While Democrats in most parts of the country were hoping for a “blue wave” to sweep them into power, North Shore Democrats were simply hoping to hold on to the seats that they had — and they did.
Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) and Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) were each re-elected over Republican opponents. This will be the second and third terms for Suozzi and Rice, respectively. With Democratic victories rolling in from around the country, the Democrats have taken control of the House of Representatives, although the Senate remains in GOP hands.
“It’s a great night and a great new future for this country,” Suozzi said. “We’ve got to start working together to get things done in this country. Everybody’s got to stop beating each other up.”
It was a more comfortable win this time around for Suozzi, the former Nassau County executive and mayor of Glen Cove. Suozzi held off Republican Dan DeBono, a former Navy SEAL, by 145,060 votes to 103,278.
He defeated Jack Martins in 2016 by 156,315 to 142,023 for the 3rd Congressional District, which stretches across the northern shore of Long Island from western Suffolk County to eastern Queens County.
Rice, who served as the district attorney for Nassau County from 2006 through 2014, once again won handily. She racked up just over 149,000 votes while her opponent, Ameer Benno, received 95,187. Her victory was the first to be announced by Nassau County Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs around 9:45 p.m. at the Democrats’ election night party at the Garden City Hotel.
“I believe that the majority of Americans want and feel that we need a check on this administration,” said Rice, after her race was called but before the Democrats seized control of the House. “There’s a lot of things to do but we’re going to have the American people behind us.”
In her first election for the House of Representatives, Rice defeated Bruce Blakeman by 85,294 to 76,515 during a midterm that saw Republicans pick up 13 House seats. In 2016, voter turnout for the race doubled and Rice’s margin grew even more, winning almost 60 percent of the vote for the 4th Congressional District, which includes much of southern and central Nassau.
Although the 2018 midterm election was seen by many as a referendum on President Donald Trump, both Suozzi and Rice chose not to make him the focus of their campaigns. Suozzi touted his work with the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 24 Republicans and 24 Democrats working to find common ground on topics such as immigration, gun control and infrastructure.
Rice, who was critical of Democratic Party leadership, said the party had to have a message that was more than just “anti-Trump.”
But both said they were willing to stand up to the president. Suozzi has criticized Trump on several occasions, although he — unlike Rice — did not join a lawsuit against Trump accusing him of violating the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
That put them at odds with their Republican opponents, both of whom wanted the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russia’s attack on the 2016 election to be ended. DeBono called it a “witch hunt” while Benno said Hillary Clinton should be investigated instead.
In the 2nd District, Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) was able to cling to his seat with a slim victory — 122,103 to 106,996 — over his Democratic opponent, Liuba Grechen Shirley.
It was the tightest race for King since he first ran for Congress in 1992. He held off the upstart Democrat who had money poured into her campaign. Shirley vastly outraised King between July and October with $1.3 million to King’s $203,000.
In the 1st District on the eastern end of Long Island, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) defeated Democrat Perry Gershon. Like King, Zeldin was outraised by his Democratic opponent over the final months of the campaign, although the difference was not as pronounced.
Zeldin received 130,919 votes to Gershon’s 115,795.
This was Zeldin’s fourth time running for the House. After being defeated in 2008, he won comfortably in 2014 and 2016 — each time, his opponent failed to get more than 40 percent of the vote. Gershon finished with 46.4 percent, but it was not enough.
Reach reporter Luke Torrance by email at [email protected], by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 214, or follow him on Twitter @LukeATorrance.