DeSantis campaign hits Suffolk County
When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis rode into Hauppauge Saturday evening, he was there to do more than fight for Lee Zeldin, and attack Gov. Kathy Hochul.
DeSantis, who spoke before a jubilant crowd of thousands, was clearly making a case for both his own presidential aspirations in 2024, and the broader cultural issues that have become central to the Republican message, even as he gave Zeldin passionate props.
The event, heavily promoted by grassroots conservative groups including Long Island Loud Majority, led off with local and state GOP leaders addressing the crowd and followed with headliners focused on crime and public safety, COVID-19 and mandates, the right of parents to control what their kids see in school, and the controversy over transgender athletes who now wish to compete against women in sporting events.
Zeldin is no recent convert to this brand of campaigning. Zeldin came into politics as a full-fledged culture warrior: He spoke at the first Long Island tea party rally in April 2009. The headliner at a major fundraiser for his first successful political campaign, for State Senate in 2010, was former South Carolina senator and one-time Heritage Foundation chairman Jim DeMint.
But if you’d wanted to bet five years ago that a lengthy speech from a New York Republican candidate for governor would hardly include a word about taxes, you’d have had plenty of takers for your money.
Zeldin’s biggest applause line was: “There should be no COVID vaccine mandate on anyone, ever.”
When DeSantis hit the stage, he was ready to remind the crowd of the closest connection between New York and Florida: the tendency of people up here to move down there.
The Florida governor, who served in the House with Zeldin, did hit the traditional notes of mentioning the far lower tax burden in Florida and that his state has half the state budget of New York but three million more people, and better school test scores.
But he also hit hard on the right’s cultural touchstones that feed into his national fame and support, with statements like:
- “Florida is a law-and-order state, I am a law-and-order governor, and if Lee Zeldin is elected, New York will be a law-and-order state, too.”
- “If we’re going to hire 87,000 people, I’d rather see 87,000 new Border Patrol agents than IRS agents.”
- “Nobody should have to choose between a job they need and a shot they don’t want.”
- “It is wrong to teach these young kids that gender is a choice, or that they may have been born with the wrong body.”
- “Somebody competing on the men’s team for three years, and then switches to the women’s team and then ‘wins’ the championship, you’re taking away opportunities for girls and women athletes who have worked hard to be able to succeed.”
And for his walk-off, DeSantis said that if Zeldin wins, “This will be the 21st-century version of the shot heard around the world.”
— Lane Filler @lanefiller
As Great Neck goes, so goes the Island?
The culture wars that have swept through Long Island’s school and library boards hit Great Neck this week and Monday’s election results could be a barometer on the current mood of the voters.
As of Tuesday morning, the library board election appears to have garnered a record turnout, with more than 3,500 votes cast. Some residents waited for more than an hour to vote, The Point was told.
The tally from the machines showed that the incumbent, Liman Mimi Hu, who had served as the library board president, was behind by about 250 votes to her challenger, Jessica Hughes. For the other seat, which is vacant, former Assemb. and New York City Councilman Rory Lancman was losing by about 154 votes to Christina Rusu. And in a race for an open seat on the nominating committee, Kim Schader was losing to Sara Rivka Khodadadian by 194 votes.
Another 333 absentee and proxy ballots were still being counted Tuesday, but results may not be released quickly, because the slate of candidates currently ahead was raising objections to many of the uncounted absentee applications and envelopes.
Supporters of the two slates of candidates have broken down along what’s become familiar culture war lines, with Hu, Lancman and Schader backed by those who advocated for specific diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and content in the library, and who supported maintaining book collections on LGBTQ+ issues, while Hughes, Rusu and Khodadadian were supported by those who spoke of parental rights and others who warned of pornography or other content they deemed inappropriate in the library.
“I never thought that in Great Neck in 2022, I would be on the front lines of defending freedom of speech,” Lancman told The Point about a community that historically had been one of the most liberal on Long Island.
The race also took on an additional layer, as candidates on both sides attempted to appeal to Great Neck’s Persian community. Both sets of candidates produced signage and emails in Farsi. And Hughes, Rusu and Khodadadian focused some of their messaging on the importance of “community values,” appealing in part to some of the more religious voters in the district.
Lancman’s wife is Persian, and his in-laws wrote a letter shared on social media and beyond.
“For us, the Great Neck Library represents American freedom,” the letter said. “The freedom to read, to think, and to learn about whatever we want.”
Some Great Neck residents Monday took the time to also vote in the upcoming state and federal elections, as a Nassau County early voting site is right near one of the library branches. Will the library results carry over into the other key races — including CD3’s battle between Robert Zimmerman and George Santos, and SD7’s race between State Sen. Anna Kaplan and Jack Martins?
At the very least, it’s possible the two sets of elections will share one aspect in common: We may have to wait to get a full picture of the results.
— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall
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New absentee numbers in Nassau
Nearly 50,000 absentee ballots have been requested in Nassau County, according to the county election board.
Breaking down those requests, 25,017 were from registered Democrats while 14,341 came from registered Republicans. Another 8,415 came from voters not aligned with a party.
The deadline to request an absentee ballot online or by mail has passed, though voters can still make requests in person until the day before the election, not a very common practice.
In this crucial suburban county that could be a firewall for Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul or a path to a GOP upset by Lee Zeldin, the absentee figures represent a lead for Democrats, who have embraced voting by mail in recent years. But there are some big caveats: At the same point in 2020, a presidential election year, Democrats made up a similar percentage of the absentee requests, but Republicans made up a smaller percentage, suggesting some more absentee interest from the GOP this year.
Many people have already sent their absentees back: 20,574 as of Monday, according to Nassau County Board of Elections figures. Democrats accounted for 10,728 of those ballots, and Republicans returned 6,229.
Similar information was not immediately available from Suffolk’s board of elections.
— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano