Did Donald Trump Wear Rockland County Coat-tails?
by Elijah Reichlin-Melnick
On Election Day, voters in Rockland weren’t just choosing a new president. Among the many other races on the ballot were elections for NY State Senate and State Assembly. Thanks to the gerrymandering of New York State legislative districts, Rockland is divided between two state senate districts and four assembly districts.
97th Assembly District – Ellen Jaffee v. Joe Chabot v. Tom Gulla
After a heated Democratic primary challenge in the 97th Assembly District from bloc-backed candidate Thomas Gulla, Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee faced a general election challenge from Republican Joe Chabot, and Gulla, who remained on the ballot on the Working Families Party line. Just over 50,000 votes were cast, and Jaffee won 62% of them. Chabot picked up 35.5% and Gulla got 2.5%.
About 46.5% of the vote came from Orangetown, and Jaffee beat Chabot in his hometown by 60.7% to 37.1% (a margin of 5,266 votes). She racked up huge margins in eastern Orangetown, winning between 71% and 89% of the vote in every election district in Nyack, South Nyack, Grandview, and Piermont. But unlike other Democrats running this year, she prevailed almost everywhere in Orangetown, losing only 7 election districts (out of 48 in the town), in Blauvelt and northern Pearl River. She even became the rare Democrat to win Pearl River, picking up 51% of the vote and beating Chabot by 467 votes in the conservative hamlet.
Chabot’s strongest base of support was the Hasidic Village of New Square, which gave him 99% of the vote and a margin over Jaffee of 2,534 to 26. Most of Monsey and the bloc vote there is not in this NYS Assembly District, but in the relatively small part of Monsey that is in the district, Chabot picked up 75% of the vote and beat Jaffee 1,621 to 449. Outside the bloc, Jaffee easily won every election district in Ramapo, most with more than 65% of the vote, so that despite the efforts of the bloc vote, she emerged with 62% of the vote in Ramapo. In Spring Valley and Hillcrest, Jaffee’s support of East Ramapo Public Schools helped her assemble a bloc vote of her own; she won the 19 districts there with 87% of the vote, and crushed Chabot 6,127 to 738.
38th State Senate District – David Carlucci v. Tom DePrisco
In the 38th Senate District, incumbent Democrat David Carlucci faced a challenge from Republican Tom DePrisco, a member of the school board in Pearl River. Carlucci is a member of the controversial Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a small group of Democratic state senators who have agreed to support Republican control of the State Senate in exchange for better committee assignments, expanded budgets for hiring staff, and promises of attention to issues important to IDC members. An unspoken aspect of the agreement also appears to be that the state Republican Party will not make a serious effort to defeat the IDC—Republican challengers to Carlucci and other IDC members have generally been left to fend for, and fund, themselves, a dynamic that played out in 2016, as DePrisco received minimal funding or assistance from the state Republican Party.
However, Carlucci’s commanding performance on Election Day suggests that even with far more money, DePrisco would have faced an uphill battle–119,000 votes were cast for state senate, and Carlucci received almost exactly 65% of them. His best performance was in the towns of Ramapo and Ossining, where he won 72% of the vote. (Ossining? Yes. One of the strange consequences of the gerrymandering of state senate districts was that this Westchester town was thrown together with Clarkstown, Orangetown, and Ramapo in Carlucci’s senate district, giving him a foothold across the river that could come in handy for a rumored future run for Congress when Rep. Nita Lowey retires). Carlucci won 63% of the vote in his hometown of Clarkstown and picked up 52% of the vote in DePrisco’s hometown of Orangetown.
DePrisco’s support was almost entirely localized in conservative parts of Orangetown. In Pearl River, he racked up 66% of the vote, beating Carlucci 5,484 to 2,880, and in Blauvelt he won 58.5% of the vote. Outside of this stronghold, however, DePrisco won only one other election district in Orangetown, and only 5 of the 77 election districts in Clarkstown. In Ramapo, he narrowly won the Village of Sloatsburg and surrounding areas with 51% of the vote, but elsewhere in the town, won only a handful of election districts.
Carlucci, by contrast, won almost everywhere, both heavily Democratic areas like Nyack and Spring Valley, and other areas, like West Nyack and Bardonia, that are more evenly split. In his home of New City, Carlucci won every election district and picked up 10,335 votes (65%) to DePrisco’s 5,664. In Ramapo, Carlucci managed to win support from both sides of the East Ramapo School District, piling up massive margins in Spring Valley, Hillcrest, and Chestnut Ridge where many public school families live, while also winning the strong and unified support of the entire ultra-Orthodox voting Bloc—the Villages of New Square and Kaser, and surrounding areas of Monsey.
In the 96th Assembly District, which includes Clarkstown, Haverstraw, and the northeast corner of Ramapo, Democrat Ken Zebrowski was re-elected after running unopposed.
Three Rockland districts–the 98th and 99th Assembly Districts and the 39th Senate District–extend into Orange County. In all three districts, the candidate who won the Rockland portion of the district lost in the larger Orange County part of his district and so lost the election.
The 98th Assembly District is a bizarre shape stretching more than 40 miles from Monsey, through Montebello and Sloatsburg, Monroe, Kiryas Joel, Warwick, Port Jervis, all the way to the border of Sullivan County. Democrat Aron Wieder, the controversial Rockland County Legislator, received 65% of the vote in the Rockland County portion of the district, beating incumbent Republican Karl Brabanec by a margin of 5,888 – 3,148. Luckily for Brabanec, however, more than 80% of the votes cast in the district came from Orange County, and he trounced Wieder there, beating him by 12,000 votes (65% – 35%), enough to give him 59% of the vote district-wide and an easy re-election.
The 99th Assembly District includes the Town of Stony Point in Rockland County, plus nine towns in eastern and central Orange County. Democrat James Skoufis, the youngest member of the NY State Assembly when he was elected in 2012 at age 25, faced a challenge from an even younger Republican, Colin Schmitt. Buoyed by huge turnout for Donald Trump in Stony Point, Schmitt won 57% of the vote and beat Skoufis by almost exactly 1,000 votes there (3,894 – 2,897), but Skoufis won 54% of the vote and beat Schmitt by almost exactly 4,000 votes in Orange County (26,693 – 22,647), giving him an overall win of just over 3,000 votes (53%).
The 39th State Senate District is another gerrymandered mess: starting in Rockland with the towns of Haverstraw and Stony Point, it sprawls 35 miles up the Hudson through all of eastern Orange County and continues into Ulster County, stopping just outside of New Paltz. Encouraged by a closer than expected 2012 race against incumbent Republican Bill Larkin, Democrat Chris Eachus, an Orange County Legislator, tried again to unseat Larkin, but came up well short. Eachus lost by just over 17,000 votes (58% – 42%) against Larkin across the district, although he did manage to win the Rockland portion of the district narrowly, picking up 51% of the vote and getting 9,902 votes in Rockland to Larkin’s 9,409.
Elijah Reichlin-Melnick is the former Chair of the Nyack Democratic Committee and former Vice-President of Rockland County Young Democrats. In 2011 he was a Democratic candidate for Town Council in Orangetown, and in 2013 and 2015 was campaign manager of Orangetown Supervisor Andy Stewart’s successful re-election campaigns. He holds a Masters in City & Regional Planning from Rutgers University, where he learned how to create maps using ArcGIS. This piece was originally published on Rockland Voice.