Kaplan trumps Phillips as Democrats seize state Senate

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Anna Kaplan, flanked by Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen and state Sen. Todd Kaminsky, is declared the victor of the state Senate District 7 race at the Democrats' election party in Garden City. (Photo by Luke Torrance)
Anna Kaplan, flanked by Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen and state Sen. Todd Kaminsky, is declared the victor of the state Senate District 7 race at the Democrats' election party in Garden City. (Photo by Luke Torrance)

It wasn’t quite a “blue wave” nationwide, but in New York it was.

North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck) defeated state Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Flower Hill) to represent Senate District 7 on Tuesday night. By unseating the one-term state senator, Kaplan helped put the state Senate and New York government firmly in Democratic hands.

Kaplan secured 58,273 votes, while Phillips earned 48,342 – a 53.68 to 44.53 percent margin of victory in a district that includes the Town of North Hempstead, Elmont and Hicksville.

“I knew it was going to be a very hard journey but I really believed, talking to a lot of grassroots supporters, that this was doable and I’m just proud to be representing this district and every single resident in this district,” Kaplan told Blank Slate Media after the results came in, describing this as a “new beginning.”

Asked what she believed this said about North Shore voters, Kaplan said she believed it shows “they want change.”

“They want to hold their representatives accountable and they want their representatives to represent them,” Kaplan said, “and not the special interest groups.”

Phillips did not appear at the Republican election event in Westbury on Tuesday night, but later issued a statement thanking her supporters.

“Over the past two years, working together, we accomplished so much for this district and for all Long Island, and I am most proud of my success in bringing back our fair share of funding from Albany for our schools and communities, and for the landmark steps we took to protect Long Island’s environment and drinking water, and improve the quality of life for everyone who lives here,” Phillips said.

“It has been the honor of my lifetime to serve the residents of this district in the state Senate, and to be their voice in state government, for which I will be forever grateful.”

Nassau County Republican Chairman Joseph Cairo addresses event attendees about election results. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)
Nassau County Republican Chairman Joseph Cairo addresses event attendees about election results. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Republicans struck a defiant tone, however, applauding the service of those who lost and Rep. Peter King’s victory, and promising “a fight” to reclaim both their own seats and the state Senate in 2020.

“Don’t despair, listen,” Nassau County Republican Chairman Joseph Cairo told attendees as results came in. “Everyone has a bad night, we had a tough one tonight, but we’ll be back.”

The Kaplan win is among a sea of Democratic state Senate victories across the state and on Long Island, with Kemp Hannon of the 6th District and Carl Marcellino of the 5th both losing their races and Monica Martinez, a Democrat, defeating Dean Murray, a Republican, to represent the 3rd District currently held by Republican Thomas Croci.

This means that Long Island’s state Senate delegation is now a Democratic majority of 6 to 3, and Republicans, who once held the state Senate 32-31, have lost it to Democrats, who now have a 40-23 edge.

This also means that John Flanagan, the Republican state Senate majority leader from East Northport, will likely be replaced by Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Yonkers Democrat and the current state Senate minority leader.

The results also follow considerable Nassau County Republican losses in 2017, when Laura Curran became county executive and Laura Gillen became the first Democrat in a century to be the supervisor for the Town of Hempstead.

With the state Senate turned blue, Democrats now have full control of New York state government. In addition to the state Senate majority, they continue to dominate the Assembly, and have Attorney General Letitia James, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, from Great Neck, in power.

Kaplan had touted herself as someone who would work to support all district residents and advocated for passing legislation held up in the state Senate like the Reproductive Health Act and the Child Victims Act. She also claimed Phillips was controlled by special interests and beholden to the Republican Party.

Phillips, meanwhile, had cast herself as a fighter and problem-solver for the district who worked to keep taxes under control and deliver state aid to local institutions. She had also warned against voting Democratic, asserting that district taxpayers’ money would be funneled away from Long Island to New York City.

Both candidates had dueled over issues like guns, taxation, one-party control and schools.

State Republicans invested heavily in Phillips’ campaign, disclosures filed with the state Elections Board show, with the NYS Senate Republican Campaign Committee alone giving more than $440,000 to her campaign as of Oct. 19 and sending out troves of campaign literature.

State Democrats had also invested in Kaplan’s bid, according to disclosures, with a $200,000 contribution from the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee recorded on Oct. 26 and $11,000 each from the New York State Democratic Committee and Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.

The New York State Union of Teachers backed Kaplan heavily, pouring more than $1 million into advertising, mailers, videos and surveys both for Kaplan and against Phillips, according to financial disclosure records filed with the state Election Board.

Jobs for New York, which represents the Real Estate Board of New York, put more than $494,000 toward Phillips for advertising and consulting, according to financial closures filed with the Election Board. But New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany – a pro-charter school PAC representing StudentsFirst that gave Phillips $2.6 million in her 2016 campaign – appeared to have stayed on the sidelines this year.

Kaplan was elected to represent the Town of North Hempstead’s 4th District, which stretches from Kings Point to Roslyn, in 2011 and re-elected to a second term in 2015. Before that, she served as trustee on the Great Neck Library board for four years.

Phillips served as the mayor of Flower Hill from 2012 to 2016 and worked as a financial analyst for more than 20 years.

Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso, who represents the 16th Assembly District, which covers most of North Hempstead, meanwhile, beat back a challenge from Republican Byron Divins 27,555 to 17,068 – or 59.69 percent to 36.97 percent.

Assemblyman Charles Lavine, who represents the 13th District, which  surrounds North Hempstead and includes parts of Roslyn, defeated Republican challenger Andrew Monteleone 29,077 to 13,945, or 65.61 to 31.47 percent.

Republican Assemblyman Edward Ra, who represents the 19th District, which includes much of Mineola, New Hyde Park, Williston Park and stretches into Old Westbury and Glen Head, held onto his seat, defeating Democratic challenger William “Billy” Carr, a Williston Park trustee, 24,832 to 19,687 – or 54.03 to 42.84 percent.

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