The Nov. 6 election was more of a groundswell than a seismic shift, yet it was significant. While many incumbents rode to relatively easy victories, a number of upsets helped shift the political landscape in New York state.
State Sen. Kemp Hannon, a 41-year veteran Republican from Garden City, and Sen. Carl Marcellino, a Republican from Oyster Bay, a 23-year member of the Senate, were upset by Kevin Thomas and James Gaughran, respectively. Thomas, an attorney, was a political newcomer without significant campaign funds. Gaughran, who ran unsuccessfully for the same seat in 2016, was the Suffolk County Water Authority chairman and a Suffolk legislator. And Republican freshman Sen. Elaine Phillips was nudged out by North Hempstead Councilwoman Anna Kaplan.
Hannon has had a long, distinguished career, serving 10 years in the Assembly before moving to the upper house in 1989. And Marcellino, who succeeded Ralph Marino in a special election in 1995, had a strong environmental record and an enviable reputation for constituent service. Both were effective public servants with political resumes that those on both sides of the aisle could envy.
With the election of Democrats to six of the nine Long Island State Senate seats, Democrats succeeded in winning a political trifecta, taking both houses of the Legislature and the executive. And the new session will have a larger proportion of women and minorities in our state government.
And that’s the real take-away from the election. Neither of the major parties entirely scored the gains they had hoped for, though representatives of both claimed mandates. But after each election cycle — especially at the state and local levels — our representative bodies have more closely reflected the diversity of the country itself.
After each cycle, Long Island’s elected officials seem to become less willing to line up behind the extreme poles of their respective parties. U.S. Reps. Peter King, Kathleen Rice and Tom Suozzi — a Republican and two Democrats — have shown a willingness to reach across the aisle in Congress in order to get things done.
It’s a trend that can only be applauded. Fifty years ago, bipartisanship was the norm, and the result was a record of legislative accomplishments that included landmark civil rights and environmental measures. When the two parties stop playing “gotcha,” the American public is the winner.