By Donna Newman
Three candidates have announced their intention to seek the Democratic nomination for the House of Representatives for the 1st Congressional District in 2020. They were invited to a Dec.12 meet the candidates night held by the Three Village Democratic Club. Club president, Virginia Capon, welcomed the audience and introduced the evening’s moderator Dave Calone, who was a candidate for the seat in 2016. Capon was pleased by the size of the crowd, which was approximately 120 people.
Questions were solicited from club members prior to the event.
The candidates are Bridget Fleming, Perry Gershon and Nancy Goroff.
Bridget Fleming (D-Sag Harbor) is a three-term Suffolk County legislator representing District 2. She was first elected to the Town of Southampton Town Board in a special election and went on to win a full term a year later. Prior to that she served as a prosecutor in Manhattan for nearly a decade, eventually specializing in fraud in government programs. In her opening remarks she said she saw a clear path to victory next November.
“I have run and won, again and again,” Fleming said. She noted she has 10 years of experience delivering for this district — and her record speaks for itself.
Perry Gershon, of East Hampton, was a mortgage broker for commercial properties until he divested from his company in 2017 to run for office. In 2018 he won the local Democratic nomination for Congress by being the top vote-getter in a field of five. Gershon lost to incumbent Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) in the general election, garnering 47.4 percent of the vote to 51.5. Gershon thinks he stands the best chance to win this time because of his previous campaign.
“The hardest part of running for office is getting out the electorate,” Gershon said. “I’ve done it. We built up energy — we inspired volunteerism.” He believes his first experience will be invaluable.
To Nancy Goroff, Suffolk is home. She has lived and worked in the district for 22 years. She raised her children in the Three Village area. Her research and teaching at Stony Brook University have created lots of connections, both academic and governmental. Goroff feels she can bring a new perspective to Congress by offering innovative solutions. A scientist, she said constituents can have faith she’ll make decisions based on science and facts.
“We deserve better,” Goroff said. “[It would be good] to live in a world where government actually tries to solve people’s problems.”
The candidates fielded a question about the elimination of student loan debt.
Gershon said, “The system is broken. [There should be] a trade-off of public service for debt assistance.”
Fleming said, “If you can refinance a car or a home, why not student loan debt?” She created a program while in law school at the University of Virginia offering loan forgiveness in exchange for public service.
Goroff said, “Make education as accessible as possible. Where [students] go should not be limited by parents net worth.”
Another question asked if the candidates would trade a border wall for protection of the Dreamers.
Fleming wanted more details. “We do need firm rules at the border that must be fair and humane. We need a comprehensive solution to immigration issues,” she said.
Goroff said, “We need secure borders, [but] our country values immigrants. We need to give people hope in their home countries, so they don’t have to walk a thousand miles.”
Gershon replied, “Yes. I would do that trade to protect people in this country already. We do need comprehensive immigration reform, too.”
In answering a question on guns, there was consensus among the three that legislation is needed, that the assault weapons ban should be reinstated, that high capacity magazines should be banned and that, if the majority of Americans support universal background checks, the NRA ought not be allowed to prevent such legislation from being passed.
Regarding a question about health care, there was agreement that the Affordable Care Act needs to be improved, that health care is a human right and every American deserves affordable access to high quality care. Goroff and Gershon said they’d favor Medicare for All — as an option.
Should military spending be decreased? All three candidates expressed a desire to restore respect for the U.S. around the world. In light of a recent Washington Post exposé on the waste and corruption of military spending in Afghanistan, Gershon and Goroff called for the military to spend more wisely — with Goroff adding, “First, increase spending on diplomacy.”
What bill would they first introduce as a congressperson?
Gershon answered, “Election reform.”
Fleming responded, “We need to fully fund the EPA.”
Goroff seemed to concur, “Focus on climate-change research funding.”