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East Norwich Candidate for 15th Assembly Seat Loses Run

East Norwich candidate Matthew Meng lost his bid for the seat of Assemblyman Rob Walker of the 15th Legislative District. Republicans all got behind Michael Montesano of Glen Head. Automated phone calls from Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto, newly elected Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano; Congressman Peter King; and Assemblyman Rob Walker, all helped to get the vote out.

Legislator Judy Jacobs; Congressman Chuck Schumer; Matt’s daughter Marie Louise; Assemblywoman Michele Schimmel; and the candiate himself, called homes in the district to support Democratic activist Matt Meng.

“I spent $25,000 on my campaign and I assume he spent more – in an election campaign that lasted not even 30 days,” said Mr. Meng.

“On election night I left Michael Montesano a voice mail on his cell phone congratulating him on winning and said I look forward to working with him as I have worked with Assemblyman Rob Walker and Assemblywoman Donna Ferraro. I said if we are going to make this a success we have to work collaboratively. This is what the electorate wants - to stop the bickering and get together to get the job done.”

Mr. Meng does not see the election next November in his future as for now. “I have to think it through. The Republican Party has had a political machine for over 100 years. They have run Nassau County for 102 years and have it down to a science. The Democrats don’t have those patronage jobs like the Republicans have. Again, congratulations to the Republicans. The workers get a call saying, ‘It’s 4 o’clock and you haven’t voted yet. We need you to vote.’”

Tuesday evening, Feb. 9, Republicans waited at the Homestead Restaurant to hear the returns. In East Norwich supporters of Mr. Meng waited at Saggio’s Restaurant. Suffolk County results were already in. At around 10 p.m. Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs was checking his electronic mail device. Steve Glass, liaison to the chairman said Suffolk County votes were in already. Mr. Jacobs said about two-thirds of the votes were in. He was accepting a defeat in the 15th District and said, “This is a tight district. There has not been a Democrat in well over generations.” In the November 2008 election in the 15th Assembly District, Democratic incumbent Assemblyman Rob Walker was re-elected with 28,999 votes to Republican challenger Stephanie Ovadia who received 19,191 votes.

In the 2010 election, over 5,400 residents turned out to vote with Republican Michael Montesano of Glen Head defeating Democrat Matt Meng of East Norwich. Mr. Montesano, who also ran on the Conservative and Independence Party lines, received 3,868 votes; Mr. Meng received 1,539 votes.

In his election thank you letter, Mr. Montesano said to his supporters, “I appreciate your vote and your support and I will work hard as your representative in Albany to make you proud. For those who did not vote for me, I want you to know that I will fight for you too and work diligently to give you the kind of dedicated representation you will be glad to support.”

He said, “I am going to focus on making Nassau County an affordable place to live by capping and cutting property taxes, repealing the MTA tax, eliminating wasteful state spending, and fighting to create new private-sector jobs to put our economy back on track.”

Mr. Montesano thanked “All the volunteers and all my supporters who trudged through ice and snow in the cold weather to win this race.”

Election Evening

On election eve, in East Norwich, Caroline DuBois said as they waited for the official count, “I hope Matt wins. We’ve worked very hard and sent out thousands of letters. We reached out to all the voters. It is a gerrymandered district. It has a salamander shape. It makes no sense.” The district includes about 27 areas.

Ms. DuBois said, “Matt walked the street doing everything a candidate can do. He went to grocery stores, he knocked on doors, he made cold calls; he went to meetings like the Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce. He was endorsed by the best environmental groups and Newsday and this was not a career job he was looking for. He was doing it because he was fed up and didn’t want a lifetime career.”

Mr. Meng explained his position saying, “If you want to talk, send a lawyer, if you want to fix things, send a mechanic.”

Claire Meng said in talking to teachers in the Uniondale district where she works she found that they were not informed as to the special election and often didn’t know who their Assemblyman was, including those who were from East Meadow, one of the areas covered by the district.

Rosemary Colvin said she talked to her son who lives two blocks south of East Meadow Road and he found out that he just missed being in the district and couldn’t vote.

There was also confusion for a couple who live behind the Oyster Bay Library in the Florence Park area of Oyster Bay who went to Town Hall to vote and were told they were not in the district, related another person.

This year a new census is being taken, so the district lines will change again. Voters have to keep on top of the issue to know which district they are in since it can change every 10 years.

By that time the results were in and in Suffolk County the Republicans got 41,186 votes and the Democrats 41,000, a difference of 186 votes and the Republicans won.

Mr. Meng said, ‘These districts are so gerrymandered, it is a shame for the elected officials, for any candidate and most important for the community at large. Normally there is some rhyme or reason for the districts, but 92 percent is in Hicksville but only 8 percent in Plainview. Why not give up Plainview and give the entire district to Hicksville. The district has all of Oyster Bay Cove except along the water. It comes down to them selfishly setting the districts up for the party in power not to serve the common good.”

He said, “Understandably the lines must be drawn somewhere, they are changed every 10 years. But there are three streets in Levittown. Of the 27 communities this district serves, only six of those districts are complete communities.

“People are disenchanted with the political systems in the United States and there are not enough people participating in the election process and machine politics is winning out, to the detriment of the state and the nation,” he said.

After the election results were announced, Mrs. Meng said “Truthfully, I want him home. I didn’t want that empty nest feeling. The nest is empty enough.” Their three daughters have attended Ivy League colleges and are going on to graduate work.

Mrs. Meng added, “A lot of people put a lot of effort into it. It was great.”

Fran Leone said, “I feel that he should have won the election with his credentials. He has so much more to offer for the public. I can’t believe people didn’t come out to support him.”

Cat Colvin said she suspected there was a poor turnout when she was voting. She said, “People died to get the privilege of voting. People in other countries are fighting and dying to have what we have, the right to vote.”

 Matthew Kessler, one of the workers in the election said, “We worked very hard and I look forward to working with him anytime he wants to run again in the future.” There’s that old saying, “Live to fight another day,” said Mr. Kessler.

Keith Scalia who ran for Oyster Bay Town Supervisor in the last election said of Mr. Meng, “There’s never been a more deserving, a more hardworking, and a more humble candidate than Matthew Meng. Truly it’s this community that lost tonight,” he said.

He said no Democrat won in Suffolk or Westchester Counties.

“We’ll get them again next time,” said Bill Flanagan.