Long Island is not only the site of the first presidential debate, but also two hotly-contested elections for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Indeed, the national political parties are closely monitoring events in New York’s 3rd Congressional District (CD), which covers much of northern Nassau County, where state Senator Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury) is running against former Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi of Glen Cove.
Meanwhile, in the 1st CD, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) is seeking re-election to a district covering much of eastern Suffolk County. Zeldin’s rival is former Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.
In a conversation last week with David Wasserman, U.S. House editor and political analyst for The Cook Political Report (CPR), a non-partisan Washington, D.C.-based publication, I asked him whether Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would either help or hurt the GOP candidates further down the Nassau and Suffolk ballot.
“Trump’s support across the landscape is a function of educational attainment so, in districts where a large number of voters have a college degree, Donald Trump is underperforming,” Wasserman said, when compared to 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Forty-nine percent of voters aged 25, and over, have a college degree in New York’s 3rd CD whereas 33 percent of voters meet those criteria in New York’s 1st CD, Wasserman said.
Nassau’s Republican candidates have for nearly three decades faced political headwinds in presidential election years. Then-Vice President George H.W. Bush was the last Republican presidential nominee to carry Nassau County, and that was 28 years ago. Yet Wasserman thought Senator Martins may have benefited from the outcome of the five-candidate Democratic Congressional primary in June, which was won by Suozzi.
“The Democrats would have been better off with a new face in this district,” Wasserman said, adding it was a view shared by retiring 3rd CD Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills), who initially backed Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern (D-Huntington). Stern finished second to Suozzi in June’s primary. “The Republicans cannot wait to re-litigate” Suozzi’s two terms (2002-09) as Nassau County executive, Wasserman said. Nonetheless, the CPR still gives Suozzi the advantage in the 3rd CD, he added.
Returning to the 1st CD, Wasserman said he thought Throne-Holst’s campaign was wisely trying to tie Rep. Zeldin to Trump, discounting Trump’s strong showing in Suffolk County’s Republican presidential primary and working on the assumption Trump will have a harder time appealing to Suffolk’s broader electorate. Having said that, however, the CPR sees Zeldin holding a very narrow edge in the 1st CD.
New York’s 2nd CD, which is represented by Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), and New York’s 4th CD, a district to which Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) was first elected in 2014, “are pretty well settled at this point,” Wasserman said. Rep. King, he said, is “an institution” while noting how, if Rep. Rice “was able to survive in 2014, I don’t see how she’ll be in trouble in 2016.”
2014 was a strong year for Republicans nationally as the GOP regained control of the U.S. Senate. Suffolk County Legislator DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville), the county Legislature’s presiding officer, is the Democratic nominee facing Rep. King while David “Bull” Gurfein, a retired member of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, is the Republican candidate looking to unseat Rep. Rice in New York’s 4th CD.
Mike Barry, vice president of media relations for an insurance industry trade group, has worked in government and journalism. He can be reached at email@example.com. The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the publisher or Anton Media Group.