North Fork voters flocked to the polls Tuesday to do their part in choosing America’s next president.
But several key local seats were on the line in state and federal elections.
Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) faced a challenge from Democrat Nancy Goroff of Stony Brook that many have predicted could be too close to call tonight.
The area’s State Senate seat is up for grabs with incumbent Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) retiring after more than 40 years in office. Either Democrat Laura Ahearn of Port Jefferson or Republican Anthony Palumbo of New Suffolk will take his place in Albany.
That leaves Mr. Palumbo’s seat in the State Assembly open to a replacement. Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, a Republican, will face the town’s former supervisor, Democrat Laura Jens-Smith as well as Libertarian candidate William Van Helmond.
Also at stake are a pair of county propositions and a third proposition in Riverhead, where a Town Justice seat is also up for grabs.
Times Review Media Group will be keeping an eye on the results, interviewing candidates and sharing reports from the Election Day field with frequent updates throughout the night.
Palumbo: ‘I feel very good’
While Congressman Lee Zeldin congratulated fellow Republican Anthony Palumbo for winning the 1st Senate District seat to replace Ken LaValle, Mr. Palumbo wasn’t ready to declare victory just yet late Tuesday.
“I don’t know if we can call it just yet with the large number of absentees outstanding, but I feel very good about the current lead,” he said.
The numbers show Mr. Palumbo with a 14 1/2-point lead over Democrat Laura Ahearn. Mr. Palumbo has 74,233 votes compared to 55,435 for Ms. Ahearn.
Mr. Zeldin and the Republicans gathered in Center Moriches also congratulated Assembly candidate Jodi Giglio for winning her race against Democrat Laura Jens-Smith. She was shown to have 26-point lead in her race with 34,235 votes compared to 19,814 for Ms. Jens-Smith.
Riverhead voters reject expanded supervisor term
A proposition to extend the Riverhead Town supervisor’s term has failed once again.
With all 22 districts reporting, 66% of the voters rejected the proposition. A total of 8,275 voters were cast against the proposition while 4,214 were cast in favor.
Meanwhile, in a Riverhead justice race to replace the seat held by the late Allen Smith, former supervisor Sean Walter won with 61% of the votes tallied so far. Democratic challenger Joseph DiBenedetto has 38.47% of the votes.
Zeldin declares victory
Congressman Lee Zeldin delivered a victory speech shortly after 11:30 p.m. tonight at his Center Moriches campaign headquarters as he appears to have won a fourth term to the House of Representatives.
He thanked a small group of supporters gathered outdoors, saying: “Now you all can go to sleep tonight knowing that your hard work paid off.”
He thanked his opponent, Democrat challenger Nancy Goroff, who has not yet issued a statement conceding the race.
“Losing was not an option for this entire team,” Mr. Zeldin said.
With 461 districts out of 473 reporting, Mr. Zeldin has 174,529 votes (61.24%) compared to 110,402 (38.74%) for Ms. Goroff.
Mr. Zeldin said the country must come together when the election is over in a way that did not happen in 2016.
“We’re Americans first,” he said. “We’re not gathered here tonight as Republicans first, Democrats first, we’re Long Islanders. We’re New Yorkers. We’re Americans. We love our flag, our freedoms, our liberties, our military, our veterans, our law enforcement, our Constitution.” He then pointed to a nearby flag: “Yeah, that flag right there,” as the crowd erupted into cheers.
Zeldin’s lead continues to expand
Congressman Lee Zeldin may be celebrating tonight after all — even with a large number of absentee ballots still to be counted.
Current numbers from the Board of Elections show the incumbent congressman with a 20-point lead over the Democrat challenger, Nancy Goroff. He has shown to have 151,728 votes (60.38%) compared to 99,493 (39.59%) for Ms. Goroff.
A campaign bus for Mr. Zeldin was lit up behind his Center Moriches campaign office Tuesday night where the congressman was expected to address the media. Mr. Zeldin hasn’t been spotted just yet but he’s expected to speak from a pickup truck in front of the campaign bus.
Meanwhile, Republican Jodi Giglio has a strong lead in the 2nd Assembly race with 30,774 votes (61.53%) compared to 18,548 for Democrat Laura Jens-Smith (37.08%).
The lead in the 1st Senate District has expanded for Republican Anthony Palumbo, who is showing 71,263 votes (56.91%) compared to 53,936 votes (43.85%) for Democrat Laura Ahearn.
