In one of the most watched state Senate races in New York this year, Republican Lee Zeldin of Shirley easily defeated incumbent state Sen. Brian Foley, D-Blue Point, in his bid for re-election, an outcome that could have a major impact on the balance of power in Albany.
With 96 percent of the election districts reporting, Zeldin had a 57.7 percent to 42.3 percent lead over Foley, and the Republican claimed victory early Wednesday morning from GOP campaign headquarters at the Sheraton Hotel in Islandia. As the returns came in throughout the night, Zeldin maintained a lead of between 15 percent and 18 percent and was never in danger of losing the race to his Democratic opponent.
"Together we knocked on so many doors all over Islip and Brookhaven," he said. "Throughout this entire campaign we've been advocating for why we need a balance of power in Albany and how Long Island needs a seat at the table. Whether you're Republican or Democrat, we on Long Island need a seat at the table."
Foley, who could not be reached for comment at press time, became a prime target for Republicans following his vote in 2009 to support of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Tax, which proved to be the big issue in the campaign. GOP campaign ads in recent weeks claimed that Foley — who initially said he would not support the MTA Tax — chose his party over his constituency.
"The MTA Tax was obviously an important issue in the campaign," Zeldin said in an interview immediately following his victory speech. "But there are other issues people are concerned about. Property taxes, the overall cost of living and the loss of the STAR rebates are among them. When you look at the loss of the STAR rebates, that money was used by many to help cover part of a mortgage payment or pay for home heating oil," he said.
"The first thing we're going to do is repeal the MTA Tax and then get the STAR rebates back."
With Democrats holding a slim 32-seat majority in the 62-seat state Senate going into Election Day 2010, Foley's defeat along with the loss of another seat by Democrats would give Republicans control of the house, something the GOP enjoyed for decades prior to 2010. If Republicans gain control, state Sen. Dean Skelos of Rockville Center is expected to become the Senate majority leader.
As for Foley, his political future is cloudy. In 1993 he was elected to the Suffolk County Legislature and filled the seat held for many years by his father, John. In 2005, he became the first Democrat in decades to be elected Brookhaven Town Supervisor and three years later defeated longtime Republican state Sen. Caesar Trunzo in a race for the senate seat he currently occupies.
Emily Portoghese and Laura Weir contributed to this story.Candidates Party Percent Total Votes Lee Zeldin R 57.7 37,038 Brian Foley D 42.3 27,131