Suozzi, three Queens incumbents win in Dem primaries

By Patrick Donachie

In the most contested congressional primary in the borough, former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi won the Democratic nod to replace outgoing U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Melville) in a race that drew only about 9.4 percent of registered voters in the Queens part of the district. He will face Republican Jack Martins in the general election in November.

The win came as polling places throughout the borough reported lackluster turnout in line with a citywide trend. Three congressional incumbents in Queens also skated to broad victories against their challengers.

In the four congressional races for seats that included neighborhoods in Queens, 56,486 ballots were cast out of 965,429 active enrolled Democrats for a turnout of 5.8 percent, according to the state Board of Elections. Poll workers hypothesized that the upcoming July 4 weekend and the fact that it was the last day of the school year may have exacerbated the low turnout. Additionally, sizable delays on the LIRR due to a truck accident at the Woodside station may have affected turnout in the eastern portion of the borough.

In a telephone news conference Wednesday, Suozzi reiterated his intention to open a district office in Queens.

“The key to my success in Queens is that I spent a lot of time in Queens,” he said. “People felt comfortable with hearing me talk about the issues.”

Suozzi garnered 35.3 percent of the vote, according to the state BOE. Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern and North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman both received about 22 percent of the vote, while North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Anna Kaplan drew 15.2 percent of the vote, and attorney Jonathan Clarke got 4.9 percent.

The 3rd Congressional District includes parts of Bay Terrace, Little Neck, Glen Oaks, Floral Park and Whitestone, as well as sections of Nassau and Suffolk counties in Long Island. In the Queens part of the district, Suozzi won with 42.4 percent of the vote, with 81 out of 82 election districts reporting. There were 3,563 ballots cast with 37,716 active enrolled Democrats.

Republicans offered a swift rebuke to Suozzi’s victory, pledging to beat him in the general election.

“Democrats in NY-3 had to take Tom Suozzi out of the dustbin of politics in an embarrassing attempt to hold onto a seat they see slipping through their fingers,” state Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox said. “Now that the general election season has begun, we look forward to Jack Martins giving Tom his fourth straight loss.”

Suozzi said the GOP response was indicative as to why people were “sick of politicians” and that all of the challengers in his race for the Democratic primary had reached out to offer him their support.

In the other races, U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) bested challenger Ali Mirza in the CD 5 primary with 80.9 percent of the vote, while U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-Brooklyn) beat Jeffrey M. Kurzon and Yungman Lee with 61.6 percent in the CD 7 primary. U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) won in the CD 12 primary with 88.9 percent of the vote, beating challenger Peter Lindner.

Poll workers at several polling places throughout Queens reported lethargic turnout. At Grace Houses in downtown Jamaica, Coordinator Joan Augustin said that only 21 voters had cast ballots by 11 a.m. Tuesday

“A lot of people don’t know that there’s an election today,” she said.

At Public School 166 in Astoria, Gregory Leakes, a voting precinct inspector, said that only 12 people had voted in the first four hours, and an inspector at Public School 89 in Douglaston said that only 41 people had cast a ballot in the first few hours of voting.

“It’s about as low as an off-year election with only judges on the ballot,” he said.

Additional reporting by Bill Parry and Mark Hallum.

Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdonachie@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.