In last month’s state Senate primary races, two Democratic incumbents fought for their political lives. In both cases, the candidates relied on their political bases to lift them over well-funded opponents.
Official results from the NYC Board of Elections, however, show the voters in the two senators’ base neighborhoods did not ultimately help, or hurt, them.
State Sens. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) and Toby Stavisky (D- Flushing) both faced primary opponents in the Sept. 13 election. Huntley lost while Stavisky held on. In one race, the candidate’s home base voted for her; in the other, the voters in her base neighborhood did not.
Huntley, whose district prior to this year’s redistricting was based mostly in Southeast Queens, was soundly defeated by her primary challenger, Councilman James Sanders (D-Far Rockaway). Nevertheless, Huntley, who was indicted on corruption charges in August, won in much of the territory she had always represented — Rochdale and South Jamaica — defeating her opponent there, 58 percent to 42 percent, while losing overall.
In the newly-reconfigured 16th Senate District, incumbent Stavisky, who defeated her primary challenger John Messer by 14 points, lost her political base of Downtown Flushing — a community she has represented in Albany since 1999 and her husband for 35 years before that.
The margin in the 40th Assembly District, which includes Downtown Flushing, was 52 percent for Messer to 48 percent for Stavisky.
But while Stavisky lost her Flushing base, she made it up — and then some — elsewhere in the district.
Stavisky defeated Messer handily in the Rego Park and Forest Hills portion of the district, as well as in Pomonok and Electchester. She also defeated her opponent in his home community of Oakland Gardens.
These neighborhoods were initially added to Stavisky’s district in redistricting after the 2000 U.S. Census. This year’s redistricting cut out some of Stavisky’s strongest areas, including Bay Terrace and Whitestone.
The results suggest Messer had some success in his outreach to the majority Asian-American community in the district. He also defeated Stavisky in the Elmhurst section of the district, specifically in the precincts around Broadway, where there is a growing Chinese population.
Messer emphasized his connection to the Asian community and his wife’s Chinese heritage during the campaign.
But in the end Stavisky triumphed, keeping Messer’s margin of victory in those areas low and thumping him in the Jewish parts of the district.
In the 10th District, the exact opposite scenario occurred. While Huntley won her South Jamaica/Rochdale base, she lost handily everywhere else in the new district, much of which was new to her.
In the 31st Assembly District, which includes the Hammels Houses and Far Rockaway, as well as Springfield Gardens and South Ozone Park, Sanders defeated Huntley 70 percent to 30 percent. He also won Rosedale, which he represents on the City Council, but Huntley represents in Albany. The Rockaway portion of the district, which is in Sanders’ City Council district, was added earlier this year during redistricting.
Sanders also crushed Huntley in Richmond Hill, where he reached out to South Asian and Indo-Caribbean voters during the campaign.