By Phil Corso
The Democrats’ race to regain the 1st Congressional District is on, as a former Southampton Town supervisor has stepped up to challenge for the red seat.
Anna Throne-Holst had a potential final term at the head of Southampton’s town board, but declined to run so she could free herself up for a congressional campaign. She, along with Setauket native Dave Calone, will face off in a federal primary on June 28 to determine who will run against freshman U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) in November.
Zeldin unseated six-term Democrat Tim Bishop by a wide margin — 54 percent of the vote to 45 percent — in a contentious election back in 2014, and saw Democratic challengers stepping up to reclaim the spot within a matter of months. Throne-Holst entered the race in the latter half of 2015 and has been aggressive in her attacks against the Republican lawmaker ever since.
In a sit-down with TBR News Media, Throne-Holst described Zeldin as a conservative, climate change-denier who votes largely along party lines.
“When we have legislators who are focusing on being destructive rather than constructive, I think it’s time to make a positive change,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of buyer’s remorse with Lee Zeldin. He has just voted straight down the line.”
Government tracking website GovTrack reported 45 percent of Zeldin’s 11 bills and resolutions had both Democratic and Republican cosponsors in 2015. The site also showed Zeldin cosponsored 116 bills and resolutions introduced by other members of Congress, rating his willingness to work with others to advance policy goals as second lowest among the New York delegation.
Jennifer DiSiena, a spokeswoman for Zeldin, said Zeldin has pursued an aggressive agenda on behalf of his constituents on Long Island, working to protect America’s security at home and abroad, help grow the economy, support veterans and first responders, improve the quality of education, repair the nation’s infrastructure and safeguard the environment.
“Congressman Zeldin has been working all day, every day across party lines, delivering results on important issues facing his constituents,” DiSiena said in a statement. “He has been recognized as the top freshman Republican likely to co-sponsor legislation with members of the opposite party.
“Congressman Zeldin believes the climate has always been changing. Instead of taking a position on so many issues that matter most to NY-1 voters, these two Democratic candidates are desperately trying to distract and deflect, to throw up anything at all against the wall to see what politically charged attack can stick.”
Throne-Holst said she had a proven track record while serving in elected office that could translate to the national level.
Before entering public office, Throne-Holst co-founded the Hayground School — an elementary school dedicated to supporting children with different learning needs. After serving as a councilwoman, she was the first Democrat to be elected supervisor in Southampton since 1993, overcoming a heavy red-leaning electorate on the East End. She touted her experience as supervisor working to reduce spending and help the town achieve a AAA bond rating. She worked closely with Stony Brook University, helping to secure funding for a clean water research center and seeking ways to improve Long Island’s septic system technologies. She also said she supported bipartisan efforts to preserve Southampton’s shorelines, resulting in the saving of 1,200 acres of open space.
She has garnered support from some of the Democratic Party’s biggest players, including Bishop, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and longtime incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), who Throne-Holst said was pivotal in convincing her to run.
“Anna is exactly what we need in Congress,” Israel said in an email. “She has strengthened the community with job creation and launched economic growth with downtown revitalization.”
If elected, Throne-Holst would be the first woman to represent the 1st District, which covers virtually the entirety of eastern Long Island from Smithtown outward.
Her campaign has raised close to $1.1 million, compared to Calone’s $907,000.
Her Democratic opponent has collected key endorsements too — from State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Sag Harbor) and East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell (D). In a previous interview, Calone, who has never held elected office, said his hands-on experience helping Long Island businesses thrive was a driving force behind his decision to run. He works as CEO of Jove Equity Partners LLC, a venture capital firm that helps start and build technology companies.
“This area was a great place to grow up and a lot of my classmates have already left and don’t come back,” he said in June 2015. “We need to be a leader in the economy of New York and worldwide.”