Suffolk GOP endorses LaLota, shakes up congressional race

Suffolk GOP endorses LaLota, shakes up congressional race

Nick LaLota, shown with his wife, is ready to run for congress. Photo from Nick LaLota’s campaign site

By Raymond Janis

Last week, members of the Suffolk County Republican Committee unanimously endorsed Nick LaLota, chief of staff to the county Legislature’s Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), in the race for New York’s 1st Congressional District.

Nick LaLota, shown with his family, is ready to run for congress. Photo from Nick LaLota’s campaign site

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) is vacating the seat to run for governor, triggering a primary election for the Republican nomination in that race. With the county committee’s endorsement, LaLota appears to be a frontrunner as congressional nominee.

“I’m proud that I have been unanimously nominated by more than 500 committeemen from the Suffolk County committee and from all of Suffolk County’s 10 towns,” LaLota said in a phone interview. “I intend to represent them well on the ballot.”

LaLota, of Amityville, hails from a line of servicemen, who include several police officers and combat veterans. He sees this race as an opportunity to continue the family tradition.

“I was a military officer for seven years, deployed overseas three times and visited 20 countries with the Navy,” he said. “My family has a strong sense of service. We love this country and we’re willing to fight for it and to sacrifice for it. If elected a member of Congress, I intend to do just that.”

LaLota was not alone in the field when he received the endorsement. Anthony Figliola, of East Setauket, and Robert Cornicelli, of St. James, both pursued the endorsement as well. In the wake of the announcement, Cornicelli is suspending his campaign for NY-1 and redirecting his energies to unseat Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-NY2). 

“It was definitely not an easy decision, but this is more about the people than what had happened over the last few weeks,” said Lawrence Bialek, Cornicelli’s campaign manager in a phone interview. “For right now, we’re really focused on getting into the second [congressional district].”

Figliola remains in the primary for NY-1. He criticized the county GOP’s endorsement of LaLota, arguing that Republican leaders are in danger of forfeiting the race to the Democrats.

“Obviously some deals were made and they chose an individual who doesn’t even live in the district,” he said in a phone interview. “I can’t help but think they’re just looking to throw this race away. For me, I believe it’s winnable for a Republican. I love my country and I want to be in a position to represent the people of the first congressional district.”

Figliola said he intends to use his private-sector background to alleviate the economic hardships Americans are facing. He cites rising inflation, gas prices and health insurance costs as motivating his candidacy.

“The reason I am in this race is because I see the way our country is going,” he said. “I see working class men and women of this district are being forgotten and are being ignored by this administration. I want the people to know that there’s someone in this looking out for them, someone who pays bills just like them, pays their own health insurance just like them and is feeling this pinch just like them.”

Both remaining NY-1 Republican primary candidates believe their party is operating at a competitive disadvantage come November. Each has said the new redistricting scheme will inevitably favor the Democratic candidate, also subject to a primary, in the general election.

“Albany Democrats did Long Island a tremendous disservice when they gerrymandered this district, stretching it from west of Amityville to east of Amagansett,” LaLota said. “They have separated a lot of like communities and have made it extremely difficult on constituents who will have to travel many miles just to see their congressman.”

The primary election is scheduled for June 28.