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin’s (R-NY1) reelection over Democratic challenger Nancy Goroff is “mathematically certain.”

“I expect to certify the race in about a week — with the results showing Congressman Zeldin won by almost 50,000 votes,” BOE Commissioner Nick LaLota said in an email statement. The incumbent congressional representative had a lead of over 60,000 votes by the end of in-person vote counting Nov. 3. Absentee ballot counting began Nov. 16.

While Goroff and her election staff said on Election Day they had to wait for the results of in-person voting, Zeldin released a statement that night declaring victory. In it he also thanked Goroff for the race.

“As America enters its next chapter, I am confident we will defeat the coronavirus and continue growing our economy,” the incumbent said in that Nov. 3 statement. 

Zeldin’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for any kind of new statement based on the commissioner’s election call.

A representative from Goroff’s campaign said they are waiting for additional absentee ballots to be counted before putting out any kind of statement.

In other local races, state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) was confident that mail-in ballots would make a difference in the 2020 race for his seat in the 4th Assembly District, and he was right.

On Dec. 2, LaLota confirmed that Englebright was reelected and that official ballot counts would be available shortly.

The assemblyman said it was good to have the ballot count finished.

“This election was unique because fully one-third of the vote came in through mail ballots and was not included in the initial election night tally,” he said. “It was, however, worth waiting for.  The final count was a solid affirmation. I’m grateful that the voters gave me the opportunity to continue representing them in the Assembly. And there is much work to be done in the new year. Until then, please everyone, be safe this holiday season and we will come out of this stronger.”

In person voting showed Englebright behind Nov. 4 with 47.44% of the votes, compared to his challenger Republican Michael Ross who had 51.88% of the votes. At the time, there were nearly 18,000 absentee ballots that still needed to be counted in the district.

Ross did not release a statement by press time.

At the same time, victory was declared by current Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), who defeated Democratic opponent Laura Ahearn to take Senate District 1. The seat had been held by Republican Ken LaValle for over 40 years.

“As our new Senator, I will work hard every day to continue the legacy of retiring State Sen. Ken LaValle and build upon his strong record of protecting the environment, supporting our schools, and fighting for taxpayers,” Palumbo said in a statement. “Thank you for putting your trust in me. I am proud and truly grateful to have the opportunity to continue serving our Long Island communities in the New York State Legislature.”

In a statement, Ahearn congratulated Palumbo for his win and said she would “work with him for the betterment of our communities during these difficult times.”

“I am very proud of the work we all did together as we were just 2.7% points away from flipping this seat, by far the closest this race has been in decades,” Ahearn said in a statement. “For now, I look forward to spending the holiday season with my family, who have been through so much during this remarkable time to run for public office. And of course, there is still much work to be done as we continue to help those who need it most.

In Senate District 2, Mario Mattera succeeded Senator John Flanagan (R). Mattera beat out Democrat and former state trooper Michael Siderakis, of Nesconset.

“Now that the counting is complete, we are ready to work together to bring the voice of all who live in our community to our state government and make sure that the needs of our families are met,” Mattera said in a statement. “The time has come to put Long Island first, and I look forward to getting to Albany to fight for our hardworking families.”

This story was amended to add a statement from Laura Ahearn.

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William Sussman attends pre-election training at the Suffolk County Board of Elections. Photo by Sussman

When one conjures the image of the average poll worker, it’s probably not the picture of Will Sussman.

Sussman, 21, an electrical engineering and computer science student at Yale University, stood shoulder to shoulder (so to speak, considering the pandemic) with people twice or three times his age at the Miller Place High School Nov. 3. Being at the forefront of the democratic process is a unique first-time experience for any young person, but in the age of COVID-19, it was also a way of protecting many of the usual workers who are particularly susceptible to the virus.

Will Sussman takes a selfie as he helps work the polls at the Miller Place High School Nov. 3. Photo by Sussman

On average, poll workers are more likely to be older and retired, according to an April report from the Pew Research Center. According to a study of the 2018 midterms, most poll workers were aged 61 to 70. Just 4% of that study were people aged 18 to 25. Data is the same for presidential election years as well as midterms. According to an Election Administration and Voting Survey from 2016, 24% of poll workers are aged 71 and older, while another 32% are 61 to 70. EAVS surveys also show a majority of board of elections have a difficult time finding volunteers to man polling locations. 

