Special elections and elections in Western democracies offer lessons on the underlying dynamics in future general elections here in the United States.
To be clear, special elections and foreign elections are not direct predictors of subsequent national elections; instead they are more akin to diagnostic tests for car trouble. Their real impact is as a bellwether for which party’s candidates learn the correct lessons for adjusting to an American electorate that often slams down on the brakes.
Therefore, three upcoming local elections bear watching. The first: the May 23 special election for the 9th Assembly District here in New York state. This vacancy was created by Republican Assemblyman Joe Saladino being selected as the town supervisor for Oyster Bay, due to a corruption scandal ricocheting across Nassau County’s Republican Party.
Few imagined this district, whose heart is in Oyster Bay – the central artery of Nassau’s vaunted GOP machine – but extends to western Suffolk County, would be in play. Newsday, however, has been accurately sniffing the scent of Democratic hopes for an upset. Two unions with robust vote-generating engines, NYSUT and SEIU 32BJ, are backing Democrat Christine Pellegrino, a teacher herself, against the Conservative Party’s Tom Gargiulo, running on the Republican line.
If Pellegrino wins, the electoral power of Democrats’ merging anti-Trump fervor to an anti-corruption message would be established for this year’s Nassau County executive race and for the 2018 state Senate and House races on Long Island. Most political handicappers don’t project a Pellegrino upset, so if it comes, it will pack added punch.