Zeldin defeats Bishop as Suffolk GOP wins big on Election Day

Congressman-elect Lee Zeldin addresses his supporters at the Suffolk County GOP gala at Emporium in Patchogue Tuesday. (Credit: John Griffin)

Congressman-elect Lee Zeldin addresses his supporters at the Suffolk County GOP gala at Emporium in Patchogue Tuesday. (Credit: John Griffin)

A red wave was felt across America Tuesday in the final mid-term election of Democratic President Barack Obama’s two terms in office.

It was certainly no different here in New York’s 1st Congressional District, where a Republican will be sworn in to office next year for the first time since 2002. 

Lee Zeldin, 34, of Shirley topped incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop in the 1st District race, starting with a lead when the first results were announced Tuesday night and then widening his margin of victory throughout the night.

The state Senator eventually finished with a shade under 55 percent of the vote, compared with Mr. Bishop’s 45 percent, according to preliminary results released by the Suffolk County Board of Elections.

“We took decisive action today to fix America,” Mr. Zeldin told his supporters at the Suffolk County GOP gala at Emporium in Patchogue.  “We can’t change Washington unless we change who we send to Washington and that’s what you did tonight.”

It was an evening that saw the GOP expand its control of the House of Representatives while also wresting control of the U.S. Senate. Mr. Zeldin said the results across the country will bring “much-needed checks and balances on [the president].”

“The one-house bills the Republicans used to pass are now going on Barack Obama’s desk,” Mr. Zeldin said.

Mr. Bishop, 64, of Southampton was first elected in 2002 over one-term Republican incumbent Felix Grucci of Brookhaven 50-48 percent. He is currently serving his sixth term after serving in the administration of Southampton College for 29 years, many of them as provost.

Congressman-elect Lee Zeldin celebrates his win with his wife and two daughters Tuesday night. (Credit: John Griffin)

Congressman-elect Lee Zeldin celebrates his win with his wife and two daughters Tuesday night. (Credit: John Griffin)

Mr. Zeldin first opposed Mr. Bishop in 2008, when he received just 41 percent of the vote in a presidential year that saw Democrats take back the White House.

Two years later, Mr. Zeldin re-emerged with a decisive victory over incumbent Brian Foley for New York State’s 3rd Senate District, securing 57 percent of the vote. He then won re-election again in 2012, putting him on the path to another race with Mr. Bishop.

But Mr. Zeldin, an attorney and a veteran of the Iraq War, first had his mettle tested in a GOP primary in June against perennial challenger George Demos, whom he defeated handily.

His campaign only picked up steam from there and he was finally painted as the favorite this weekend when Newsday released a Siena College poll that showed Mr. Zeldin with a 5-percent edge over the incumbent.

Mr. Zeldin centered much of his campaign on reining in wasteful government spending and ending dysfunction in Washington. Of his almost four years in Albany, he pointed often to legislative work that repealed the saltwater fishing license and partially repealed the locally despised MTA payroll tax. He also won funds for the PFC Joseph Dwyer PTSD support program, which helps returning veterans cope with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The 1st District race was the costliest for the House in New York State this year, eclipsing the $15 million mark, according to campaign finance records. Newsday reported it was the eighth most expensive Congressional race in the country.

Congressman Tim Bishop concedes to Republican challenger Lee Zeldin at the Suffolk County Democratic gala at the Islandia Marriot Tuesday night. (Credit: Robert O'Rourk)

Congressman Tim Bishop concedes to Republican challenger Lee Zeldin at the Suffolk County Democratic gala at the Islandia Marriot Tuesday night. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

Mr. Bishop said an anti-Democratic climate this year was too much to overcome.

“I’m not going to be a sore loser. I’m not going to make excuses. Tonight, I think the fact that Rob Astorino carried Suffolk County — I think that tells you just how tough the climate was,” he said, referring to the GOP challenger for governor, who was ultimately defeated by Democrat Andrew Cuomo.

Mr. Bishop thanked the crowd at the Suffolk County Democratic gala at the Islandia Marriot and vowed to cooperate with the Zeldin transition team over the next two months.