Sussman was one of a handful of young people who decided to volunteer at a Suffolk polling place this election. Knowing just how dangerous the virus was to older people, and being home from college earlier this year because of the pandemic, he said it became apparent there was need for volunteers, especially considering he and his immediate family had tested positive for the virus earlier this year, and after he and his folks recovered, he tested positive for COVID antibodies.

His decision was an important one considering issues election officials faced earlier this year in the primaries. Officials from the Suffolk County Board of Elections told the county Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee meeting in September that 25% of poll workers did not show up for the June primary. When college started up again in the fall, and as Yale was inviting students back, Sussman had to get special permission from his college to return for the day specifically to work the polls.

“I was in the best position to relieve people who are at greater risk for COVID,” Sussman said. “I read a lot about national and international affairs, and I was sort of more aware than the average person that poll workers would be needed.”

Sussman took mandatory poll worker training during the summer, and though he said where he would end up wasn’t determined by where one lives, he still ended up working at the same place he had graduated from only three years earlier.

“It was sort of poetic in a sense,” he said. “The last time I was in that room, the last time I was there I told my graduating class to exercise the right to vote.”

The polling place was busy most of the entire day, having received around 3,500 people coming to vote. There were quieter moments, but the young man said he had a little bit of an easier time handling the new tablets that workers were using to check in voters.

Two other young Miller Place High School students also became involved in helping the public vote. This is despite both being too young to cast ballots themselves.

Miller Place seniors Zoe Bussewitz and Meghan Luby also worked the polls Nov. 3. Bussewitz said they had been participating in a charity run by college students when she learned about students in another state being allowed to volunteer despite not being old enough to vote. Contacting the Suffolk BOE, the pair learned they could do the same.

What followed was a lot of “on the job” training, working 17 hours total, a blur of excitement of explaining how to fill out ballots, collecting signatures and sanitizing polling booths.

“It was really good to get involved,” Bussewitz said. “It was like I was doing my part.”

Though the Miller Place senior doesn’t know if she will have time to volunteer again in two years time, as she’ll likely be in college, she said it will inform her about voting in the many elections still to come. 

With the sense of unease nationally surrounding the election, being with so many volunteers, many of whom with different political backgrounds, Bussewitz said it was something that showed how people can come together for the sake of democracy.

“Right now there’s a lot of division, but everybody there were very kind and open minded,” she said. “It was great to see that break from division and really have just a day to do your civic duty.”

Though even with the number of people they had there, Sussman said the place still felt slightly understaffed. Though while they didn’t have any real problems with most voters, there was one instance of a voter who refused to wear a mask inside the polling place. The policy was there could be no restrictions on anybody who was legally allowed to cast a ballot, but in order to protect people’s health, they had to wait for all current voters to leave the polling place, then after the person cast their vote everything needed to be sanitized.

With all the national attention being paid to the legitimacy of this year’s election, the young man said seeing the process firsthand just exemplified how wrong all the claims of voter fraud were. 

“Everything is packed and labeled, and it would take a lot of effort to mess with these ballots,” he said.

Stock photo

Despite Election Day being Nov. 3, local races have a week or more to settle on the final count.

Suffolk County Republican Board of Elections commissioner, Nick LaLota, said via email they hope counting will be finished before Thanksgiving, Nov. 26, though there is no way to know when everything will be finalized.

Republican candidates took leads in every local state and congressional race based on in-person ballots as the BOE started its absentee ballot count Nov. 16. Election experts have repeatedly said on average more Democrats used absentee ballots than Republicans did, though races will largely depend on unaffiliated voters. 

With that said, it will still be hard going for many Democrats in a few of the most hotly contested races. The U.S. Congressional District 1 race between U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) and his Democratic opponent Nancy Goroff still remains out, though Zeldin currently holds a 65,120-vote lead. There are still over 89,000 absentee ballots left in that race, but Goroff would need to reportedly take all non-GOP registered votes in order to gain the upper hand.