Zeldin holding steady lead
Initial results continue to come in strong for incumbent Lee Zeldin in the 1st Congressional District. He’s now showing 58.38% of the votes for results posted so far by the Suffolk County Board of Elections. Results are currently showing 115,223 votes for Mr. Zeldin and 82,111 for Democrat challenger Nancy Goroff.
In the state Senate, Republican Anthony Palumbo is showing 53,928 votes (54.13%) compared to 45,683 (45.85%) for Democrat Laura Ahearn.
In the 2nd Assembly race, Republican Jodi Giglio has expanded her lead with 24,991 votes (59.86%) compared to 16,199 votes (38.8%) for Democrat Laura Jens-Smith. Libertarian William Van Helmond has secured just over 1% of the vote so far.
First results begin to trickle in
The Suffolk County Board of Elections began to show the first numbers shortly before 10 p.m., although there’s still a long ways to go.
The first numbers we’ve seen show Congressman Lee Zeldin getting out to an early lead with 57.44% of the votes (45,665) compared to 42.54% for Democratic challenger Nancy Goroff (33,820).
Initial numbers are close in the state Senate with Republican Anthony Palumbo leading with 51.08% of the votes (19,195) compared to 48.91% for Democrat Laura Ahearn (48.91%).
In the 2nd Assembly District, Republican Jodi Giglio is leading with 52.08% of the votes (7,872) compared to 46.8% for Democrat Laura Jens-Smith (7,074).
These numbers are shifting quickly as districts begin to report additional results.
Goroff says thank you to volunteers
In a video posted on Facebook shortly after the polls closed, Democratic Congressional candidate Nancy Goroff thanked her supporters.
“I want you to know that I am so proud of what we accomplished,” she said.
See the video here:
A breakdown of absentee ballot statistics
We reached out to the local political committees today to get an update on how the absentee ballots break down.
Of course, they don’t even start counting until tomorrow, so there’s no way of knowing who the absentee voters cast their ballot for.
However, we do know the party enrollment of all absentee voters who returned their ballots through Monday.
Here’s how that breaks down.
Historically, Suffolk County Democrats tend to gain votes when the absentee ballots are counted and this year looks like it will be no different.
That’s why it’s possible that even in a close race in Suffolk, a Democrat may declare victory tonight. It would be more challenging for a Republican to do so in a close race.
— Grant Parpan
The polls have closed, now what?
The great period of anxiousness and uncertainty begins now.
And we do not expect results to flow in right away for a number of reasons.
For starters, this is not a town election year when the local committees can usually get results straight from the polls and we can report them ahead of The Suffolk County Board of Elections.
COVID-19 has also forced both county Republicans and Democrats to cancel their typical election night festivities. So we won’t hear as much from the field as usual.
Instead, the results will have to come from the Board of Elections and under the current voting system it takes a little longer. (You can view the results for yourself here. Though we’ll also be posting interviews some field reports, so you may want to stick with us as well.)
There’s also a chance that the Congressional and two local State Legislature seats could be too close to call tonight.
On the positive side, the results from the nine days of early voting will be included in the results from the Suffolk County Board of Elections. The counting of absentee ballots will start tomorrow
— Grant Parpan
An Election Day largely without incident
One of the themes heading into Election Day was the potential for unrest at the polls. On the North Fork, things were overwhelmingly quiet.
The only incident reported to us Tuesday came in Mattituck, when police were called after one early morning voter initially refused to wear a mask.
Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley said other voters were asked to wait outside shortly after 8 a.m. as election workers pleaded with the man to wear a mask. After several minutes, a police officer was able to convince the man to put on a mask.
“He eventually complied,” the chief said.
— Grant Parpan and Steve Wick
Riverhead comes out to vote in ‘historic’ election
Though many more lined up earlier in the day, voters who arrived at polling locations across Riverhead Town by midmorning Tuesday were able to avoid lines and quickly cast their vote.
At the Riverhead Free Library, a group of volunteers from the African American Educational and Cultural Festival set up a table outside, offering voters bottled water, packaged snacks and hand sanitizer on their way out.
“We wanted to be able to come and spread some cheer to the community,” said AAECF executive director Marylin Banks-Winter.
“Just to lighten the mood. It’s a reminder to vote today because it’s very important.”
Throughout the day, volunteers from the organization planned to visit 10 polling places in Riverhead.
