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Zeldin declares victory as GOP appears poised for sweep

The venue wasn’t quite as glamorous, but the results Suffolk County Republicans were celebrating this Election Day were as impressive as ever.

Congressman Lee Zeldin —  along with President Donald Trump — carried the party to apparent landslide victories across the ticket Tuesday in elections that saw improved voter turnout.

On the North Fork, all three Republicans seeking election to federal and state office, held large leads as the clock struck midnight and party leadership was declaring victories across the board.

“You all can go to sleep tonight knowing that your hard work paid off,” Mr. Zeldin (R-Shirley) told a group of supporters outside his campaign office in Center Moriches. “Losing was not an option for this entire team.”

Buoyed up by voter turnout, it appears that after absentee ballots are counted, Mr. Zeldin, 40, will have received the most votes of any candidate in the history of New York’s 1st Congressional District.

Preliminary results from the Suffolk County Board of Elections showed the congressman had received 176,317 votes to Democratic challenger Nancy Goroff’s 111,188 before absentee ballots are counted. While Ms. Goroff is likely to partially close that gap in the coming days, Mr. Zeldin appears likely to finish with a large win in his third re-election campaign.

With COVID-19 forcing a change in the usual election night plans, Mr. Zeldin spoke to his supporters from the back of a pick-up truck parked behind a Center Moriches strip mall where he maintained a campaign office. He congratulated his opponent on a hard-fought campaign and said he hopes Americans begin to heal from their political divisiveness in the aftermath of the election.

“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.” 

Ms. Goroff, 52, followed the election results from her Stony Brook home and did not make a concession Tuesday night. The Suffolk County Democratic Committee also made no public statements regarding the Congressional race and several other outcomes that appeared less than favorable for their candidates.

In the race to replace Sen. Ken LaValle, who was first elected in 1976, Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), stopped short of declaring victory over opponent Laura Ahearn, even after Mr. Zeldin and county chairman Jesse Garcia did so for him.

“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 late Tuesday night.

Mr. Palumbo held a nearly 19,000-vote advantage, though Ms. Ahearn is likely to cut into that lead when absentee ballots are counted in the coming days. 

Mr. Zeldin and Mr. Garcia also called it for Riverhead Town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio in her bid to take Mr. Palumbo’s seat in the Assembly. 

Preliminary results from the BOE showed the Baiting Hollow resident held a nearly 15,000-vote advantage over Democrat Laura Jens-Smith of Laurel, a former Riverhead Town supervisor. The race also featured a third candidate, Libertarian William Van Helmond of Jamesport.

Ms. Giglio was not available for comment late Tuesday night.

Each of the local Republican candidates ran with wide support from law enforcement officials. Mr. Zeldin centered his campaign on supporting police in his district, strengthening national security, ending the COVID-19 pandemic and growing back the economy. A vocal supporter of President Trump, Mr. Zeldin said during the campaign that his recent accomplishments include securing personal protective equipment and medical supplies like ventilators for Suffolk County during the height of the pandemic in April. He said a “huge win” was the announcement earlier this year that the U.S. Department of Energy will fund construction of a $2 billion electron-ion collider at Brookhaven National Lab in Upton. He said the country is at a “crossroads” and said one-party Democratic rule in New York City and Albany has not been effective, a sentiment he recalled in his victory speech Tuesday night.

Elsewhere on the ballot, a proposition to authorize transferring excess funds from the county’s sewer assessment stabilization reserve to the taxpayer trust fund was approved by 53% of Suffolk County voters. It was proposed by County Executive Steve Bellone as a way to stabilize the county budget and avoid layoffs amid the coronavirus pandemic. Specifically, the proposition will enable $15 million to be moved from the sewer fund to the general fund and also cancel the court-ordered repayment of $29.4 million previously borrowed from the fund.

Approval of the proposition will also repeal a section of the law that requires further annual repayment from the general fund to the sewer assessment stabilization reserve fund. Approximately $154 million is still owed to that fund, according to the proposition. 

Propositions to extend the terms of county legislators and the Riverhead town supervisor from two years to four were rejected by a wide margin.