Fleming Prevails, Retaining Her Seat Despite Republican Rout

Bridget Fleming

“Subjected to the state and national mood,” is how Suffolk County Democratic Party leader Rich Schaffer characterized staggering losses in Tuesday’s election that gave the majority on the County Legislature over to the GOP. He blamed the blowout on ballots cast in disapproval of doings in Albany and Washington, D.C.

The East End bucked the tide, however, and County Legislator Bridget Fleming, a Democrat, retained her seat at the horseshoe, besting Republican newcomer Robert Carpenter III by a vote of 11,996-8,707. She captured 57.93 percent of the vote to Carpenter’s 42.04 percent.

Fleming said on Election Day that she doesn’t take a single vote for granted. “You have to work to ensure the community knows you’re seeking their trust and their confidence, and that’s the way I approach every election,’’ she said early Tuesday, evening, November 2.

Now, with her sights set on next year’s race for Congress, she expects to continue work she’s begun at the legislative level as she begins her fourth term. With Representative Lee Zeldin announcing a run for governor, his 1st District seat is up for grabs, and so far, Fleming said, she’s amassed the biggest war chest at a half-million dollars, plus the bonus of endorsements from “many, many political leaders.”

“I feel like I have the political support and the fundraising support,” she said.

“But tonight is about the county race, and we’ve got a lot of work to do in the next year,” she said, describing plans to stop in at campaign headquarters in Southampton, then on to a county campaign event in Hauppauge. The nature of the district makes it hard to get to all the varied campaign hubs, but the legislator said she’d been in touch with fellow Democrats throughout the day by phone.

“I feel so fortunate to be running with such thoughtful and experienced candidates in all the towns I represent,” she said, noting one of the nicest things about campaigning is getting to know candidates for other offices across the district. “I look forward to working with all of them” she said, reporting that as of sunset the Democratic team was working very hard. “There’s a lot of people still making phone calls and looking to get the vote out.”

And the work on her agenda? Going into her next term, Fleming, who held daily press conferences throughout the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, still sees the pandemic — making sure tests and vaccines are available — as a priority issue. Continuing to support an economy injured by the pandemic continues to be “a very high priority,” she said.

The lawmaker plans to continue working with counterparts in the battle against climate change — focusing on coastal resiliency and flooding, preparedness for extreme weather events, and investing in infrastructure. “We also want to do what we can to lessen our contribution to climate change.” She acknowledged promoting renewable energy is difficult on car-centric Long Island.

Public transportation and affordable housing continue to be core issues that need effort, while officials continue to hold the line on taxes, and defend and support natural resources, she said. Fleming said she will continue to work on the core issues she’s been focused on for years.