By Jed Hendrixson and Teri West
At a brightly lit room lined with patriotic decorations in Westbury’s Mirelle’s Restaurant, Nassau County Republicans gathered on election night in subdued disappointment and acceptance of defeat.
The atmosphere inside the Garden City Hotel for the Nassau County Democrats on Tuesday night was the complete opposite: electric, an orchestra swelling to mark a resounding swiping of the state Senate majority.
Loud music was unintelligible over the chatter inside the hotel, where hundreds of Democrats gathered in support of the hoped-for “blue wave,” the national response two years after the polarizing election of President Donald Trump. The crowd cheered and booed as the results of the U.S. House and Senate races trickled in throughout the night.
As results quickly began to show signs of Democratic victory in the state Senate the mood barely changed in Westbury, but shortly before midnight as candidates and Nassau County Republican Chairman Joseph Cairo filed to the stage, attendees began a quiet applause that soon grew hearty.
Republican speakers focused on resolve to bounce back in two years. Democrats emphasized the success of the evening.
“The people will soon realize the mistake they made,” said state Assemblyman Michael Montesano (R-Glen Head) who was re-elected in District 15 on Tuesday.
As speakers alluded to challenges ahead for Republicans as the state Senate slipped out of their control, there was little discussion in Westbury of the similar flip that was taking place at a national level in the House of Representatives.
Though it became apparent early in the night that flipping the U.S. Senate blue would be too large of a task, particularly after the declaration that Ted Cruz (R-Texas) defeated challenger Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic crowd’s excitement at the Garden City Hotel only grew as Democrats continued to pick up Republican seats in the House.
The president’s name was not mentioned once in Republican speeches. Though he was not not mentioned by name at the Democratic party, victorious U.S. Representatives Kathleen Rice and Tom Suozzi, now members of the majority in Washington, expressed censure over the division the president’s administration has brought.
District 7 state Sen. Elaine Phillips, who lost a bid for re-election to North Hempstead Councilwoman Anna Kaplan, was nowhere to be seen at Mirelle’s Restaurant.
Kaplan, meanwhile, delivered a speech to an enlivened crowd after news came in she was projected to win with 89 percent of precincts reporting.
As Democratic attendees swarmed the stage, Nassau County Democrat Chairman Jay Jacobs, incumbents and newly elected state senators announced to deafening cheers and applause that the Democrats had gained control of the state Senate, placing control of the entire state government in the party’s hands.
New York Democrats now hold a majority in the state Senate and Assembly, and have an attorney general, comptroller and governor in power.
This comes after after the ousting of former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who represented Nassau County’s District 9, and former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano.
Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Senate Democrat representing the 35th District, is poised to become the state Legislature’s first female majority leader in January.
“The residents of New York have spoken,” Stewart-Cousins said. “And it’s time to begin to act.”
In Westbury, the crowd was enthused by Cairo’s determination to face the challenges ahead, but it also celebrated its few victories. U.S. Rep. Peter King, who was re-elected, was the greatest source of redemption in the room.
As King stepped on stage while Republican state Senate leader John Flanagan spoke, Flanagan said with a laugh, “I feel better. How about you guys?”
People filtered out of the room around midnight, and former Hempstead Mayor James A. Garner remarked on whether Trump’s presidency might have had an effect in Nassau County.
“Well he certainly didn’t affect Peter King!” he said.