After a few weeks of hard and intense campaigning, the hotly contested race for the 7th District state senatorial seat was won by Democrat Craig Johnson, a Port Washington resident for over three decades, who defeated his opponent Republican Maureen O'Connell, 26,452 to 22,929.
The win for the Democrats is significant for a few reasons. Firstly, it cuts the Republican majority in the state senate to four votes. With this seat now in the Democrats' column, the split is 33-29.
The victory also marks the first time in 20 years that a Democrat has won a state senate seat on Long Island. Moreover, the last time this particular 7th District seat was held by a Democrat was over a century ago.
At the Feb. 6 election night party at Leonard's of Great Neck, an ebullient Craig Johnson said, "This election was about the hopes and dreams of the people I am now proud to call my constituents."
Johnson's main message was that he would support Governor Spitzer in his efforts to reform Albany and make it a government for the majority of people rather than those he called the "well-connected few."
In a somewhat somber mood for the otherwise jubilant evening, Johnson thanked two very important people in his life. One was his wife Liz, whom he called his "best friend" and "soul mate." The other was his mother, the late Nassau County Legislator Barbara Johnson, one of Port's favorite daughters. He noted the admiration he had for her and her values, and said she made him "the man he is today."
He also spoke of the respect he has for his opponent, whom he said "dedicated her life to helping others as a nurse and public servant."
When reached for comment, Ms. O'Connell said, "A heartfelt thanks to all my devoted supporters who worked so hard on my behalf. We knew from the start it was an uphill battle. However, unless we get the vicious cycle of never-ending assessment and higher taxes under control we will continue to lose our seniors and young people from Long Island."
The fiercely contested race brought out the big guns from both parties. Even Senator Hillary Clinton and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani campaigned the day before the election for their respective parties' candidates.
The combined total spent by both candidates on the election for phone calls, mailings and media ads is estimated at a record-breaking $4 million for a state legislative seat.
However, the efforts and cash did reap the desired effect. It brought out 26 percent of registered voters, an unusually high number for a special state election.
Johnson will be filling the seat left vacant when Spitzer appointed Republican Mike Balboni as the new state homeland security director. Balboni, who had the reputation for being a moderate, remained neutral in the election, though his wife openly supported O'Connell.
Another special election will now be needed to fill the 11th District seat on the Nassau County Legislature that Johnson is vacating. County Executive Tom Suozzi will be calling a special election in 30 to 60 days to fill Johnson's position. The 11th District includes the towns listed below.
The party numbers for the district favor the Democrats: 18,151 registered Dems and 14,785 enrolled Republicans. There are also 11,217 independents who historically have voted Democratic.
The speculation is that the Democrats will run TONH Councilman Wayne Wink of Roslyn. The Republicans are still considering their options.
The town-by-town results are as follows:
Baxter Estates (PW) 249/94
Bellerose Terrace 95/174
Carle Place 277/505
East Hills 1,015/178
East Williston 199/675
Floral Park 863/3,015
Flower Hill 440/295
Franklin Square 590/1,232
Garden City Park 517/567
Great Neck 1,143/421
Great Neck Estates 415/101
Great Neck Gardens 235/35
Great Neck Plaza 989/135
Harbor Hills 123/32
Kensington (GN) 191/37
Kings Point (GN) 299/157
Lake Success 394/102
Manorhaven (PW) 529/281
Munsey Park (Manhasset) 218/322
New Cassel 972/162
New Hyde Park 461/1,213
North Hills 512/111
North New Hyde Park 1,147/1,745
Old Westbury 178/128
Plandome (Manhasset) 119/168
Plandome Heights (Manhasset) 99/119
Plandome Manor (Manhasset) 172/98
Port Washington 2,565/820
PW North (Port Washington) 625/139
Roslyn Estates 294/88
Roslyn Harbor 113/35
Roslyn Heights 754/244
Russell Gardens 220/42
Saddle Rock 75/34
Sands Point (Port Washington) 483/151
South Floral Park 184/59
Stewart Manor 129/364
Thomaston (Great Neck) 412/76
University Gardens 464/123
Williston Park 559/1,341