Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming defeated Jennifer Maertz by a wide margin in a Democratic primary on Thursday to determine who will represent the party in a bid to unseat State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle in the November 6 general election.
"The voters have spoken loud and clear," Ms. Fleming said after the announcement of preliminary results last night, which showed 79 percent of votes in her favor. "They no longer want to allow their tax dollars to be distributed to the rest of the state," she said.
Unofficial results posted by the Suffolk Board of Elections on Friday had 2,031 votes for Ms. Fleming and 531 for Ms. Maertz.
Mr. LaValle's office issued a statement Friday saying, "No matter who the opponent, I have always run on my record. I am proud of my exceptionally strong record of economic development, job creation, and real property tax relief and proud of the support I have received in the form of endorsements thus far."
"I am proud to have had the ability to deliver legislative and fiscal relief for every part of the district," the statement said.
Ms. Fleming was accompanied by about 30 supporters at the Water's Edge restaurant in East Moriches, picked to be centrally located, or equally inconvenient, to residents of the First Senate District, which stretches 70 miles from Middle Island to Fishers Island and Montauk Point.
"We did it," said Ms. Fleming, upon the concession from Ms. Maertz. She thanked many people including her staff and volunteers, who went door to door with her, and made the calls that she credited for her victory. Also essential to her win, she said, was an endorsement from Senator Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, and her No Bad Apples PAC; Gordon Herr, the chairman of Southampton Democratic Committee, and Lisa Tyson, director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition. "Senator Bridget Fleming has a nice ring to it," said Mr. Herr.
"It was an easy choice," said Ms. Tyson of the coalition's endorsement, which gave Ms. Fleming additional staff to use for her campaign. "We really believe in her," She said.
"We have had nine Republican male senators, we need another voice to represent progressives, a community that has not bee heard from. She listens to people, and has been able to negotiate, that is a rare thing," Ms. Tyson said.
Across the bay in Miller Place, Ms. Maertz received the results that she said were "disappointing, of course." In an interview Friday morning, Ms. Maertz said she was also disappointed that "the Democratic turnout was just horrible." The low voter turnout, that she said she heard was around 4 percent, was a "combination of the date and that people seemed to not know there was a primary. We have to find a way to increase people's understanding and importance of voter participation," she said.
"I don't know right now if I will run again," said Ms. Maertz, whose immediate goal is to "take a rest," and then volunteer to support candidates who show dedication and "are running for the right reasons." She will also help to get Representative Tim Bishop re-elected to Congress, and continue her work as chairwoman of the East End Dem Women, a group whose goals include the increased political involvement of women on the East End and in Brookhaven.
Ms. Fleming will now focus on gathering resources and support to outst Mr. LaValle, who has represented the First Senate District since 1976, some 36 years.
"It is no longer okay to take this district for granted," she said, "voters of eastern Suffolk County care deeply about where their tax dollars go. . . . They are not for special interests; they are for us, our families, our education, and our local economy and education."
If elected, Ms. Fleming would become the first woman from Suffolk County to serve as state senator.