Editorial: Lessons of GOP victory in Nassau

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Democrats swept to victory across the country on Election Day, carried by suburban voters who have abandoned the Republican party in increasing numbers in response to President Trump.

But not in Nassau County.

In Nassau County, Republicans swept the Town of Hempstead, recapturing the supervisor position that they had held for 112 years before Laura Gillen defeated Anthony Santino two years ago.

The results were similar in the Town of Oyster Bay where the GOP captured all four races including the one of town supervisor, where incumbent Joseph Saladino easily won re-election.

In the Nassau County Legislature, the Republicans maintained their 11-8 advantage. Which likely guarantees Republicans control of the Legislature for the next decade.

How so? The old fashioned way: Gerrymandering.

In 2011, Republican legislators used a 10-9 majority to redraw the legislative map in a way that gave Republicans an advantage in registered voters in 12 of the 19 districts. In a county in which registered Democrats outnumbered registered Republicans.

Think they are now going to start playing fair?

The lone bright spot for county Democrats was the Town of North Hempstead where the wave was blue and Mariann Dalimonte, a lifelong Port Washington resident with strong ties to local groups, easily defeated the Republican incumbent, Dina De Giorgio, as part of a sweep of town seats.

As expected, the Democrats also held onto the District Attorney’s Office as Madeline Singas defeated a candidate with no experience as a prosecutor and little campaign money, who believed that Singas was extreme for supporting a woman’s right to choose.

Still, the election gave Republicans control of two towns representing three-quarters of the population of Nassau County and the county Legislature.

Not a good outcome for Jay Jacobs, who is not only the chairman of the county Democratic Party but the state party as well.

Unsurprisingly, state Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy seized on the Republican victories in Hempstead and Oyster Bay to tout what he said was a Republican resurgence in New York.

Conservative Party Chairman Gerard Kassar did the same, claiming a share of the GOP’s victories.

Kassar actually has a point.

Democrats actually gave Gillen more votes than Republican Don Clavin, the longtime Hempstead Receiver of Taxes who defeated her. Same for Town Clerk Sylvia Cabana who was defeated by Kate Murray, the former town of Hempstead supervisor who ran an unsuccessful race for District Attorney Madeline Singas.

In both cases, people casting their votes on the Conservative line provided Republicans with the margin of victory.

The only thing missing from the Republican victories in Nassau was a presidential tweet.

The Republicans’ success in Nassau raises many questions.

Is the success of the Nassau GOP an indication of growing Republican strength statewide? And, if so, why? Did legislation passed by the new Democratic majority in the state Senate play a role? And if so, what does that mean to newly elected Democratic legislators from Long Island and their future challengers?

How about the role of reassessment on the outcome of races for county Legislature? And what about the quality of candidates chosen to run?

One answer to the question of why Republicans did well is that they appear to do politics better than Democrats.

That certainly seemed to be the case in the race for the Legislature.

In recent years, a parade of Republican officials led by state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to political corruption.

Did you hear anything about it in the county races? We didn’t either. Why not?

Nor did we hear anything about how residents’ votes would be diminished by Republican gerrymandering of county Legislature districts.

And Republican legislators have somehow appeared to gain the advantage in the debate over reassessment at a time where County Executive Laura Curran is fixing the mess created in eight years under Mangano and the Republican majority in the Legislature.

Yes, the result of the reassessment is that the half of property owners who were underpaying their taxes will now pay more. But the reassessment also means that the half of the property owners who were overpaying their taxes will pay less. And the cash-strapped county will stop paying $50 million a year in successful assessment challenges.

Add to that the selection of opponents.

The person chosen to challenge Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello, who has led the GOP charge, was a candidate who had never held elective office and had been defeated by Nicolello the last two elections.

Is that really the best the Democratic Party could do? The victory of Dalimonte shows that a strong candidate can defeat an incumbent.

But on this one, we will acknowledge that the Democrats were certainly not alone in running candidates with thin resumes and little chance.

The Democratic party was not alone in political mistakes.

Gillen offered a needed jolt of reality to Hempstead, where patronage jobs have long taken precedence over good government and the needs of taxpayers. But she stumbled in her approach soon after taking office.

Gillen rightly sued the Town Council for handing out $4 million in raises to 197 employees, moved his top patronage hires to permanent positions and granted the town’s unions a no-layoff clause in Santino’s last days.

But she burned bridges in filing her suit by including council members – including those who voted against the personnel changes and, in two cases, backed her against Santino.

Then again Clavin, who had done a good job as a receiver in taxes, was a much better candidate than Santino and you had all those employees who owed their jobs to the Hempstead Republican machine.

As Nicolello recently pointed out, it’s not the number of registered voters, but the number of registered voters who vote that decides elections.

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