Nassau County and the North Shore remained a Democratic stronghold for Hillary Clinton in last week’s presidential election, a stark contrast to Republican President-elect Donald Trump’s easy win in Suffolk County.
But some North Shore voters’ picks at the top of the ticket did not determine their choices in local races for Congress and the state Senate, according to data from the New York State Board of Elections and data from the Nassau County Board of Elections compiled by Newsday.
Some usually Republican North Shore villages went for Clinton, but stayed loyal to their party down the ballot by choosing state Sen. Jack Martins over Tom Suozzi in the 3rd Congressional District, and Republican state Sen.-elect Elaine Phillips over Democrat Adam Haber of East Hills to replace Martins in the 7th Senate District.
“I think for the most part you had some crossover factor of Republicans who could not stomach Donald Trump and voted for Hillary,” said Jay Jacobs, the Nassau County Democratic chairman.
Similarly, some Democrats who were compelled by Trump’s message cast ballots for him at the top of the ticket and voted for Democrats they liked further down, Jacobs said.
Suozzi won some election districts that went for Trump in his hometown of Glen Cove, which provided about half his margin of victory over Republican state Sen. Jack Martins in the 3rd Congressional District.
Ed Powers, chairman of the New Hyde Park-Stewart Manor Republican Committee, said Trump likely aided GOP candidates further down the ballot, including those in contested state Senate races.
“In recent presidential years our presidential candidates have not run as strong as Donald Trump, and he was very helpful,” Powers said.
Clinton won Nassau County with about 50.4 percent of the votes to Trump’s 45.2 percent, a margin slightly smaller than President Barack Obama’s 6.7-percentage point victory in 2012 over the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney.
But Romney fared far better than Trump on the North Shore. He took Great Neck Estates in addition to the peninsula’s more deeply Republican villages of Kings Point and Saddle Rock, and won Old Westbury, North Hills and Sands Point, three wealthy villages where Trump lost.
Obama won Suffolk County by 1.8 percentage points in 2012, but Trump easily beat Clinton there last week with 51.8 percent of the votes to her 43.7 percent.
There were likely fewer voters in Nassau, the more liberal, affluent and diverse county, with whom Trump’s message resonated, Jacobs said. That likely applied in the wealthy GOP villages that went for Clinton, Powers said.
“The economy that we enjoy here is very different than the Rust Belt or even the Sun Belt, so maybe they thought that the continuation of the policies of the current administration was something that they felt they could make a vote for,” Powers said.
Jacobs rejected as “post-election nonsense” the assertion that what cost Clinton the election was his party’s neglect of working-class voters and their resentment of the political establishment.
Support for Clinton was likely suppressed by FBI Director James Comey’s Oct. 28 announcement that his agency was again looking into her use of a private email server when she was secretary of state, an effect that reverberated down the ballot, Jacobs said.
“I don’t think it was so much ‘make America great again’ as it was ‘drain the swamp,’” Jacobs said.
OTHER FORCES AT PLAY
Clinton’s struggles likely contributed to Haber’s loss to Phillips, the Republican mayor of Flower Hill, despite his previous runs for state Senate and Nassau County executive, Jacobs said.
Like Martins, Phillips held traditional Republican areas on the North Shore that turned blue in the presidential race.
She also outperformed Trump in New Hyde Park and Mineola, winning several election districts there that went to Clinton.
Independent-expenditure groups also poured a deluge of money into the race on Phillips’ behalf, spending three times as much as groups backing Haber.
Jacobs said those groups smeared Haber with lies and cost him a race he would have won had it been based on issues.
“The truth is no defense in political campaigning,” he said. “It may be a defense in a libel suit but it’s not a defense in the courtroom of public opinion.”
Democrats were fighting hard to take the 7th District seat — and control of the state Senate — from the GOP after Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, was indicted last month on federal corruption charges. He has pleaded not guilty and has said he will not resign.
Outside spending aside, Powers said, Phillips proved herself a stronger candidate who would benefit Long Island by counterbalancing the New York City Democrats who control the state Assembly.
“She connected with people,” Powers said. “It’s a rare trait for a first-time run on a larger scale than a village, and she really connected with people, and that’s obviously a huge advantage right off the bat.”
SUOZZI’S HOMETOWN WIN
Martins, of Old Westbury, won the North Shore’s usual Republican strongholds, including the parts that voted for Clinton and the parts of the 3rd Congressional District district that Trump won — Manhasset, Williston Park, East Williston and Albertson.
Martins, a former Mineola mayor who has represented the North Shore in the state Senate since 2011, also defeated Suozzi in the Suffolk County portion of the district, stretching from the border with Nassau to Kings Park.
But Suozzi extended his base in Glen Cove, his home city where he was mayor for eight years, to parts that Trump won. He beat Martins there by about 3,000 votes, more than half of his 6,800-vote margin of victory in the district’s Nassau portion.
That and the fact that Suozzi was better known than Martins contributed to his victory, Jacobs said.
“His popularity served him well, and I think that’s a good reason why he won, even outperformed, in certain areas, the top of the ticket,” Jacobs said.
Powers said Martins ran a “spirited race” and noted he is best known in the parts of his state Senate district, such as Mineola, that lie outside the congressional district.
Martins’ tepid support for Trump was probably “a wash” given the other political factors in the race, Powers said.