Democratic Primary Results Will Hinge on Absentee Ballots

Pictured Above: The community center at Glenwood Village was one of just two Riverhead polling places open for the 2020 Democratic Primary

Results from in-person and early voting in Tuesday’s Democratic primaries for president, congress and state assembly and senate are in, but they only tell a fraction of this year’s election story.

The Suffolk County Board of Elections had received about 70,000 absentee ballots for the Democratic Primary as of Tuesday, and will be accepting absentee ballots postmarked by today through June 30. The Board of Elections will not begin counting absentee ballots until after June 30, meaning winners in these races may not yet be known until mid-July.

New York State sent absentee ballot applications to all registered Democratic voters this spring in an effort to avoid long lines at the polls due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Polling places were also consolidated throughout the county Tuesday, with just a smattering of polling places open on the East End.

Unlike in prior years, presidential, congressional and state Democratic primaries were on the same ballot this year.

Though former Vice President Joe Biden is already the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, the other presidential candidates who have since dropped out were on New York’s ballot Tuesday, along with their delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

In-person totals in the First Congressional District’s Presidential Primary Tuesday saw Mr. Biden with 71.66 percent of the vote, followed by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders with 18.20 percent. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren won 3.31 percent, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg got 2.03 percent, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg won 1.89 percent and entrepreneur Andrew Yang won 1.15 percent.

In all, 14,547 CD1 voters cast in-person ballots for president on Tuesday and in early voting.

In the four-way First Congressional District race to run against incumbent Congressman Lee Zeldin, a close ally of President Trump, 2018 candidate and real estate financier Perry Gershon and former Stony Brook University Chemistry Department Chair Nancy Goroff were running neck-and-neck in in-person voting. Mr. Gershon had 35.39 percent of the vote, Ms. Goroff had 34.27 percent, South Fork Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming had 27.83 percent and businessman Greg Fischer had 2.21 percent.

In-person ballots totaled 14,596 in the congressional race.

“I am optimistic that my lead after in-person results will continue to build momentum when absentee ballots are counted,” said Mr. Gershon on Wednesday. “I knew from the 11 town halls I have held since last September, including the last five that were held virtually, that my message of fighting to strengthen the economy and ensure healthcare for all Long Islanders was resonating. My support comes from every community and every corner in this district, which will be the key to victory in November.”

This year, there is a competitive five-way race for the Democratic nomination to run for the seat to be vacated by four-decade long State Senator Ken LaValle, who is retiring this year.

Laura Ahearn, the founder and director of the Crime Victims Center, took home 31.03 percent of the in-person votes, followed by Suffolk County legislator and civil rights attorney Valerie Cartright with 27.88 percent. Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni, a retired social studies teacher, got 23.83 perent of the vote, followed by 19-year-old Port Jefferson progressive Skyler Johnson with 12.42 percent. Nora Higgins, an ICU nurse, got 4.68 percent of the vote.

In total, 7,605 voters cast in-person ballots in the State Senate race. The winner will face Republican North Fork State Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo in November.

Former Riverhead Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith has a clear lead over ViacomCBS Operations Coordinator William Schleisner of Sound Beach. Ms. Jens-Smith took home 77.86 percent of in-person votes while Mr. Schleisner took home 21.97. In total, 1,176 voters cast ballots in the Assembly race.

In 2016, there were separate Democratic federal primaries in New York for President and for Congress. In the presidential primary in April 2016, Democratic voters cast 97,478 ballots, 44,033 of which were for Bernie Sanders and 53,420 of which were for Hillary Clinton. Twenty-five ballots were voided.

In the Republican 2016 primary, 100,152 Suffolk voters cast ballots. Of those ballots, 72,359 went to President Donald Trump, 18,694 went to John Kacich, 9,099 went to Ted Cruz and 812 were blank or void.

In the five-way 2018 Democratic congressional primary against Lee Zeldin in the First Congressional District, just 22,240 ballots were cast. and Only 6,479 voters cast ballots in the Democratic congressional primary held in June 2016 between Dave Calone and Anna Throne-Holst.

As of February 2020, there are 336,717 active registered Democrats and 304,774 active registered Republicans in Suffolk County, according to the New York State Board of Elections, giving Democrats a slight edge, with 52.49 percent of voters registered to one of the two major parties. In April of 2016, just before that year’s presidential primary, there were 303,955 active registered Democrats in Suffolk and 295,671 active registered Republicans.

But the Democrat/Republican divide does not tell Suffolk’s full story — as of this February, 96,352 active voters here were registered with third parties and 261,392 active voters were not registered with a party.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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