- Rep. Kathleen Rice said she warned Democratic leaders about electoral defeats in Long Island before the midterm elections.
- During an interview with Politico, Rice said leaders did not heed her call and pointed to Biden’s victory in her district.
- Rep. Lee Zeldin produced strong slates for the GOP candidates who are downvoting his gubernatorial bid.
For much of the 20th century, Long Island was a well-known Republican stronghold, serving as a counterweight to New York’s strongly Democratic politics.
From the 1990s through most of the last decade, Democrats made significant gains in Nassau and Suffolk counties, winning congressional districts and local offices that had long favored Republican politicians.
But in recent years, Republicans have regained some of their power, winning the county and district attorney races in Nassau in November 2021, and also winning the district attorney race in Suffolk that year. While former President Donald Trump lost New York state soundly in both 2016 and 2020, he won Suffolk each time.
In the November midterms, despite Democratic outperformance in suburbs across the country, Republicans had an important year in New York State, winning every congressional district anchored on Long Island — despite the fact that Democrats held a lead party registrations in both Nassau and Suffolk and controlled districts in the Hudson Valley and Upstate.
And outgoing four-term Democratic Rep. Kathleen Rice, who will be succeeded by GOP Rep.-elect Anthony D’Esposito next week, said in a recent interview with Politico that she sounded the alarm to party leaders about her intuition about state of play on Long Island ahead of midterms.
Rice, a moderate who represents the Long Island-based 4th Congressional District and previously served as Nassau County’s district attorney for nearly a decade, told the news outlet that her warnings about the dire prospects for Democrats in the New York suburbs were not were listened to. .
“This is a blue, blue state and that’s why we lost the majority,” Rice said. “We lost four seats in the Parliament. I said [to party leaders], “You guys don’t understand, we’re going to lose Long Island. And we will lose some other positions, higher up.” They said, “No, no, no, your seat was a Biden +13.”
“When we had an election in November 2021, every Democrat on Long Island lost. Not because they were unpopular and not because people didn’t like them. But they wanted to send a message to Washington,” he added.
While President Joe Biden easily won Rice’s district in 2020, his standing among many Independents has taken a hit since then, despite the party maintaining its position in the midterm elections. Faced with the prospect of electing a slew of GOP candidates who rejected bipartisanship and continued to deny Biden a 2020 victory, voters backed Democratic candidates so dramatically that the GOP severely underperformed nationally.
In November, the GOP gubernatorial candidate was Lee Zeldin, a retired Long Island congressman who lost a competitive race against Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul. Zeldin narrowed the normally huge statewide Democratic advantage as his coattails helped elect D’Esposito, along with GOP Reps. Nick Lalota and George Santos, in Long Island districts. (Santos has come under fire in recent days for a growing list of false claims about his past, after a New York Times investigation pointed to inconsistencies in his work history and finances.)
In a state that voted for Biden by a whopping 23 points (61%-38%) in 2020, GOP victories in New York state — fueled by a focus on economic and public safety issues — gave the party a slim majority in the US House. .
Democrats, who still retain control of the Governor’s Mansion and the state legislature, along with the two US Senate seats, remain the dominant force in state politics.
However, the midterms proved that while the Republican brand on Long Island may have faltered in the 1990s and 2000s, that is certainly not the case today.