LaLota Wins Congressional Seat; Thiele, Palumbo Reelected in Election Night Marred by Reporting Issues - 27 East

LaLota Wins Congressional Seat; Thiele, Palumbo Reelected in Election Night Marred by Reporting Issues

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Voting at the Sag Harbor Fire House on Tuesday morning.  DANA SHAW

Voting at the Sag Harbor Fire House on Tuesday morning. DANA SHAW

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr.  votes at the Sag Harbor Fire House on Tuesday morning.  DANA SHAW

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. votes at the Sag Harbor Fire House on Tuesday morning. DANA SHAW

Voting at the Sag Harbor Fire House on Tuesday morning.  DANA SHAW

Voting at the Sag Harbor Fire House on Tuesday morning. DANA SHAW

U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin, the Republican nominee for governor, and State Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo at GOP headquarters in Medford on Tuesday.

U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin, the Republican nominee for governor, and State Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo at GOP headquarters in Medford on Tuesday.

State Senate candidate Skyler Johnson, a Democrat, cast his ballot in Mount Sinai on Tuesday.

State Senate candidate Skyler Johnson, a Democrat, cast his ballot in Mount Sinai on Tuesday. "It's in the voters' hands now," he said.

U.S. Representative Nick LaLota  FILE PHOTO

U.S. Representative Nick LaLota FILE PHOTO

Anthony Palumbo wins the State Senate District 1 vote on Tuesday.   DENISE CIVILETTI/RIVERHEAD LOCAL

Anthony Palumbo wins the State Senate District 1 vote on Tuesday. DENISE CIVILETTI/RIVERHEAD LOCAL

authorMichael Wright on Nov 8, 2022

The 2022 election in Suffolk County was marked by high turnout and technical glitches, but few surprises at the polls, with most local incumbents holding on to their offices, the Republican Party retaining control of the 1st Congressional District, and voters giving broad approval to environmental and housing initiatives both locally and statewide.

Republican Nick LaLota will take over the congressional seat held currently by U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin, who lost his bid for New York governor on Tuesday.

LaLota, a longtime Suffolk County Board of Elections commissioner and currently the chief of staff to Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffrey, handily defeated Democrat Bridget Fleming for the 1st District seat to be vacated by Zeldin at the end of the year. Zeldin held the seat for four terms.

Fleming, a county legislator from Noyac, issued a concession statement early Wednesday morning.

“I am grateful to supporters and deeply proud of my outstanding team and the campaign we ran,” Fleming said. “We focused on issues that are critically important to Long Islanders. Our fight continues, and the most important work lies ahead of us. The challenges facing our nation and Long Island communities are daunting. We must not back down from the fight to defend the freedoms that make our great country a rich, resilient and generous nation. And our history teaches us that when Americans work together, we can overcome anything.

“I congratulate Nick on his win and wish him success in improving the lives of Long Islanders while he serves in Washington,” she added.

“It’s not the outcome we wanted, but we have a lot to be proud of,” she said in a phone interview later on Wednesday. “It was a tough atmosphere, with other races having an impact.”

She referred to Zeldin’s strong performance among Suffolk County voters, where he received nearly 59 percent of the vote in his unsuccessful bid for governor — which he lost by less than 5 percentage points statewide, a far closer margin than had originally been predicted in the heavily Democratic state where a Republican has not won statewide office since 2002.

“My team did a great job fighting against a very difficult tide,” she said. “We talked about issues that are very important to our nation, and I’m proud of that effort.”

She congratulated LaLota, adding that she wished him “success in improving the lives of Long Islanders while he serves in Washington.”

With a double-digit advantage in the polls, LaLota declared victory early Wednesday morning, thanking his family, campaign team, and volunteers who worked to get him elected. He added thanks to “rank-and-file law enforcement” who he said had thrown their support behind his campaign.

“Thank you to the voters of Suffolk County for placing their trust in me,” he said. “I’m extremely thankful for the trust and confidence you have placed in me, and I won’t let you down.”

Although LaLota said Tuesday’s election was a repudiation of the policies of President Joe Biden, he sounded a conciliatory note as well.

“I made a lot of bipartisan promises on this campaign,” he said, “and I’d like to think our victory can prove that there is a way to maintain one’s conservative ideology while also working across the aisle to benefit Long Islanders.”

In other local races, State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and State Senator Anthony Palumbo both held off challenges by young political newcomers to hold on to their seats.

Thiele, a Democrat from Sag Harbor, defeated his 26-year-old Republican challenger, Peter Ganley, 54.71 percent to 44.16 percent.

“I’d like to thank the voters in the 1st Assembly District for returning me to office with a substantial victory. It’s always an honor, and I appreciate the support.

“This year was particularly difficult — I don’t think there was a red wave across the country, but there was one in Long Island Sound, because Zeldin got 59 percent of the vote in Suffolk County, and Democrats lost congressional and State Senate seats, and at least one Assembly seat on Long Island. In the face of that, I’m particularly grateful for the support of the voters.”

Ganley, whose campaign in the run-up to Election Day focused largely on spotlighting the fact that Thiele and his wife, NancyLynn, are building a home in North Carolina — using photos apparently lifted from her Facebook page — insinuated on Wednesday that this will be Thiele’s last term in office.

The assemblyman said that is not something that he has weighed himself yet. “I haven’t said anything like that,” Thiele said. “I still have a lot I want to accomplish. After that many years, as election time draws near, you always think about whether you’ll run or not, but I’m focused on my new term.”

Thiele, a former Southampton Town supervisor who will be starting his 15th term in the Assembly in January, added, “What will happen in 2024, I’ll leave until 2024.”

Palumbo, a Republican, defeated his Democratic challenger, 22-year-old Skyler Johnson, 56.39 percent to 43.51 percent.

The BOE had said earlier in the day that more than 430,000 ballots were cast this year, an extremely high turnout, especially in a cycle when the presidential election was not on the ballot.

Election night itself was marred by long delays in reporting any results in the county’s races at all. Even though elections officials had assured residents in the days leading up to the election that their reporting system was functioning and secure despite the lingering effects of the September malware attack on Suffolk County’s computer systems that have left its internet services largely unusable, the network of remote reporting sites failed to work as planned.

The Board of Elections blamed Wi-Fi connection problems, possibly due to the cyberattack, for its inability to report the results from election districts remotely after the polls closed at 9 p.m.

With no tallies available more than two hours later, election officials made the decision that all of the memory cards from the more than 1,400 voting machines used countywide would have to be brought back to the BOE headquarters in Yaphank to be uploaded, rather than from the two dozen remote sites — primarily police stations — that would typically be used to report the preliminary results.

Some tallies finally started posting to the website that the New York State Board of Elections had created specifically for Suffolk County’s vote reporting, just before 1 a.m., and the results in some close races were not clear until well after 2 a.m.

In other races, Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy easily won reelection to a third term and U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer was reelected — though he was a distant second in Suffolk County’s tally to his largely unheard of Republican challenger Joe Pinion. State Attorney General Letitia James and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli also won reelections.

Voters statewide also approved a $4.2 billion bond for water quality and environmental conservation, and local voters approved the creation of the Community Housing Fund.

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