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On night of Trump win, Zeldin makes history

Congressman Lee Zeldin defeats Anna Throne-Holst

Hours before President-elect Donald Trump delivered his acceptance speech Tuesday night — and prior to polls closing in states he won like Alaska, Montana and Idaho — the victory party was on at the Emporium in Patchogue.

The broad brush that painted the electoral college map red in 2016 left sweeping strokes through Suffolk County, and it became apparent almost immediately after the results began trickling in.

Congressman Lee Zeldin stormed to victory in his first bid for re-election, securing nearly 59 percent of the vote and a margin of victory exceeding 53,000, according to preliminary results from the Suffolk County Board of Elections. The 174,682 votes he received were the most for any 1st District candidate in history.

“A powerful message was sent all around the 1st District today, all around the State of New York and the country,” Mr. Zeldin told supporters at a jubilant GOP gala. “Your love for America powered this ticket to a big win.”

Even the Republican nominee for president, Mr. Trump, won the county by more than 8 percent of the vote, becoming the first GOP presidential candidate to win Suffolk since George H.W. Bush in 1992.

Mr. Zeldin (R-Shirley), 36, joined fellow Republican Congressman Peter King in securing re-election bids Tuesday. In the only other Suffolk congressional race, Democrat Tom Suozzi defeated Republican Jack Martins in the 3rd District, which stretches into Nassau County. Mr. Suozzi fared better in Long Island’s western county and lost Suffolk.

“It’s virtually a clean sweep for the Suffolk Republican party,” said county chairman John Jay LaValle, who called it a historic night for the GOP.

Anthony Palumbo of New Suffolk was elected to a Third term Tuesday night. (Credit: John Griffin)
Anthony Palumbo of New Suffolk was elected to a Third term Tuesday night. (Credit: John Griffin)

On the state level, East End state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and North Fork Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) also won landslides in non-competitive races. For Mr. LaValle, 77, the longest-tenured member of the Senate, it’s his 20th re-election after first taking office in 1977. Republicans also won a pair of hotly contested open Senate races elsewhere in the state to maintain control of the upper house, state GOP officials announced.

Mr. Palumbo, 46, who received a third term Tuesday, called it a “great year,” rejoicing in his own victory and the support his fellow Republicans received. He will continue to serve in the minority in the Assembly.

As the GOP was blaring the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” from speakers inside their nightclub venue, the Democrats’ party never really got started Tuesday.

Ms. Throne-Holst, 56, of Sag Harbor walked out of the back room at the IBEW Local 25 Union Hall in Hauppauge where she and other Democratic leaders were watching the election results about an hour after polls closed and was immediately hugged by allies who praised the race she ran.

“I had a fantastic team, a wonderful group of volunteers,” Ms. Throne-Holst said in an interview. “Win or lose, it’s an incredible privilege to be around these incredible hardworking people of all ages.”

Suffolk County Republican Chairman John Jay LaValle
Caption: Suffolk County Republican Chairman John Jay LaValle declares victory at The Emporium Tuesday. (Credit: John Griffin)

Despite this “win or lose” message, Mr. Zeldin was the only person who could proclaim victory — and he was happy to do so.

“Let me tell you this, victory is sweet,” he told supporters. “How great is it to be part of Team Zeldin? Campaign hard, knock on doors and come up with a big win.”

Mr. Zeldin, an Army veteran, ran on a platform centered on improving national security and combating terrorism. He has also vowed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, an issue he highlighted from the stage Tuesday night.

Mr. Zeldin’s victory was historic in terms of the sheer volume of support he received. With five election districts still to report, Mr. Zeldin had eclipsed his predecessor Tim Bishop’s best turnout, earning more than 174,000 votes. In 2008, Mr. Bishop received 162,083 votes in a year that saw President Barack Obama at the top of the ticket. His opponent was a 28-year-old Mr. Zeldin in his first bid for public office.

Mr. Zeldin would go on to bounce Democrat Brian Foley, the first Suffolk Democrat elected to the state Senate in a century, from his seat in 2010. He abandoned his seat in the state Senate after two terms to challenge Mr. Bishop in 2014, winning by 16,000 votes in a mid-term year.

During his current re-election bid, Mr. Zeldin touted his ambitious workload and pointed locally to legislation to preserve Plum Island and his efforts to curb helicopter noise on the East End as examples of his effectiveness.

Congressional candidate Anna Throne-Holst delivers her concession speech Tuesday. (Credit: Robert O'Rourk)
Congressional candidate Anna Throne-Holst delivers her concession speech Tuesday. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

Ms. Throne-Holst said she felt she spoke “from the heart” about issues that mattered to her, including how young people — her children included — were affected by student loan debt. But outside of stating that she may have focused too much on gun control, she was unwilling to attempt to diagnose why her message failed to resonate with voters.

“In the end it’s not about me and it’s not about the individual candidate, it’s about the people we are here to speak for as candidates,” she said. “We’ll see how the country goes and whether District 1 is a reflection of that as well.”

Ms. Throne-Holst said she will remain a public servant, though she declined to say whether she will run again. She hopes that “everyone’s feet are held to the fire” in Congress, saying that gridlock has made residents unhappy.

“This partisanship just has to come to an end,” she said.

The loudest moment of the night for Suffolk Democrats came when it was announced presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won Virginia, the home state of running mate Tim Kaine. It was a victory she barely secured.

The refrain heard most often at the union hall was one muttered by a supporter after the first Suffolk County precincts were reported.

“Oh my God,” the man said.

Suffolk County Democratic Chairman Rich Schaffer at his party's gala Tuesday. (Credit: Robert O'Rourk)
Suffolk County Democratic Chairman Rich Schaffer at his party’s gala Tuesday. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

Locally, an extension of the Community Preservation Fund was approved by a wide margin across the East End. After overcoming a strong effort from real estate professionals to defeat the measure when it was first proposed in 1998, the land bank referendum received at least 69 percent of the vote in each of the five East End towns Tuesday.

The ballot measure extends the life of the voter-approved two-percent real estate transfer tax from its current 2030 expiration date to 2050. Money raised through this tax goes into the Community Preservation Fund and can be used to purchase open space or farmland development rights. The same proposition includes a provision that will now allow towns to use up to 20 percent of the money raised to fund water-quality improvement projects.

To date, more than $1.1 billion has been raised by the CPF and more than 20,000 acres of land have been preserved.

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Top caption: Congressman Lee Zeldin celebrates victory Tuesday at The Emporium in Patchogue.