For a non-presidential election, this year’s contest had an unusually high turnout for New York, as voters chose their federal and state representatives. Mirroring nationwide trends, the question for activists in Kew Gardens Hills was whether voters would mark their ballots down the party line or distinguish between a relatively unpopular Democratic governor and the more likable local candidates in the same party. Hochul ultimately was elected to a full term, becoming the first woman to be elected to serve New York State as governor.
In the 27th Assembly District, which covers Kew Gardens Hills, as absentee ballots continued to be counted, Gov. Kathy Hochul lost to Republican Lee Zeldin by over 3,200 votes, but at the same time, incumbent Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal wiped out his Republican challenger by exactly 35,000 votes. These unofficial election results reported by the city Board of Elections show that voters elected candidates on their merits rather than party affiliation. While incumbent Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, a Democrat, received more votes in this district than Paul Rodriguez; in the race for Attorney General, Letitia James, who cruised to victory statewide, had fewer votes than her Republican challenger Michael Henry, locally. Of note, US Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer’s win marks his fifth and completing this term would make Schumer the longest serving senator in state history. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will be challenged by Florida’s former governor Senator Rick Scott.
There were no surprises for Democrats in western and central Queens, but Democrats in eastern Queens saw both an assembly seat and a congressional seat flip. In western Queens, Congress Member Grace Meng (CD6) comfortably beat out Thomas Zmich who received a respectable turnout with over 35 percent. Other easy victories went to Gregory Meeks (CD5), Hakeem Jeffries (CD8), Nydia Velázquez (CD7), and AOC, who easily retained her 14th District seat. Meanwhile, the Republicans flipped CD3, once held by gubernatorial contender Tom Suozzi, covering a portion of eastern Queens and the northern section of Long Island including Great Neck, with George Santos overwhelming Robert Zimmerman. The House of Representatives is now under Republican control, led by Kevin McCarthy, beating out a challenge by Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs.
There were no surprises in Queens concerning State Senate races, with few even having challengers. Kristen Gonzalez and Michael Gianaris swapped some areas with redistricting, while Jessica Ramos, James Sanders, Leroy G. Comrie Jr. each won unopposed. State Senators John Liu, Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., and Toby Ann Stavisky all faced challengers, but prevailed. In the State Assembly, Khaleel Anderson, Juan Ardila, Jeffrion Aubry, Catalina Cruz, Alicia Hynman, Zohran Mamdani, Jennifer Rajkumar, Jessica González-Rojas, and David Weprin faced no challenge. Edward C. Braunstein, Vivian Cook, Nily Rozic, and as mentioned Daniel Rosenthal all defended their seats successfully. Of note, Ron Kim narrowly retained his Downtown Flushing, Linden Hill, and Murray Hill seat.
In Far Rockaway, Stacey G. Pheffer Amato, a Democrat, was defeated by Republican Thomas P. Sullivan, an army veteran, for her 23rd Assembly seat, by a mere 246-vote difference. On Tuesday, Pheffer Amato told the QJL, “This is a democracy. As Americans, we have the right to decide who represents us in public office. As we continue to count mail-in ballots and in-person ballots from Election Day, we are committed to making sure every valid vote is counted. That is our responsibility as Americans, and as participants in our democracy.” The Assemblymember has yet to concede, saying, “My opponent would like to stop counting votes before all votes are tallied. That’s shameful. Our brave men and women serving our nation overseas, older New Yorkers, homebound individuals, and anyone who could not get to the polls on Election Day still deserve to have their vote counted and their voice heard.” She concluded, “Our country is deeply divided, and we’ve suffered greatly from repeated attempts to stop valid votes from being counted by those who seek to subvert our democracy for their own benefit. We will not allow that to happen here in Queens. My team and I are committed to using every tool at our disposal to protect every valid vote and the rights of every voter to have their voice heard.”
The city’s lone Republican member of Congress, Nicole Malliotakis, retained her Staten Island and Brooklyn seat. Also, the four ballot measures championed by progressives passed in the five boroughs, creating a state fund for environmental projects, amending the City Charter to include a statement on diversity, creating the Racial Equity Office, and a panel to measure the cost of living in the city. Council Member James F. Gennaro’s Statement hailed the passage of the Environmental Bond Act, stating, “As Chair of the New York City Council’s Committee on Environmental Protection, I am thrilled that New Yorkers overwhelmingly voted to pass the Environmental Bond Act, which will devote millions of dollars to projects aimed to mitigate flooding, reduce carbon emissions, and protect clean drinking water – along with other climate initiatives. But now that the Bond Act has passed, it is crucial we do not make the same mistakes that were made in the past. We need to make sure that New York City gets its fair share of Environmental Bond Act funds.” Our Council Member added, “New York City comprises almost 50 percent of the State’s population and 62 percent of the State’s tax base. The State must ensure that New York City receives funding from the Bond Act in a manner that is proportionate with the city’s contribution to statewide tax revenue. Additionally, in the past, New York City hasn’t always gotten its fair share because eligibility requirements for Bond Act funding unfairly excluded New York City. That must not happen again. The NYC Council’s Committee on Environmental Protection will conduct oversight to ensure equitable funding for New York City.”
Beyond the Empire State, Democrats made history in Maryland in electing Wes Moore as governor. The Afghanistan war veteran will be the third Black governor in the nation’s history, succeeding retiring Republican Larry Hogan. Republicans maintained their hold in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio were reelected by sizable margins. The former is regarded as a potential presidential candidate for 2024, however that is up in the air after former President Donald Trump announced his candidacy this past Tuesday evening, and the latter ran for president in 2016. Florida went red, so did Ohio, and Iowa. These were quintessential swing states only eight or 12 years ago. The battleground map is shifting to Nevada, Arizona, and Georgia joining the traditional swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Losing Florida will have national implications for Democrats.
The last presidential election two years ago had a record number of Americans voting, and both parties received millions of new voters. In this year’s election, millions of New Yorkers understood that a non-presidential election is much more important regarding policies on crime, education, economy, and social issues.
Election Day was not the wave that many expected, but the reality is our country remains split 50-50, a deadlocked nation.
By Shabsie Saphirstein
with Sergey Kadinsky