Democrats retook the House of Representatives Tuesday night and they had big help from suburban districts. In races outside of D.C. and Chicago, and even in the only suburban part of the five boroughs, re-energized Democrats sent a resounding message to President Donald Trump.
But not on Long Island.
There were two congressional contests in Nassau and Suffolk where promising Democratic candidates threatened established Republicans.
In the 1st CD: Not long before midnight Democratic challenger Perry Gershon conceded in a half-empty Hauppage union hall to incumbent Rep. Lee Zeldin.
It had been an uphill battle from the beginning. Gershon is a former commercial real estate lender who changed his voter registration to the district last year. He had to quickly bone up on local issues while Zeldin, a military veteran, could talk about inlet dredging and the like after years representing the area in the State Senate and Congress.
Zeldin himself had won in 2016 by 16 points, and the district swung heavily to President Donald Trump by 12 percent.
Still, Gershon made inroads, narrowing the percentage gap to around six with high turnout in areas like Stony Brook and the Hamptons, his campaign said. But in the end, campaign spokesman Tim Minton noted, the district’s “continuing loyalty” to Trump was too hard to overcome.
While other suburban areas had become fertile grounds for the resistance, many Trump voters in the 1st CD on eastern Long Island “seem to have held on to an attraction to Trump,” Minton said.
There were plenty of reasons why Long Island batted aside a direct hit of the expected blue Congressional wave.
In a brief interview after his concession speech, Gershon called the district mixed, which it is. It has immigrant communities, agricultural areas, wealthy villages and some of the most Trump-friendly areas in the country.
“There’s parts that are more suburban, there’s parts that are more rural,” he said. Then he walked out of the hall, while the Democratic county leader and local elected officials celebrated the party’s takeover of the State Senate.
And soon, a rainy Long Island Expressway drive away in Garden City, Liuba Grechen Shirley conceded in her bid to unseat Rep. Peter King.
Grechen Shirley was the quintessential example of the Democratic resistance, a first-time candidate and working mother who started an Indivisible-style group in response to the 2016 presidential election, protested during the Women’s March of 2017, and then ran for office. King has been her representative since she was 12. She raised more money than his past five challengers combined.
National profiles flowed in. She energized crowds from Brooklyn to Bay Shore. But she missed some early help from establishment Democrats, and King was able to hold on with a reputation of working for the district over his 13-term congressional career.
So the wave didn’t sweep away Long Island’s two congressional Republicans. Many districts don’t abide by the national narratives. They’re complicated. Long Island especially.