Zeldin Wins Third Term in Congress

2018 turnout was a record for midterm here
With 52.5 percent of the vote in Tuesday's race to represent the First Congressional District, Lee Zeldin will head back to Congress for a third term Christopher Walsh

Representative Lee Zeldin was elected to a third term in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, holding off a challenge from Perry Gershon, an East Hampton resident and commercial real estate lender, in New York’s First Congressional District. 

An unofficial tally on the Suffolk County Board of Elections website had Mr. Zeldin, the Republican, Conservative, Independence, and Reform Party candidate, winning 130,919 votes to 115,795 for Mr. Gershon, who appeared on the Democratic and Working Families tickets. Mr. Zeldin’s 52.5 percent of the vote represents a far smaller margin of victory than his 2016 re-election campaign, in which he defeated former Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst by 16 percentage points. 

Kate Browning, a former Suffolk County legislator and a candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination, won 2,756 votes on the Women’s Equality Party ticket despite having conceded and thrown her support to Mr. Gershon after finishing second in the five-way Democratic primary election in June. 

Though victorious in his re-election campaign, Mr. Zeldin will no longer enjoy majority status in the House of Representatives; as of yesterday, Republicans appeared to have suffered a net loss of 33 seats in the election and are expected to hold 206 seats in the 435-seat chamber. The Republicans had controlled the House since the wave election of 2010, four years before Mr. Zeldin was elected. A very different dynamic will greet him in January when the newly elected Democratic majority takes over, its members assuming leadership of committees that are likely to aggressively investigate President Trump’s finances, Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia. Mr. Zeldin is a stalwart supporter of the president.

“As a community and country, we must do a better job unifying to solve important challenges in front of us,” Mr. Zeldin said in a statement issued Tuesday night. “That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t ever disagree with each other and productively debate substantive issues, because that is one of the reasons why this is the greatest nation in the world. I realize I can’t be all things to all people. That’s impossible, but I look forward to working with absolutely everyone and anyone to find common ground however possible to move our community, and great nation better.”

“We ran a very good campaign, an excellent campaign,” Mr. Gershon said yesterday. “We made a statement and energized our party.” He predicted that he will have earned 125,000 votes once absentee ballots are counted, which he noted is 30,000 more than Mr. Zeldin earned when he won the seat in 2014. “We did a lot right,” he said.

Mr. Gershon said he will take some time off before deciding his next course of action, and did not address a future campaign for office. Of Mr. Zeldin, he said, “I hope that Lee will use this term to do a better job of governing for all the people of New York 1. The rest of us are going to hold his feet to the fire.”

At approximately 52 percent, turnout in the First Congressional District was the highest of any midterm election in at least 20 years, according to unofficial results posted by the board of elections, which tallied 246,714 votes in the race. Approximately 16,000 absentee ballots, according to an official at the board of elections, are to be counted. 

Mr. Zeldin’s unofficial vote total, not including his eventual absentee ballot tally, is 57,580 fewer than he earned in 2016, although turnout is typically higher in a presidential election year. In the last midterm election, in 2014, he defeated the six-term Democratic representative Tim Bishop with just 94,035 votes to Mr. Bishop’s 78,722. 

On the East End, Mr. Gershon won every district in East Hampton Town and all four districts on Shelter Island. He also took 26 of Southampton’s 42 election districts and tied in one of them. Mr. Zeldin won 18 of 22 districts in Riverhead Town, and 12 of the 19 districts in Southold Town.

The candidates waged a furious campaign that included charges of fraud and the vandalism of both candidates’ campaign signs. A mailing from Mr. Zeldin’s campaign listed the wrong date as the deadline for absentee ballots to be postmarked, which had also occurred in his 2016 campaign. Mr. Zeldin also complained that voters in historically Republican areas had received absentee ballots from the board of elections with the names of the Third Congressional District Candidates, rather than those of the First.

Mr. Zeldin served four years’ active duty in the United States Army, and later in the New York State Senate. Along with his support for President Trump and frequent appearances on cable news programs, his re-election campaign events featured appearances by divisive figures associated with the president including Stephen Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, a former strategist and former deputy assistant, respectively. 

Mr. Gershon, a political newcomer, said that Mr. Trump’s 2016 election was a galvanizing event that inspired his candidacy. Throughout the campaign he hammered Mr. Zeldin for enabling the president and for votes pertaining to gun policies, the environment, and immigration, among other issues. 


Other Races

In other races in Suffolk County, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, the Democratic, Working Families, and Women’s Equality Party candidate for comptroller, was narrowly defeated by the Republican John M. Kennedy Jr. Unofficial results gave Mr. Kennedy 50.9 percent to Mr. Schneiderman’s 49.1 percent. Judith Pascale, the Republican, Conservative, Independence, and Reform Party candidate for county clerk, defeated the Democratic candidate, DuWayne Gregory, by 52.7 percent to 45.3 percent. 

Longtime State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle was easily re-elected, the Republican, Conservative, Independence, and Reform Party candidate besting his Democratic challenger, Gregory-John Fischer, who won 41.6 percent. Demo­crats, however, took control of the State Senate on Tuesday, picking up four seats for what is expected to be a 35-to-28 majority. 

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., running on the Democratic, Working Families, Independence, and Women’s Equality tickets, was also re-elected, winning 59.8 percent to the Republican and Conservative Parties’ Patrick O’Conner’s 40.2 percent. 

In statewide races, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul were re-elected, beating back a strong challenge from the Republican candidates Marc Molinaro and Julie Killian. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, prevailed in her race against the Republican candidate, Chele Chiavacci Farley, with 54.2 percent of the vote. Thomas DiNapoli, the comptroller, was re-elected with 55.8 percent of the vote. The Democratic, Working Families, Independence, and Women’s Equality Party candidate defeated his Republican and Conservative Party challenger, Jonathan Trichter. Letitia James appeared victorious in her race for state attorney general, the board of elections’ unofficial tally giving her 50.9 percent to her Republican challenger’s 47.2 percent. 

With Reporting by Carissa Katz

An upbeat Perry Gershon cast his ballot Tuesday morning at the Emergency Services Building in East Hampton.Durell Godfrey