By Janelle Clausen and Rebecca Klar
Republicans gathered at Mirelle’s Restaurant in Westbury began Tuesday night with excitement as early returns showed Republicans taking a lead in races for Nassau County executive, county comptroller and Town of Hempstead supervisor.
But the mood did not last long.
As the chart spanning the entire back wall of the back room began moving against their candidates, they became gloomy.
And when it became clear they lost their hold on the county executive and county comptroller positions, many Republicans filed out of the room.
Election night was a study in contrasts between Democrats and Republicans.
While Republicans began ascendant as early race reports came in, ultimately Democrats claimed victory in two of the three major county races.
At the Inn in New Hyde Park, Democrats clutched their cellphones monitoring the races.
They cheered whenever one of their candidates jumped ahead, sometimes grumbled when a Republican pulled ahead, and played songs like “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey on loud speakers.
Then when Jay Jacobs, chairman of the Nassau County Democrats, rose to announce victories in the county executive, county comptroller and Hempstead town supervisor races, the crowd erupted, waving signs and chanting “Laura, Laura!” at various points.
“We made history tonight because of the people who believe the same thing that I do: There is a better future for Nassau County because we will create a government that is accountable to them and only to them,” Laura Curran, the Democratic victor in the county executive race, told a flooded room of supporters. “That’s why we won this race.”
Jacobs also highlighted various victories in other races, like Jack Schnirman, a Democrat from Long Beach, winning the county comptroller race.
Laura Gillen also became the first ever Democrat elected to be town supervisor of Hempstead, while Joshua Lafazan, 23, became the youngest person ever elected to the county Legislature.
Candidates, strategists and supporters alike embraced each other and posed for photos. Some attendees also rose atop chairs to dance, clap and applaud the results.
“We are going into a new era in the Town of Hempstead,” Gillen, who defeated incumbent Anthony Santino, said, “and I thank you for all your support.”
Steve Markowitz, the chair of the Great Neck Democratic Club, said that the results of the election were more a product of where Democrats stood on local issues like finances, cronyism and corruption. Still, he said it was nice to be among a streak of Democratic victories in Virginia and New Jersey’s gubernatorial and legislative races.
“While I don’t think we were experiencing [the results of] a nationwide wave, it was great to be a part of it.” Markowitz said.
Schnirman defeated Steve Labriola, a former county chief deputy controller, by just over 4,000 votes, or 50 to 48 percent, to be elected county comptroller.
Meanwhile, Jack Martins, a former state senator and mayor of Mineola, lost to Curran by a margin of 51 to 48 percent, or 147,102 votes to 139,204 in the county executive race.
Republican Chairman Joe Mondello said, “We’ve had good ones and bad ones. This was a bad one.”
Martins opted not to speak before the crowd – or concede defeat until the next day via a news release.
“Thank you to all those who supported us and went out and stood for a brighter future for Nassau – looking forward instead of looking back,” Martins said in a statement on Wednesday. “I have called to congratulate my opponent, Laura Curran, on her win. I encourage everyone to work together to put partisanship aside to restore trust in government and get Nassau back on the right track.”
The Republicans held their majority in the county legislature 11-8 and Maureen O’Connell, the Republican incumbent county clerk, won re-election against Democratic clerk hopeful Dean Bennett, 54.32 percent to 45.65 percent.
But even GOP winners, like Vincent Muscarella who won back his seat in the county Legislature in the 8th District, felt the party’s losses.
“The residents of the 8th legislature were confident to elect me and I look forward to serving them,” Muscarella said. “On a larger scale I’m disappointed. I would’ve loved to serve with Jack Martins, but I’ve served with Laura Curran and I work with her well. The county will move on.”
Angel Cepeda, who lost to Arnold Drucker, said the Republican party has to work toward regaining the public trust, but the party’s values are still important to the region.
And Mondello said he is ready for next year and predicted the Republicans will win everything.
“There was a Republican Party yesterday,” Mondello said. “There is a Republican Party today. There will be a Republican Party tomorrow.”