A similar challenge is there in the New York State Senate District 1 race for Democrat Laura Ahearn, who has a steep uphill climb against her challenger, current Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk). Ahearn is down by 18,736 from in-person polling, and there are over 42,000 absentee ballots left to count, and she will need many votes outside the two main parties to gain the seat.

The race for State Senate District 2 between Republican Mario Mattera and Democrat Mike Siderakis is heavily favoring red, as there is a 35,109 difference in votes favoring Mattera with less than 43,000 votes to count. 

The State Assembly District 2 race between Democrat Laura Jens-Smith and Republican Jodi Giglio is likely to go in favor of the GOP. With a 14,355 difference and just under 17,000 absentee ballots to count, Giglio has all but cinched her new position. Jens-Smith has previously told TBR News Media she knows she has very little chance of victory.

Some elections are closer than others, such as State Assembly District 4. Many residents reported surprise in messages to TBR News Media at longtime Assemblyman Steve Englebright’s (D-Setauket) deficit of votes compared to his Republican opponent Michael Ross of 1,966. That race currently has 17,909 absentee ballots left to count.

However, there are a few confirmed elections. State Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James), with his lead of 23,419 with in-person ballots, is so far ahead of his young Democratic opponent Dylan Rice even the over-17,000 absentee ballots could not make a dent in the District 8 race.

On Nov, 17, U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY3) said his opponent George Santos called him to concede. In a statement, Santos credited grassroots supporters and donors for the close race.

“I am proud that we gained the support of every PBA and first responder organization that endorsed this cycle,” Santos said.

Santos said there may be more announcements in the near future regarding his next steps.

“I would like to congratulate Congressman Tom Suozzi,” Santos said. “We wish him well going forward for the benefit of our district and constituents.”

State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) declared victory Nov. 18 against his Republican opponent Ed Smyth. This came after votes absentee votes already counted in both Nassau and Suffolk put him over the edge.

“I am humbled to be reelected by the residents of the 5th Senate District and I thank them for their support,” Gaughran said in a statement. “During my first term in office, I worked tirelessly on behalf of Long Islanders and I am proud to have delivered real results — from a permanent property tax cap to support for small businesses navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. I will keep fighting for my constituents, for Long Island, and for all of New York State and I thank the voters for giving me the opportunity to continue to serve them.”

Above, is a breakdown of where each race stands with in-person votes as at Nov. 18 plus the number of absentee ballots left as last reported on Nov. 16 (from the Suffolk County Board of Elections).

Current vote totals are as of the morning of Nov. 18

Congress

NY1

Lee Zeldin (R): 176,323 Votes – 61.31%

Nancy Goroff (D): 111,203 Votes – 38.67%

Absentee Ballots: 89,401

NY3

Tom Suozzi (D): 46,112 Votes – 46.65%

George Santos (R): 52,117 Votes – 52.72%

Absentee Ballots: 34,902

New York State Senate

SD1

Laura Ahearn (D): 55,557 Votes – 42.78%

Anthony Palumbo (R): 74,293 Votes – 57.20%

Absentee Ballots: 42,550

SD2

Mario Mattera (R): 79,762 Votes – 64.10%

Mike Siderakis (D): 44,653 Votes – 35.88%

Absentee Ballots: 42,781

SD5

Jim Gaughran (D): 27,132 Votes – 43.51%

Ed Smyth (R): 34,575 Votes – 55.44%

Absentee Ballots: 21,276

New York State Assembly

AD2

Jodi Giglio (R): 34,290 Votes – 62.39%

Laura Jens-Smith (D): 19,935 Votes – 36.27%

Absentee Ballots: 16,979

AD4

Michael Ross (R): 22,966 Votes – 51.88%

Steve Englebright (D): 21,000 Votes – 47.44%

Absentee Ballots: 17,909

AD8

Mike Fitzpatrick (R): 39,937 Votes – 70.73%

Dylan Rice (D): 16,518 Votes – 29.26%

Absentee Ballots: 17,227

AD10

Steve Stern (D): 24,141 Votes – 49.93%

Jamie Silvestri (R): 24,197 Votes – 50.05%

Absentee Ballots: 18,529

AD12

Keith Brown (R): 30,638 Votes – 57.20%

Michael Marcantonio (D): 22,908 Votes – 42.77%

Absentee Ballots: 15,906

Though Election Day may have passed, local psychologists said the strain partisanship is still causing undue stress and anxiety. Stock photo

Though this year’s election arguably lasted far longer than any other in recent history, the way even the presidential election has lingered in the news has not slowed the amount of stress people are feeling in its wake.