“It’s been well-received,” said Orlesha Banks, who was also volunteering at the library. “People look at it as a reward after they’re done voting.”
Nearby, at the Aquebogue Senior Center, a steady stream of voters were seen around 11:30 a.m.
Many in the election district said that though Aquebogue was a designated early voting location, they waited until Election Day to avoid long lines observed throughout the nine-day early voting period.
“It matters,” said Linda, an Aquebogue resident, of the election. “You want someone in office that’s going to represent your values and represent what’s best for your entire community. The only way to do that is get out and vote.”
One man exiting the polling place declined to give his name, but simply remarked that he was “glad it’s over.”
Another man, an Army veteran, said it’s always important to get out and vote, a right he said many take for granted.
“I’d come out [and vote] anyway, not just today,” said Joann of Riverhead. “This is really important. It’s historic. It’s about change and it’s about hope.”
Some voters have never missed an election. Others were proud to cast their ballot for the first time.
One young man, Anthony, told a reporter that this was the first election he was old enough to vote in. He said he thought it was important to make his voice heard.
“Half the time we complain, but you can’t complain if you don’t vote,” he said.
— Tara Smith
Goroff following election results from home
Like nearly everyone else, Congressional candidate Nancy Goroff will be following the election results from her home, surrounded in Stony Brook by family as well as some campaign staff.
The Democrats are not holding any formal in-person gathering to view the election results as would be typical on election night. Ms. Goroff voted via absentee ballot.
“There’s so many big gatherings that we had to give up because of this pandemic, so this is part of what 2020 is,” Ms. Goroff said in a Zoom interview Tuesday evening.
Reflecting back on the campaign, which she launched in July 2019, Ms. Goroff said health care has been one of the top concerns she’s heard from people, even before the pandemic. She said the president has “shown himself to be both reckless and incompetent” and that Congressman Lee Zeldin, the incumbent who was first elected in 2014, has been more interested in defending the president than dealing with the concerns of the residents in the 1st Congressional District. She pointed to the COVID-19 response, health care, as well as environmental issues and climate change.
“People are really suffering and they have suffered a lot here in this district because of the pandemic,” she said. “So many small businesses have been impacted by this. People are hurting and they understand that the president has let us down.”
Ms. Goroff, 52, won a primary in June to earn the Democratic nod. It’s her first run for office. Having lived here for 23 years, she said she’s always loved the different parts of the district. She recalled taking her daughters to the Peconic Dunes 4-H Camp in Southold and stopping at the North Fork’s farmstands.
“I feel very connected to the district,” she said. “People have been very friendly. We talk so much about our polarized politics. But most of the people in this district, they may have very strong political views but fundamentally they care about the safety of their family and making sure their kids have a good life.”
Her opponent’s campaign attempted to label her as “radical” while promoting their own message of law and order.
She said she believes that doesn’t speak to what people are most concerned about.
“If we’re going to talk about how we keep people safe, the pandemic is the biggest threat to people’s safety,” she said.
— Joe Werkmeister
Zeldin thrilled with big turnout
Congressman Lee Zeldin expressed excitement when he arrived to a long line of voters to cast his ballot at his local polling place in Mastic Beach Tuesday morning.
Mr. Zeldin, 40, took his place in line with his wife Diana and their two teenage daughters, waiting about an hour to vote.
“All across our state we’re hearing about lines like this,” the Congressman told the TV cameras shortly after arriving around 10:30 a.m. “For anyone watching at home before 9 p.m., I’d encourage everyone to vote. No matter who you’re voting for … make sure your vote is counted.”
The congressman is seeking his fourth term in office in his race against Democratic challenger Nancy Goroff. He said 2020 was a challenging year working both in government and running a reelection campaign. He believes he still delivered results for his district, which covers the entire East End and much of the rest of Suffolk County.
“At the end of the day it’s up to the voters,” Mr. Zeldin said of his chance for reelection. “That’s the beautiful thing about this country.”
As he waited in line not far from where he graduated at William Floyd High School, Mr. Zeldin was greeted by several proud supporters who stopped to share a kind word with their hometown congressman. At other times he stood quietly as the line moved rather quickly. He reminded his twin 14-year-old daughters, Mikayla and Arianna, that they’ll be old enough to vote in the next presidential election in 2024.
With social distancing measures in place, the typical countywide election night events will not be held. The congressman is instead spending his night at his campaign headquarters.
We should have a report from there later tonight.
— Grant Parpan