By Karl Grossman
It was an election season we’d all like to leave behind—the incessant political TV commercials, the robo-calls, the numerous flyers in the mail and the theme of nasty personal attack in many races. But in the end, Election 2010 nationally and in this region proved important.
In Suffolk County, the most significant outcome was, of course, Democratic Representative Tim Bishop’s narrow loss—or narrow win. The Suffolk Board of Elections will only know which after a recount and tabulating absentee ballots. It took three days after the election for the board to announce that Republican challenger Randy Atschuler of St. James was ahead by 392 votes. On Election Night, it posted “unofficial” results declaring Mr. Bishop of Southampton ahead by 3,461 votes out of 181,043 cast.
If this discrepancy of nearly 4,000 votes holds, it constitutes the biggest screw-up involving election results in my 48 years as a journalist observing Suffolk politics. Indeed, I’d venture it to be the biggest election count screw-up ever in Suffolk.
Election workers at polling places provided a vote count on the Bishop-Atschuler race to the board by phone Election Night, but then a check of “memory cards” in those new electronic voting machines gave different results. Is what happened the fault of those new machines used in Suffolk for the first time, replacing mechanical lever machines? Or does it lie with the election workers phoning in wrong figures? Or did board employees incorrectly transcribe numbers? Hopefully, without an electronic Suffolk version of the Florida hanging-chad circus, results that can be trusted will be determined and soon.
Compounding the situation, the board Friday also reported the 40-vote margin of victory it gave Legislator Dan Losquadro, a GOPer running for the State Assembly against incumbent Democrat Marc Alessi, both Shoreham residents, was actually 890 votes.
Meanwhile, also very important: State Assemblywoman Ginny Fields, the only woman in an elected state or federal post from Suffolk, lost re-election (definitely) leaving Suffolk with only men in elected positions on state and federal levels. Ms. Fields, a former county legislator from Oakdale elected to the State Assembly in 2004, lost her bid in a primary for the Democratic candidacy leaving her to run on the Independence line, not enough to get her re-elected. So now all 11 members of the State Assembly from Suffolk will be men. There’s never been a woman from Suffolk in the State Senate and that will continue with the county’s delegation of four men. There’s never been a female member of the House of Representatives from Suffolk and that will continue with all three members from Suffolk men.
There are qualified women in elected office on village, town and county levels in Suffolk, although less than the percentage of women in the population. The zero female representation from Suffolk in state and federal governments constitutes basic unfairness. Women finally got the right to vote in the U.S. in 1920 and in these parts still have a political distance to go.
Important, too, was the 58-to-42 percent trouncing of State Senator Brian X. Foley of Blue Point. A former county legislator and Brookhaven Town supervisor, two years ago he upset 36-year GOP incumbent Caesar Trunzo to become the first Democrat from Suffolk elected to the State Senate since 1902. But Mr. Foley cast a deciding vote in the Senate for something much-disliked and of little benefit here: the MTA payroll tax. His vote was hotly criticized from the moment he cast it and was a major issue in this year’s contest. By going for the MTA payroll tax, Mr. Foley didn’t shoot himself in the foot but in his political heart.
Other election highlights: Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. of Sag Harbor scored another big election victory—but for the first time winning on the Independence and Democratic lines his having left the GOP last year. And, on Shelter Island, a huge 82 percent of voters said no to a proposition to extend the term of town supervisor from two to four years. A key argument for the shorter term was it provides for more accountability—as vital in government as accuracy is in counting votes.