A study conducted by market research firm The Harris Poll for the American Psychological Association, released Oct. 7, said 76% of Democrats, 67% of Republicans and 64% of Independent voters said the election was a major stressor in their lives. 

“Many people are isolated, and in such a politically charged environment, there’s just a lot of uncertainty about the future.”

— Dr. Donna Friedman

Local psychologists have witnessed the general anxiety from their patients and the 2020 election’s impact on mental health. Dr. Donna Friedman said among her clients who go to her in her East Setauket practice, she would agree with the APA’s study. And with the combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and protests all around the country over law enforcement, the level of election stress is something she has never before seen in her near 35 years in private practice. Worse, lingering questions of a peaceful transfer of power and absentee ballot counts have made this period of heightened tension last.

Though people may not have the same political viewpoints, many of them share similar feelings of stress. Every person is different, and among the many issues of an issue-filled age, individuals have a much bigger opportunity to feel anxious. The APA study points out those with chronic health conditions are significantly more likely to say the election is a very significant source of stress for them.

“For some people the issue is Trump and how he treats women, for another person it might be issues with police, how law enforcement has affected them — it depends,” Friedman said. “It’s not across the board everyone feels the same way.”

What people are feeling stressed and anxious about also depends on different demographics. For people of color, the election was even more of a stressor than previous years, such as with Black people at 71% in 2020 compared to just 46% in 2016, according to the APA study. 

Dr. Chris Kearney, a fellow East Setauket-based psychologist, said with all the external factors, this current election has heightened stress further than he’s seen before from any other election.

Kearney, who works with both adolescents and adults, said young people are afraid of what this pandemic and election mean for them right now, whether it will impact their ability to go to college or get a job. Adults are more stuck on where they are, he said, and it’s more difficult for them to open up. 

“For the teens, it’s what’s going to happen in the immediate right now, for the adults they’re very unrelenting — once they have an opinion, it’s hard to interject another rationale,” he said.  

As a therapist, his role is to stay neutral even when his patients talk about their personal political views, though he said for adults it’s important to know such animosity to the other side can become imprinted on younger children. 

Friedman said people being cut off from their social contacts because of the ongoing pandemic has only helped exacerbate the issue, and this stress is much more apparent with older than younger folks. Older people are more afraid of getting sick, or even being alone and getting sick. Younger people speak less about fear of getting sick, but more so how they will be impacted by the election.

“I think that volatility just continues in our everyday life and behaviors, and that’s why that stress level is increased.”

— Dr. Chris Kearney

“Many people are isolated, and in such a politically charged environment, there’s just a lot of uncertainty about the future,” she said. “People are divided from each other when they really do need to feel connected.”

With more people seeking or coming back to therapy, local psychologists said this charged political time has truly damaged relationships among both family and friends. The APA has suggested people need to break habits of ruminating on the worst-case scenario and instead focus on things one can control and engage in meaningful activities.

Friedman said people need to practice good self-care. Part of that includes limiting time one might spend hooked into the 24-hour news cycle. News can become “addicting,” she said, and it might be best to limit oneself to specific points in the day where you can read or watch to catch oneself up. She added people need to focus on maintaining social connections as best as one can, and should also try to distract oneself from the surrounding negativity through hobbies or other interests, anything from gardening to taking walks. 

Kearney said it’s important to not let a difference of opinion between you, your family, friends or even coworkers become volatile.

“I think that volatility just continues in our everyday life and behaviors, and that’s why that stress level is increased and gets even higher,” he said. “If we work together and help each other, we can maybe reduce that volatility in our relationships.”

Abhishek Cherath, 19 from Mumbai, India, said he hopes the most recent election can return a sense of trust to the country’s democratic institutions. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Kaung Kyaw arrived in America when he was 19. “I’ve always thought since I came here that I’m a foreigner, so my opinions really don’t matter,” he said. 

