On an election night punctuated by big wins for Democrats — from Kentucky’s governor’s race to abortion rights in Ohio — Long Island offered a different story.
Republicans made new inroads there Tuesday, building on several GOP victories last November. That includes flipping the Suffolk County executive office into Republican hands for the first time in two decades.
“You have to look at the results in Nassau and Suffolk County as just almost superhuman,” said Rep. Nick Langworthy, who formerly chaired the state’s Republican Party.
Long Island native Tom DiNapoli, a Democrat who serves as the state comptroller, offered a blunt take.
“The Republicans did exceedingly well, probably beyond anybody's expectations. So that's a concern, I think, as we head into next year,” DiNapoli said.
The GOP wins on Long Island buck the national trend of Democrats making inroads in America’s suburbs following the election of former President Donald Trump seven years ago.
Political analyst Lawrence Levy, who serves as executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, argues there are many factors at play on Long Island.
Among other things, Levy points to what he describes as “gerrymandered” county legislative districts, strong GOP organizations in Nassau and Suffolk counties and state laws enacted by Democrats in Albany that have alienated suburban voters, including bail reform.
“You really had a perfect storm of organizational strength, of patronage availability and of issues that the Republicans were very skillful at manipulating to scare people about crime in communities where there's virtually no crime,” Levy said.
Long Island, of course, is home to three congressional swing districts that President Joe Biden won in 2020 before flipping to GOP control in 2022. Those seats are currently occupied by Reps. Nick LaLota, George Santos, and Anthony D’Esposito. (Republicans also made inroads in the Hudson Valley last year.)
Langworthy argues that this week’s results are a sign of things to come in 2024.
“Our incumbents, you know, are doing a great job here [on Capitol Hill]. And they're going to run on that same exact message in 12 short months,” Langworthy said.
However, the top House Democrat, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn, downplays Tuesday’s results particularly in Suffolk County, noting that Republican Lee Zeldin was the congressman on Long Island’s east end for years.
“Do I think that that is in any way indicative of their prospects in November of 2024? It's a laughable prospect. It tells you how desperate they are,” Jeffries said.
Levy argues neither party in New York should take anything for granted next year.
He says Republicans should be concerned about long-term trends in the suburbs that favor Democrats. And he argues Democrats need to be "careful" when assuming the expected increased voter turnout will help them, as it often does when there is a presidential election.