Gonzalez bests field in special election for Suffolk's 9th Legislative District seat

Rick Brand
Sam Gonzalez

Union leader Sam Gonzalez easily won a special election Tuesday night to fill the county legislature seat formerly held by new State Sen. Monica Martinez in the heavily Democratic Ninth District.

With all 36 districts reporting unofficial results, Gonzalez, of Brentwood, had 896 votes, or 77.24 percent. Maria Vidal, of North Bay Shore, tallied 239 votes, or nearly 20.6 percent. Conservative Anne Wiggins of Central Islip received 20 votes, or 1.72 percent.

“The people who came out and elected me today are those who know we need change in the community and they feel I’m the right man for the job,” said Gonzalez, at Democratic headquarters in Bohemia. He praised the 40 to 50 volunteers as well as union groups that helped get out the vote. He also praised black, Latino and Muslim community groups that backed him. Even though the election won’t be certified for days, Gonzalez said, “I’m going in tomorrow to start working.”

Gonzalez, 57, president of the 1,200-member IBEW Local 1430 in Westchester, won in his third bid for elected office after running unsuccessfully townwide last year for Islip Town board and in 2012 in a Democratic primary against Assemb. Phil Ramos of Brentwood.

Vidal conceded shortly before 10 p.m. at Islip GOP headquarters in Bay Shore. “This is not the end,” she told supporters. “We don’t have to feel sad. We gained a lot of friends. I’ve gained a lot and I’m thankful of that.”

Andy Wittman, Vidal’s campaign manager, said she will continue her campaign into November. William Garbarino, Islip GOP chairman, said Vidal ran a very good campaign in a very tough district.

Richard Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman said: “I think [Gonzalez’s] roots in the community and the people he helped over the years and our grassroots campaigning that went door to door and person to person helped us win.”

Gonzalez’s election will give Democrats an 11-7 majority over Republicans going forward, but still keeps them one short of a veto-proof, two-thirds majority that the party lost when GOP Legis. Rudolph Sunderman was elected in 2017, after former Democratic Legis. Kate Browning became term-limited.

Vidal, 49, was a late entry to the contest after her husband, Manuel, the original GOP nominee, dropped out of the race. He pulled out because it was unclear if he would be given a leave of absence from his 20-year job as a county public works foreman were he to win the election.

One of two Suffolk legislative seats where minorities have the best chance of winning, the Ninth tilts heavily Democratic with 20,954 voters to Republicans’ 4,511, while 8,967 others are unaligned to any party.