He is just one of more than 4,000 international students who come to study at Stony Brook University from 103 countries. They make up a large, diverse population either living on campus or nearby. Many credit this international community for driving the large numbers of ethnically varied offerings of both shops and restaurants in the Setauket/Stony Brook area. Their inclusion in the community has led to events like the annual Dragon Boat Race Festival in Port Jefferson and the Chinese New Year celebration by the Ward Melville Heritage Organization.

Kaung Kyaw, from Myanmar, expressed his desire to continue his education in the states, but was concerned of how recent activities by the president would make it unlikely. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Kyaw, a 21-year-old student from Myanmar, came to the U.S. in 2018. He said he always had dreamt of coming to the United States and decided to choose SBU as his place of study to become a surgeon. 

But before he traveled here, he remembers hearing that Donald Trump was elected as Republican president back in 2016. Kyaw’s initial thought was, “What were they thinking?”

“I thought it was so funny,” he said. “But now I’m living this reality and it’s not funny anymore.”

Kyaw is currently studying biology. After graduation, he said he would like to hopefully continue his education in the States. That, however, has been complicated by the president’s addition of his home country to a list of nations on a travel ban in January this year.

“If I get to stay here, I would practice here,” he said. “But right now, that’s not possible because of Donald Trump’s travel ban.”

He said that because of the current presidency, his view of America has morphed into a vision that isn’t always that welcoming.

“When he tried to send us all back a few months ago, that was really cruel and was really unfair,” he said. “We pay a lot of money to be here and study here. We don’t deserve this kind of treatment — nobody does.”

During the COVID-19 crisis, Kyaw said he was subjected to racism. He never imagined this when he considered coming here. 

“I thought America would be this amazing place with lots of job opportunities,” he said. “I didn’t think of the racism or any other bad issues here. America was just this dream place to be in. But I got here, and these are topics we cannot escape — I didn’t know how much it’s ingrained into everyone’s minds.”

Minal Chawla, 19 from India, said she was just 17 when she decided to study abroad at Stony Brook. “Before coming to the U.S., I think I never paid much attention to what was happening in American politics and what was going here in general,” she said. “But now I try to keep myself up to date with all the latest happenings because I think in one way or the other, they affect me.”

Chawla, who is studying health sciences and journalism, said that there is so much happening in the U.S. that her future appears a little more unclear because of the uncertainties.

“I have a whole plan of what I want to do after graduation,” she said. “But now looking at the current scenario, I am unsure about whether I will be able to achieve it or not because the immigration policies can change at any moment and things can go south all of a sudden.”

She added that under President-elect Joe Biden’s new Democratic administration, she’s hopeful. “I hope that the decisions they take are in favor of all the international students who plan to work or settle in the U.S. after studies,” she said. “Currently, I am just trying to focus on the bright side and practicing gratitude by reflecting upon the things that I am thankful for.”

Veronica Alvarenga Hon, 21 from Costa Rica, has spent two-and-a-half years in the States. She said that before coming here, she always found the American electoral system to be interesting. In Costa Rica, they elect the president according to popular vote. 

“I do have to say that for a long time, the U.S. portrayed itself as the leader of the free world  — they were an example of what you could achieve by valuing freedom and respecting other people’s rights,” she said. “This, for some reason, made the U.S. seem more liberal in my mind. I was very surprised that many people were very conservative, even by my own standards.”

The 2020 election, to Hon, was polarizing. “President Trump often uses inflammatory rhetoric which only riles people up more,” she said. “I think this is just another example of the populist trend that we are seeing in the world. It was very disappointing to see so many people voting for the opposite of what I would consider American values, such as equality, freedom, respect and tolerance.”

“This, for some reason, made the U.S. seem more liberal in my mind. I was very surprised that many people were very conservative, even by my own standards.”

— Veronica Alvarenga

But she said it’s natural for people to  disagree when it comes to politics. “I just don’t think it’s usually so personal to everyone,” she said.

Hon added that she viewed the election more about getting Trump out of office, rather than liking Biden. 

“The U.S., once the leader of the free world, seems to have forgotten that to lead, you need people that will follow,” she said. “I am hoping that the Biden administration takes a different approach in their foreign policy — one that would consider rejoining the Paris Agreement, the World Health Organization and the JCPOA [known commonly as the Iran nuclear deal].”

