By anyone’s account, Democrats were routed in the 2021 elections. Both locally and nationwide, November’s elections saw a surge of Republicans elected, as motivated voters turned out in record numbers to support GOP candidates.
Long Island, which is largely considered a bellwether on the nation’s political mood, was the epicenter of the nation’s “red wave” and a man who helped turn the tide is Jesse Garcia, chairman of the Suffolk County GOP. He’s one of New York State’s most effective Republican leaders.
Garcia was elected chairman of the Suffolk County Republican Committee in 2019. Already a fixture in the Long Island political landscape after serving for over a decade as the chairman of the Brookhaven GOP, Garcia’s unanimous election to the post helped bolster the Republican movement countywide. In his second local election as chairman, his carefully selected slate of candidates returned Republican control to the Suffolk County Legislature and elected a tough-on-crime Republican to the District Attorney’s Office.
Now, combine those successes with the 2020 cycle, where Suffolk bucked national trends, with Republicans electing three New York State Senators, re-electing U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), sending U.S. Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Sayville) to Congress to replace longtime Rep. Peter King, and re-electing an entire slate of GOP State Assembly members. Suffolk was also the most populous county in the nation to vote for former President Donald Trump’s unsuccessful bid for re-election.
Needless to say, in large part due to Chairman Garcia’s finger on the pulse, Republicans are on a roll in Suffolk. Garcia’s gains have been the subject of much political discussions, as Democrats and Republicans alike gear up for midterms and a 2024 presidential race. Veteran Democratic operative and brainchild of the campaign that elected former President Bill Clinton, James Carville, in an interview with PBS, even referenced Long Island while delivering a post-mortem on Republicans’ success nationwide.
“Look at Long Island … I mean, this ‘defund the police’ lunacy, this ‘take Abraham Lincoln’s name off schools.’ I mean — people see that,” Carville was quoted as saying.
In an unusual agreement between a Republican power player and Democrat operative Carville, Garcia says that he is exactly right.
“We spoke directly to the voters about the issues that were important to them: Safety in their communities, the affordability of living here on Long Island and the end of one-party rule,” Garcia says. “We continued to discuss that we are the party and candidates of individual freedoms as opposed to government-issued mandates.”
He continues, “Long Islanders are diverse. It is diverse in demographics. It’s blue collar, small business, well-educated voters, with a strong sense of entrepreneurialism. Also, diversity in ethnicity and race. As Republicans in Suffolk County, we speak to a full spectrum of voters across the country.”
Garcia adds, “This committee would not be as successful without the hard-working committee members who have bought into our aggressive, grassroots approach to campaigning.”
Garcia, a three-decade political veteran who has worked in myriad capacities — including as GOP campaign manager, chief of staff to the Town of Brookhaven and chief of staff to former Congressman Felix Grucci — wears many hats. He still serves as the Republican Chairman of Brookhaven, being first elected in 2007, and has recently been named the New York State Republican Committee’s Down State Vice Chairman. He is the first Hispanic-American to serve as the Brookhaven Town and Suffolk Republican Chairman.
And now, Garcia has his sights set on 2022, with the chance to elect one of Brookhaven and Suffolk’s own as governor.
The 2022 Republican presumptive nominee is Zeldin, who has received Garcia’s endorsement and support in securing dozens of the state’s largest county committee endorsements from Buffalo to Nassau. Zeldin’s base has grown significantly, as has his national profile, since his first election to Congress in 2014 to represent New York’s First Congressional District, which includes the East End.
“I approached my partner in Nassau County in Joe Cairo and encouraged him to join into a partnership, in coming out early in support of Congressman Zeldin’s gubernatorial bid,” says Garcia. “Zeldin has now secured 90% of the state’s electoral votes.”
During his tenure as county party leader, Garcia and Cairo have worked together on a variety of state and federal races and state party matters. He is doing all within his power to ensure that Zeldin’s message reaches the state’s voters hungry for change and a new direction in Suffolk and statewide.
“Zeldin has demonstrated the ability to build bridges for the residents he serves,” Garcia says. “This state is at a crossroads where average New Yorkers and taxpayers are under the thumb of a one-party rule, totalitarian government. Lee has the vision, the plan and the record of accomplishments that is needed to save New York.”
Politics and how to start a political movement is in Garcia’s blood. His father, also a Brookhaven Republican Executive Committee member, helped Chairman Garcia learn the inner-workings of politics at a young age, priming him for the success we are seeing today.
“Freedom and liberty are very dear to my father’s heart,” Garcia recalls. “He defected from a Communist Cuba to raise a family here and earn his part of the American dream. I remember going door to door, collecting signatures, going to rallies, all in support of Republican candidates for office.”
This, he says, is a major part of his father’s legacy. He died in December of 2000.
Now, it seems, he is doing the same with his son, J. Alex, whose love for country and patriotism has led him to join the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps in his teens, while attending a local high school.
“It warms my heart to see how J. Alex has embraced patriotism and service to our great nation. Some of my proudest moments have been those opportunities in which my son has introduced me at various fundraisers and events, and sharing these election night victories with him.
“It’s important for me to share with him the behind-the-scenes work in these elections,” Garcia says. “He and my family have sacrificed a lot. I want to savor those moments with him.”
Todd Shapiro is an award-winning publicist and associate publisher of Dan’s Papers.