Voters on Long Island flocked to the polls on Tuesday morning to cast their votes in the closely contested race to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Peter King, the longest-serving Republican member of New York’s congressional delegation.

Democrat Jackie Gordon, 55, a town councilwoman in Babylon and a retired U.S. Army officer, is facing off against Republican Andrew Garbarino, 36, a New York assemblyman, in a race that non-partisan election analysts have rated as a toss-up.

In Wyandanch, a Democratic stronghold with a population of about 11,000 residents,  two thirds of whom are African-Americans, voters said they were determined to be heard in this contentious contest. There has been a “spectacular voter turnout,” said polling staffer Martin Jackson. “Voters are coming out in droves.” 

According to the 2010 Census, in Wyandanch, 11% of the families live below the poverty line.

Waiting in line outside in the cold at Wyandanch Memorial High School, Cubie Wayde, 68, said he has only missed one election since 1972 (“I was in jail,” he explained, smiling under his face mask) and he wasn’t going to miss this one. “You gotta get up and stand up for something,” he said. 

Cubie Wayde, voter from Wyandanch. Photo by Miles Cohen.

Heavy early voting across New York relieved pressure on polling places Tuesday, several poll workers said, but some voters waited for the chance to cast their ballots in person on Election Day. Gloria Ward, 62, said that she didn’t trust that a mailed ballot would be counted. “I wanted to make sure that my ballot went through,” she said.  

King’s decision to step down after 14 terms representing New York’s 2nd Congressional District created an open suburban House seat amidst one of the most heated and unusual elections in the country’s history.

King endorsed Garbarino, a lawyer in a family practice in Sayville who has served in Albany since 2013. 

Gordon rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before retiring. She is a former high school guidance counselor whose family immigrated from Jamaica when she was a child.

Marie Claude, 63, said she was voting for Gordon because “she’s fought for the country.” Claude turned out at Wyandanch High at 6:30 in the morning, but said the lines were so long that she decided to go home and wait. She came back later in the morning to cast her vote because “I have the right to vote,” she said, adding, “I’ve never missed an election.”

In North Babylon, a town where party registration is about evenly divided, about 50 people were waiting in line Tuesday morning outside of Babylon Town Hall Annex, a polling site. Karen Schmidt said she has been voting at this location for as long as she can remember but it is “the first time I’ve waited in line to vote.” 

Jim Corbin, North Babylon resident, Navy veteran. Photo by Miles Cohen.

Seven miles west of Wyandanch in Farmingdale, poll worker Amanda Birch said Republicans were “showing up in droves.” 

Jim Corbin, a Navy veteran, said that what mattered the most to him in this election was that the Second Amendment was “at stake.” He added, “I’ve been all over the world- the Mediterranean, South Pacific – there’s no country like ours. [People] who get all upset about who wins and start causing problems can get the hell out. I’ll pay for their plane ticket.”