Kyaw agreed. ”Trump being the president has shown you how much racism there is in America,” he said. “This was all there before he came in the spotlight. They just started expressing it and people started becoming nastier and nastier. We need to start fixing that.”

Abhishek Cherath, 21 from Mumbai [formerly Bombay] in India said in his opinion bringing back America to what it was before Trump’s presidency will not be easy. 

“The things that are being put at risk by Trumpism are much longer lasting than anything else,” he said. “Politics is dirty. But the only alternative to politics is war — that’s not a good alternative.”

Under a Biden term in office, Cherath said he hopes things will be more pleasant among his American colleagues. 

“I don’t really know what I’m going to do, but I hope America is OK,” he said. “Because there’s a lot of wonderful stuff that happens here, and it will be a real shame to just have that all vanish into a civil war.”

Proposition 2 has become mired in political wrangling with some environmentalists and Republicans saying they would sue if it passes.

Proposal 2, which would allow Suffolk County to tap into a sewer stabilization fund to combat the economic effect of the COVID-19 shutdown, was close to passing during the election this week.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. Photo by Julianne Mosher

The proposal, which environmental groups including the Long Island Pine Barrens Society indicated they would likely challenge in court, would allow the county to use sales tax revenue from a drinking water protection program. It would also changing an agreement to repay close to $30 million borrowed from the sewer stabilization fund, while using another $15 million from the fund.

During a call with reporters Wednesday, the day after Election Day Nov. 3, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said the measure would provide financial support for first responders, emergency services workers, and fire and rescue workers.

“I want to thank the people of Suffolk County for passing this common sense measure,” Bellone said on a conference call with reporters. The proposal will “protect taxpayers, first responders and essential workers during a pandemic.”

Legislator Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said the proposal was about 30,000 votes ahead with about 170,000 absentee ballots still uncounted.

Trotta called the proposal an “affront to the taxpayer,” and that the money was “supposed to be put in a lockbox.” Trotta, as has become customary between the two electeds, also questioned Bellone’s management of the county’s finances before the pandemic.

Trotta alleged Bellone was using the clean water fund to pay for “unaffordable contracts.”

The Suffolk County legislator said that if the Pine Barrens Society didn’t file a lawsuit against the use of these funds to rebuild the county’s finances then he would find a wealthy benefactor for a lawsuit.

Separately, Bellone urged court and election reform during his call.

“We had this perverse situation where voters had to wait in line for hours at a time to exercise their fundamental right to vote, only to find when they were finally handed their ballot” that many court races had been “pre-decided,” Bellone said.

Bellone urged court reform and a process to professionalize the elections.

Amid an upswing in COVID-19 cases around the country, Suffolk County, which was once at the epicenter of the deadly virus, has been experiencing an increase in cases as well. Last week, the county averaged a 1.5 percent positive test rate, while the number of people hospitalized with the virus that has caused the pandemic has climbed to the 40’s. Bellone said the county hadn’t been below the one percent level since Oct. 21st.

“The fact that they are ticking up is a concern within the context of where we are with the cold weather, with winter approaching,” Bellone said. “These numbers are a concern. We remain focused on that, keeping people healthy, keeping these numbers down, and enabling an economic recovery to continue. We can not afford to slide back.”

Bellone said the county has experienced a few clusters of cases. One was at a Southampton polling site and the other was a gathering of people at Shoreham-Wading River schools, which led the high school to go to an all-remote learning model for several weeks.

At this point, Shoreham Wading River High School is closed for in person learning through Nov. 11.

“Even if proper precautions are taken, [people] can end up in a situation like this,” Bellone said, urging residents to remain vigilant about reducing the spread of the virus.

The line to vote at Joseph A. Edgar Intermediate School in Rocky Point was about 30 minutes, but other voters reported much longer lines the early morning of Nov. 3. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr, Rita J. Egan and Julianne Mosher

Capping off months of anticipation, the 2020 election came to a head Tuesday night, though New Yorkers will still need to wait weeks before they know the true outcomes of state and federal races.