The congressman’s previous closest race for re-election came in 2010, when he defeated two-time GOP challenger Randy Altschuler of St. James by just 593 votes.

He centered his seventh run for office on strengthening the middle class through greater access to higher education and defending Social Security. He also touted the passage of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013, which he helped author. The legislation is designed to cut through bureaucratic red tape and strengthen the country’s water transportation networks and promote economic development.

Mr. Bishop was not alone among defeated Suffolk Democrats, as Republicans won each of the local races on the North Fork Tuesday and much more.

Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo in Patchogue Tuesday night. (Credit: John Griffin)

Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo in Patchogue Tuesday night. (Credit: John Griffin)

Freshman Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) defeated Democrat Tom Schiliro of Manorville by nearly a two-to-one margin in his first re-election campaign, taking 63 percent of the vote.

“We’re very pleased with the results,” Mr. Palumbo said. “We had a nice turnout and we had a nice year for the Republican Party. Mr. Schiliro was kind enough to call me and concede. He ran a very tough race.”

Following their phone call Mr. Schiliro, who pledged to remain politically active, called Mr. Palumbo “a real gentleman.”

Asked if he expected to win by such a wide margin, Mr. Palumbo said: “I had no idea. All you could do is guess. All I can do is just run hard and hope the electorate likes what they see.”

State Senator Ken LaValle won his 19th re-election campaign with 70 percent of the vote against Democrat Michael Conroy, who did not actively campaign.

It was an evening of joy for Republicans across Suffolk County, and while Mr. Cuomo won re-election and Democrats still control the Assembly, the state Senate will now be run by a true majority of Republicans.

“What a night!” said county GOP chairman John Jay LaValle as he took the stage at Emporium. “A few pretty amazing things happened tonight: a new comptroller, state Senator and Assemblyman.”

That state Senator is current Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci, who won 58-42 the seat being vacated by Mr. Zeldin in what was once expected to be a more closely contested race with environmentalist Adrienne Esposito.

John Kennedy (R-Nesconset), the current minority leader in the Suffolk County Legislature, took the race for Comptroller, a seat being vacated by incumbent Republican Joe Sawicki of Southold, who reached his term limit.

That’s a seat that could soon be eliminated after voters approved a measure to merge that office with that of the County Treasurer. Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) said Tuesday night that it will take three years for that process to be completed.

A somber crowd of Democratic supporters watch as Congressman Tim Bishop concedes Tuesday night. (Credit: Robert O'Rourk)

A somber crowd of Democratic supporters watch as Congressman Tim Bishop concedes Tuesday night. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

All five propositions on the countywide ballot were approved Tuesday, including one that will amend the Suffolk County Drinking Water Protection Program to allow the county to continue to use the sewer stabilization reserve fund to balance the county budget, while requiring the fund be repaid by 2029. The fund will continue to be used for sewer and septic system projects.

Attending a Southold Town GOP event at the Soundview Restaurant in Greenport, committee chairman Peter McGreevy said “the East End held up its end of the deal” in getting out the vote in a mid-term year. Republicans won by a large margin in his town.

“It is apparent from the residents in Southold that voters are more than ready for a change,” he said. “There is overwhelming support for Zeldin.”

At the Emporium, Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said Mr. Zeldin’s win was the most exciting part of a great night for Republicans.

“We’ve had a congressman who’s represented us and has voted most of the time with President Obama, who I don’t always agree with,” she said. “It’s nice to have somebody in there with new ideas and new visions and ways to help the residents.”

Southold Democratic chairman Art Tillman said he believes voter frustration with the president trickled down to the local level this year.

“There’s disappointment in Obama,” he said. “He hasn’t been a good communicator.”

Mr. Tillman added that he was “extremely disappointed” to see Mr. Bishop lose his seat.

“I think Tim did an excellent job as our congressman,” he said.

Congress:

Candidate Votes Percentage
Tim Bishop (D) 73704 45.12
Lee Zeldin (R) 89507 54.8

Assembly:

Candidate Votes Percentage
Anthony Palumbo (R)  21116  63.35
Tom Schiliro (D)  12201  36.6

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