Low Democratic voter turnout in Nassau, no problem for Gillen, Zimmerman

Low Democratic voter turnout in Nassau, no problem for Gillen, Zimmerman
Robert Zimmerman (left) and Laura Gillen (right) each won their respective primaries despite lower turnout from Nassau Democrats than in the June gubernatorial primaries. (Photos courtesy of both candidates)

Congressional candidates Robert Zimmerman and Laura Gillen won their respective primary elections despite a lower turnout from Democratic voters throughout Nassau County than June’s gubernatorial primary.

A total of 46,229 votes were cast in both the 3rd and 4th Congressional District Primary elections two weeks ago.

Officials from the Nassau County Board of Elections said nearly 11% of registered Democratic voters cast ballots for the congressional primaries, more than 3% fewer than those who voted in the state’s gubernatorial primary in late June.

New district maps were submitted recently by a court-appointed special master and have been viewed as more neutral compared to ones that were rejected by a state appeals court earlier this year.

But the newly-drawn lines forced the Congressional and state Senate primaries to take place in August rather than June with the gubernatorial primary, causing concern that fewer people would vote. 

The 3rd Congressional District race, comprised of Zimmerman, activist Melanie D’Arrigo, former Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman, Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan and Reema Rasool, racked up 26,520 votes.

The 4th Congressional District race, made up of Gillen, Malverne Mayor Keith Corbett, Nassau County Legislator Carrie Solages and Muzibul Huq, saw 19,709 ballots cast.

While the newly-drawn 3rd Congressional District does not extend as far west as the Bronx or Westchester, it does stretch to more southern parts of Nassau County, such as Hicksville and Massapequa. The new lines do exclude the parts of the district that now stretch into Suffolk County, mainly Huntington and Smithtown. It also includes portions of Queens.

A total of 20,147 votes were cast in Nassau in the 3rd Congressional primary and showed that Zimmerman had less of a lead over Kaiman and Lafazan than in Queens. Zimmerman received approximately 34% of the Nassau votes, while Kaiman and Lafazan received 27% and 22%, respectively.

In Queens, a total of 6,373 votes were cast in the primary, according to state figures. Zimmerman received approximately 43% of the votes, with Kaiman receiving 23% and Lafazan receiving 13%.

Overall, Zimmerman received 9,482, or 36%, of the votes. Kaiman finished second with 6,884 votes for 26%. Lafazan was in third place with 5,296 votes, D’Arrigo received 4,197 votes and Rasool received 661 votes.

Gillen received more than 12,400 votes, 63%, in the 4th Congressional Primary, whose district comprises central and southern Nassau County, including Floral Park, Garden City, Hempstead, Mineola, Carle Place, New Hyde Park and Westbury. Under newly drawn redistricting maps, it also takes in the villages of East Williston, Williston Park, Lake Success and some unincorporated parts of the Town of North Hempstead.

Solages had 4,811 votes, Corbett received 2,169 votes and Huq received 297 votes.

New York State and Nassau County Democratic Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs told Newsday that Gillen and Zimmerman’s interaction with various communities throughout their prospective districts and prior leadership roles played key roles in their victories.

Both races also featured a lack of incumbents, with the 3rd District’s U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), running an unsuccessful campaign for governor and 4th District’s U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) not choosing to run for re-election.

In 2016, however, Suozzi ran in a crowded Democratic Primary for the 3rd District without an incumbent, due to former U.S. Rep. Steve Israel not running for re-election.

Suozzi’s slate of Democratic opponents included Kaiman, current state Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-North Hills), Steve Stern and Jonathan Clarke.

Turnout for the 2016 election was significantly less than this year’s congressional election in the 3rd district.

In that race, a total of 20,343 votes were cast with only 11,324 coming from Nassau County voters, according to statistics from the state’s Board of Elections. Suozzi received 7,142 votes, or 35%, winning him the election.

On May 20, newly drawn congressional maps were approved by a State Supreme Court judge. The maps were submitted by a court-appointed “special master” and have been viewed as more neutral compared to ones that were rejected by a state appeals court several weeks prior.

Other changes were also made to the state’s primary election cycle several years ago when officials voted to consolidate the preliminary elections to June in 2019. Primary elections throughout the state were previously held in September before the change.

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