As it stands, Republicans have taken an early lead based on unofficial counts of in-person polling numbers by the Suffolk County Board of Elections. Nick LaLota, Republican BOE commissioner, said absentee ballots will start to be tabulated Nov. 10 after the board has had the opportunity to remove the absentee ballots of those voters who also cast a ballot on a machine, and have bipartisan teams compare the signatures on the oath envelopes to the voters signatures on file.

There have been well over 100,000 absentee ballots received in Suffolk County for the three congressional districts alone, and there will likely be more incoming as ballots are received as long as they were postmarked by Election Day. Election experts have also said those absentee ballots are more likely to favor Democrats.

In one of the most contested races for the NY1 Congressional seat, Lee Zeldin has already moved to declare victory. Zeldin is sitting at 61% of in-person votes while Goroff holds a little under 39%. The Zeldin campaign released a statement declaring victory at 11 p.m. Election Day.

“I am deeply honored and humbled that the families of Long Island have entrusted me to continue representing our great Congressional District,” Zeldin said in a statement.

Democratic contender Nancy Goroff’s campaign manager, Jacob Sarkozi, responded at 1:30 a.m. that, “With tens of thousands of ballots left to be opened, we owe it to voters that every single one be counted.”

There are currently 75,091 absentee ballots for CD1 uncounted as of Nov. 4.

Speaking to Goroff the evening of Nov. 3, before polls closed, she said the huge turnout in the district has been “amazing,” adding there has been a good deal of excitement about the coming results.

While in-person votes were still to be counted as of Election Day, with the thousands of absentee ballots still to be counted, she stressed it’s still too early to tell winners with any degree of certainty, but added the turnout is a good sign.

With an energized electorate not seen in many years, polling places across Long Island saw a huge rush early in the morning Nov. 3, with residents across the North Shore reporting hour or more wait times in chilling temperatures. Lines got progressively shorter over the day, and by 8:30 a.m. people were reporting between 20- to 40-minute lines.

The night of Nov. 3, both Suffolk County party committees held online livestream events, rather than the usual election parties held at Stereo Garden in Patchogue for the Republicans and IBEW Local 25 in Hauppauge for the Democrats. The Dems palled around in a short hour-long Zoom call before signing off. The Republicans spent the night taking calls from candidates and committee members, relishing the early polling numbers.

Other congressional races have similarly stalled at a Republican lead. U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY3) is currently sitting at 47% to Republican challenger George Santos at 53%.

Kim Devlin, a senior adviser to Suozzi’s campaign, said in a statement they believe Suozzi is guaranteed to win.

“It is clear that Tom will win reelection by a substantial margin,” Devlin said. “Democrats hold a 3-1 advantage in the nearly 90 thousand absentee votes yet to be counted and we expect Tom’s margin of victory to be over 20 thousand votes.”

For state Senate, the race between Democrat Laura Ahearn and current Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) in District 1 is locked at 43% to 57%, respectively.

Palumbo said in a statement he is “really excited about our position today and [I] feel good about our likelihood of success,” adding he is honored to be close to representing the district occupied by state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson).

Ahearn said in a statement that “while the early vote and Election Day in-person vote was not as close as we had hoped,” with more 31,000 mail-in ballots still to be counted, there is a need to be patient and ensure all ballots are counted. She also thanked her supporters, as well as her campaign staff, interns and volunteers “for their dedication and commitment.”

In SD2, Republican Mario Mattera holds a near-30 point lead over his Democratic opponent Mike Siderakis at 64%-36% Wednesday morning. Mattera said he was grateful for all the volunteers who assisted in the campaign.

“I’m so excited for my community,” he said. “I’m so excited for our families.”

Once in Albany, Mattera, who describes himself as “a middle-of-the-road guy,” said he will work to repeal the bail reform act and ensure funding for law enforcement. Continuing to educate the public about precautions to take during the pandemic and helping businesses to open up fully is also on the forefront of his mind. He added he will continue to work on improving the infrastructure in the district. Mattera worked with elected officials and community leaders on the revitalization of Lake Avenue in St. James. He said it’s important to secure a sewage treatment plant that will allow for growth in the area and at the same time will protect local waterways.

Siderakis did not respond to request for comment.

Republican Ed Smyth, who is currently a Town of Huntington councilman, was leading Wednesday morning in the race for state Senate in SD5 with more than 55% of the votes. Sitting state Sen. Jim Gaughran (D) at 43% is vying for his second term.

“I’m not ready to hang a mission-accomplished banner over my office,” Smyth said.

The councilman said he will be watching the results closely as he knows thousands of absentee ballots still need to be counted, and from what he has heard, more Democrats than Republicans requested absentee ballots.

“There’s nothing normal about this election year,” he said.

Gaughran’s spokesperson Marissa Espinoza also said it was too early for anyone to declare victory.

“There are nearly 30,000 absentee votes, the majority of which appear to be from Democrats,” she said. “It is vital that every vote be counted. I’m confident that this full count will favor Senator Gaughran.”

For state Assembly, there are some tight and other not-so-tight races. Republican Jodi Giglio is standing at 62% to her Democratic opponent Laura Jens-Smith’s 36% in District 2.

Jens-Smith said during a phone interview Nov. 4 though there are still ballots to count, it’s likely her opponent has the ball. She said the day’s results show that Democrats need to focus on “rebuilding our base here to make sure that the issues we campaigned on are getting out to the voters better.”

She said she will continue to stay involved in the area, especially to make sure “we continue to have working and middle class here on Long Island.”

Giglio said she was holding on any declarations until all absentee votes are counted, but she thanked GOP leadership, her volunteers and her support from law enforcement and labor.

“Every vote means something to me and I am humbled by the confidence in me from the voters and the vote count thus far,” she said.

28-year incumbent Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) is behind his Republican opponent Michael Ross by close to five points in Assembly District 4 at 47%-52%. There are well over 15,000 absentee ballots to be counted, as of Nov. 4.

Englebright said he is not too concerned at the current polling numbers, as because of the pandemic and so many people voting differently, “I think we’ll be OK … a very substantial number of people who voted absentee ballot — a majority are my vote.”

Ross said he remains cautiously optimistic.

I think that across the board on the Island, the middle class spoke loudly for the Democrats to hear that they’re tired of the Albany agenda, and they’re tired of being ignored and their voices not being heard,” he said.

The day’s vote disparity is most drastically seen in Assembly District 8, with incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) holding more than 70% of the vote compared to Democratic challenger Dylan Rice’s 29%.

Fitzpatrick said while “the dust still has to settle,” he feels good about where he’s at.

“It was just an unusual campaign,” he said. “I’m used to being out and about in front of people. We did a couple of events, but certainly not like past campaigns.”

Rice did not respond to a request for comment.

In the 12th Assembly District, Republican Keith Brown had more than 57% of the vote, while Democrat Michael Marcantonio had more than 42% of the votes Wednesday morning.

Brown said while he feels good about the lead but he’s not ready to claim victory yet.

“Every vote is important and has to be counted,” he said.

The candidate said his campaign was one based on character and his experience with getting things done, and he was humbled by the support he received from family, friends, the Republican, Conservative and Independent parties as well as law enforcement organizations.

Marcantonio said he was being patient with results and optimistic for him and other Democrats who are currently trailing.

“This is going to look like a very different race in two weeks when all these votes are counted,” he said.

The Democrat said as of Wednesday morning four polling places in the district were not yet counted, and based on conversations his campaign has had with the board of elections and based on other data they have received, there are a little under 13,000 absentee votes that still need to be counted. Marcantonio is down by 8,000 votes.

“The race is far from over,” he said.

The candidate said he knew the race would be a close one, and he congratulated Brown on the strong showing and appreciated the Republican for not declaring victory just yet.

Republican Jamie Silvestri and incumbent Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) are close to a tie at about 50% each in Assembly District 10, with over 15,000 absentee ballots still to be counted.

“I’m very grateful for all the incredible people who stood by me and supported me throughout the year,” Silvestri said in a phone interview Nov. 4. “I’m optimistic for what’s ahead.”

Stern said that while the numbers are close, there are ballots to be counted over the next week. “It’s a very close race,” he said. “However, there still is a long way to go over the course of the next week in making sure every vote is counted, and when that process is complete I have every confidence that I will have the privilege to represent my community.”